Australia rope in Muralitharan as consultant ahead of Sri Lanka Tests

187529Muttiah Muralitharan has become the second former Sri Lanka cricketer to work with Australia’s players ahead of the upcoming Test series on the island. Captain Steven Smith confirmed Murali had begun to work with Australia’s spinners in their training sessions in Colombo, where the team arrived last weekend. Murali is expected to continue in this consulting role until the start of the first Test, in Pallekele. Some Australia players had also worked with former Sri Lanka batsman Thilan Samaraweera, who is presently coaching at the National Cricket Academy in Brisbane.

“Murali’s got a lot of experience in Sri Lanka,” Smith said. “He took a truckload of wickets. It’s great to have someone like that helping our spinners in this series – to give us that insight. He’s been really good around the group so far, and he’s enjoying his time with us.”

Australia had previously hired Murali in a short-term consulting role ahead of their Test series against Pakistan, in the UAE, in 2014. Both offspinner Nathan Lyon and left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, who are also on the present tour, had worked with Murali on that occasion. Murali has had two training sessions with the Australia team in this stint so far.

“Murali has been fantastic around the guys,” Australia coach Darren Lehmann said. “Murali loves the game of cricket, so I’m sure he’d work well with other teams as well – he’s a fantastic coach.”

Also equipping Australia with knowledge of Sri Lankan conditions is batting consultant Stuart Law, who worked as Sri Lanka’s assistant coach from 2009 to 2011, and also, briefly, as the interim head coach. Law will be with the Australia side through the tour. The visitors’ first and only practice match against a Sri Lanka Board XI will begin on July 18 – seven days after the team arrived on the island.

“We made a choice to come a little bit earlier,” Lehmann said. “Steven likes the extra time. That’s the best thing for all the guys for this tour – it’s a tough tour, as we know. Stuart Law has spent some time here and has some expertise. To have him and Murali to talk about the way the wickets might play in Kandy, Colombo and Galle, and how Sri Lanka play and how we should play, has been great.”

There had been consternation within SLC earlier in the year, when Mahela Jayawardene worked with England ahead of the World T20, but Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was less perturbed by Murali’s appointment.

“Well he’s a professional and he’s into coaching now,” Mathews said. “I think helping Australia out with insight – he’s got so much experience – it will be a great help for them to get some advice.”

The first of three Tests begins in Pallekele on July 26. The series is unusually beginning in Kandy in order to get the Pallekele Test out of the way before the Esala Perahera season begins in the city. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)