Island Cricket

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Murali's threat to Warne's milestone stirs up a great many inner Muppets

IF Shane Warne was a Muppet, what type of Muppet would he be?

Warne's leg-break turns as much as Gonzo's nose. He has violent mood swings like Miss Piggy, who either karate chops Kermit or smothers him in unwanted kisses. He's whitened those chompers so many times he bears a striking resemblance to Dr Teeth, the frontman for The Electric Mayhem. When he used to explain his infidelity, he made as much sense as the Swedish Chef.

Of course, Warne has been whingeing about Muttiah Muralitharan for so long now he's starting to resemble Statler and Waldorf, the two old hecklers in The Muppet Show audience.

At least they had a belly laugh about it all. And they're not actually real. Unless someone is up to their elbow in the greatest leg-spinner of all-time, what's Warne's excuse?

Muralitharan has a theory and he suspects it has something to do with Warne's wicket-taking record of 708 Test poles that he's poised to surpass.

"He can't keep his mouth shut because he wants to keep making these statements. He must be a miserable man in his life … maybe he just doesn't want me to pass his record."

He aired these comments in this Herald week in response to Warne's column in The Times that they should test Murali's action during matches.

The next day, the pair denied any feud - coincidentally at the media call announcing the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy. No one should buy it.

Of course, Muralitharan will cruise past Warne's mark. Maybe not in this Test, but it will happen.

And then you can expect the sniping to turn into an all-out assault. The first wave of attack will be that the Sri Lankan has taken wickets against minnows such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Claims that he's a chucker will serve as the napalm.

The loss of a precious cricketing milestone to a player from another country has the potential to bring out the inner Muppet in all of us.

Hopefully, the Tasmanians will "no-ball" the little Lankan so much that Ricky Ponting will get his wish of Muralitharan not breaking good old Warney's record while playing in our own backyard.

Seriously, it's time for Australian cricket to take a Bex and have a good, long lie down.

Muralitharan has been slammed and sledged for the past 15 years in this country and for what? For being very, very good.

We bemoan a lopsided cricketing landscape. We ponder ways to ensure Australia, who have not lost a Test match since the 2005 Ashes series, face someone putting up a fight. Yet we too quickly deride the first bull that walks into our china shop.

Let's be truthful about this. The ONLY play that had you transfixed during the first Test in Brisbane came when Murali was trundling in, turning Ponting and Co inside out. World-class bowler versus world-class batsman. The eternal contest.

Instead, we sit on the sidelines and watch the Channel Nine super slo-mo replay and play amateur biomechanic and brand Murali a cheat. A stain in the annals. Ponting incites the situation when he declares he doesn't want Murali to take Warne's record against us. Not here. Not now. It's a by-product of the ruthless manner in which he leads his team.

What's more, Muralitharan is a decent man. He is genial and concerned about others.

A few years ago, Adam Gilchrist clumsily questioned his action and instantly phoned Murali to warn him of the impending storm. Murali was disinterested and keener to chat about Gilchrist's newborn son. You wonder if Warne has the capacity to think about someone else. He would be best served to show some humility. Just shut up and be content with his standing as the greatest leg-spinner bowl of all-time.

Then again, that was never going to be enough for someone who takes diuretics so he can lose a chin for the television cameras and appears to use more fake tan than all of the women in Greater Melbourne during the Spring Carnival. A seat in cricket's pantheon just isn't enough.

What Warne cannot escape, regardless of his standing or the place of his name in a Wisden, is that he's now just another former player with an opinion, another Muppet with something to say.

Courtesy SMH


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