Tour plea to Murali

Former Sri Lankan coach and Australian spinner Bruce Yardley will this week make a personal plea to champion spinner Muthiah Muralidaran to tour Australia this winter.

Yardley, who coached Sri Lanka in the mid-1990s and is in Dambulla doing commentary work, will meet his one-time protege this week to try to convince him to make the two-Test tour of Darwin and Cairns in July.

Muralidaran last week revealed he had reservations about touring Australia where hostile crowds have abused him.

"I will try to talk him into coming to prove he can take wickets in Australia and be stronger mentally and not let the average Aussie try to break him down," said Yardley, who took 126 wickets in 33 Tests.

"I really hope the Aussie crowds get behind him, because he is a wonderful young man and a sensational cricket talent."

Though Muralidaran's action has been the subject of enormous scrutiny and conjecture, Yardley is adamant it is not beyond the limits of the law, which decrees his bowling arm can not be straightened more than than 10 per cent in the act of delivering the ball.

Yardley befriended Muralidaran in 1991 and was at his side in the challenging early years of his international career when his action was constantly being reported to the International Cricket Council.

"He has asked me to come and have a few sessions with him," Yardley said. "He and I are very close because I saw him through this. I have always believed in him.

"Back then I said to him, if they no-ball him out of the game, bowl leg-breaks and googlies. He does that just as well."

Yardley yesterday had his first live sighting of Muralidaran's mysterious "doosra" -- the delivery that breaks away from the right-handed batsmen -- and declared it "sensational . . . absolute magic".

Yardley could understand why Australia batted cautiously against Muralidaran in the first one-day clash, in which he took 2-30 from 10 overs, but believes more aggression would be timely in tonight's second match at the Dambulla International Stadium.

"If I was the Aussies, I would take a risk and go the other way the next game and charge at him, try to get him on the full and smash him," he said.

By ROBERT CRADDOCK in Dambulla

Written on February 22, 2004