Sri Lanka have defended Muttiah Muralitharan after comments from a former umpire rekindled the long-running debate about the spinner’s bowling action.

Retired Australian umpire Ross Emerson upset the Sri Lankans by suggesting in a newspaper article that Muralitharan’s action had got worse in the last few years.

And he suggested that umpires are now too scared to no-ball the off-spinner for fear of losing their jobs.

Emerson was one of four Australian umpires to controversially call Murali for “chucking” in the 1990s.

“Muralitharan’s action has changed since 1995 – it’s got worse,” he told Australia’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

“But he’s not worried about it because who’s going to call a bloke who has more than 400 (Test) wickets?”

Sri Lankan team manager Ajith Jayasekara reacted angrily to the reports that surfaced as the the team prepared for the triangular one-day VB Series in Australia.

“It didn’t start from today. It started building up to this tour. It’s not justified. I think it’s a campaign to discredit him,” Jayasekara said.

Muralitharan’s action was cleared by the International Cricket Council after hearing medical evidence that the bowler had a permanently bent arm.

The off-spinner, who currently has 437 Test and 297 one-day international wickets, will not compete in the VB Series until January, as he is recovering from a hernia operation.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan captain Sananth Jayasuriya refused to panic despite crashing to a 102-run defeat against Australia A on Saturday.

“It was just a practice game for us and getting used to these conditions in Australia,” he said.

“When we are playing Australia the conditions always favour them and they are playing well at the moment.

“I think they’re the best side at the moment – most of the batsmen are in good nick and the bowlers are hitting the ball all the time in the right areas,” he said.

Sri Lanka play their first match of the tournament against England at the Gabba on Tuesday.

Source : BBC Online