Warne, Muralitharan banding together to help survivors

The world’s greatest spinners, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, are set to stage an engrossing – and likely final – duel during next week’s tsunami charity match at the MCG. – By Alex Brown SMH

Immediately after Warne emerged from limited-overs retirement to represent the Steve Waugh-coached World XI, Muralitharan confirmed he would be available for the Asian XI, to be named today.

Muralitharan, who had left the Sri Lankan coastal city of Galle just 20 minutes before the tsunami struck, will make his international comeback from shoulder surgery for the January 10 encounter if selected. More importantly, though, the Sri Lankan off spinner will presumably make his return to Australia in the name of charity, having previously
threatened to never play on these shores following years of crowd abuse.

The match will almost certainly be the last time Warne and Muralitharan – sitting first and second on the all-time Test wicket list – face off in international competition. Murali has announced his intention to retire after the 2007 World Cup, while Warne will slip back into one-day retirement mode after the charity match. Australia aren’t scheduled to play Sri Lanka in Tests until after the World Cup.

“It just shows that at times like these people unite despite anything that may have happened in the past,” Waugh said. “It’s great that we can get together and do something positive. It’s just been astounding to see how terrible the devastation has been, the images of rotting corpses and parents looking for children. Hopefully we can help.”

International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed yesterday lauded the enthusiasm of international players in embracing the tsunami charity match concept, and was hopeful the game may usher in a new period of international co-operation.

“There’s been a lot said and a lot written about the Asian divides, and this does have the potential to bring the cricket world closer together,” Speed said. “The response has been unanimous, we must do what we can do. Any sort of rivalry, any sort of differences between countries just disappears in times like this.

“It’s great to see the players all coming out saying they want to be involved in this. Everybody has been keen to co-operate. I’m not entirely sure how hard it will be to co-ordinate until we are finished. We shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty in putting on a major sporting event on 10 days’ notice.”

Such difficulties were evident yesterday, when West Indies coach Bennett King expressed his hesitancy to release Brian Lara, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo – all of whom were selected in Waugh’s World XI – for the charity match. But after speaking to Cricket Australia operations manager Michael Brown and Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations chief Tim May, King advised that the trio would be made available.

The match is expected to raise millions for tsunami victims in affected countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia, through TV revenues, sponsorship, gate takings and a telethon to be run concurrently with the match. A follow-up World-Asia match will be staged in India or Sri Lanka next month.

“India and Sri Lanka are Test-playing countries, Malaysia is a member of the ICC at the next level, and Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia are all members of the ICC,” Speed said. “Cricket has a focus on the Indian Ocean, many of our countries have a border on the Indian Ocean. Cricket has a big focus within Asia.”

Meanwhile, more than $71,000 was raised at the SCG yesterday for victims of the tsunami.

WORLD XI

(Australian unless stated)

Ricky Ponting (c)

Adam Gilchrist

Matthew Hayden

Stephen Fleming (NZ)

Brian Lara (WI)

Chris Gayle (WI)

Chris Cairns (NZ)

Shane Warne

Glenn McGrath

Dwayne Bravo (WI)

Darren Gough (Eng)

Daniel Vettori (NZ)