Muthiah Muralidaran, the world’s most successful Test bowler and the Sri Lankan who tormented rival batsmen for almost two decades, will join Australia’s coaching staff to help their bowlers and batsmen decode the conundrum of ‘mystery spin’.
Muralidaran, who captured an unsurpassed 800 Test wickets and more than 500 in limited-overs internationals, has signed on as a consultant to join the Australian squad ahead of the Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next October.
The signing represents not only a significant coup to secure the foremost exponent of the ‘doosra’ delivery that has baffled Australian batsmen and bowlers for decades, and which is likely to play a decisive role in the UAE series with Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal among the game’s most potent ‘mystery spinners’.
It also signals a fundamental shift in philosophy for Australian cricket which, until now, has declined to propagate its own exponents of ‘doosras’, ‘carrom balls’ and the other weapons employed by spinners throughout the globe because of ideological issues over the legality of those bowlers’ actions.
As a result, Australian batsmen have struggled to combat the increasingly prevalent craft when pitted against it in the international arena, and the decision to approach and employ Muralidaran is an admission that learning the art from a master is the best solution.
“I’m very much excited; I know the Australian team is a very good side, but hopefully I can have a little bit of input to help them do well in the series against Pakistan,” Muralidaran said.
“Those conditions might help spinners and I know a few tricks that might help them on what to do as I have played a lot of matches in those conditions in the UAE and hopefully I can help them a little bit.”
Australia coach Darren Lehmann said Muralidaran would work with his team in Australia later this year in a similar consultant role to that filled by fellow spin legend Shane Warne on the recent tour of South Africa.
Lehmann said the 42-year-old Sri Lankan, who has endured a famously chequered relationship with Australia since his controversial second Test here in 1995, will also mentor incumbent Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon (who is currently in Sri Lanka working with Muralidaran) as well as other spinners selected for the Pakistan series.