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Muttiah Muralitharan’s father says he now supports Australia

SINNASAMY Muthiah is a household name in Kandy as managing partner of Luckyland Biscuit Manufacturers, Sri Lanka’s third-largest biscuit factory which employs about 200 people.

The benevolent biscuit baron and Kandy king says he’ll be too busy to attend the first Test between Australia and Sri Lanka which starts on Tuesday.

But the 73-year-old will be watching on TV and cheering for Australia.His face, diminutive build and leisurely gait look familiar.

That’s because one of his four sons is Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan spin wizard who has been working with Australia’s slow bowlers Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon for the upcoming three-Test series.
Muttiah Muralitharan’s father Sinnasamy at his biscuit factory in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

That means Murali’s dad has a clash of loyalties.

“I’ll be watching on TV,” Sinnasamy told the Herald Sun through an interpreter.

“My support was with Sri Lanka. Now I am supporting Australia,” he said as he burst into laughter. “I will be encouraging my son.”

Sinnasamy proudly pulls out a newspaper and points to a back-page story about the success of O’Keefe, who claimed 10 wickets in Australia’s tour match against a Sri Lankan XI in Colombo.

Then he leaps from his desk, grabs a drinking glass and balances a coin on top. With arms waving in excitement, he tells the tale of how Murali demonstrated to the Aussies in the nets that at 44 he still has unsurpassed accuracy.

“When Murali bowls, they keep this coin on top of a glass and only the coin will drop down,” Sinnasamy said.

A spokesperson for the Australian team said attempts to confirm the coin story were met with blank looks, although few would doubt Murali’s ability to perform the feat.

Sinnasamy didn’t come across as a lover of cricket stats, although he was happy to point out Murali took 800 Test wickets.

The success of Luckyland was a lucky break for Murali. It allowed Murali’s family to fund his education at St Anthony’s College, where the medium-pacer evolved into a spinner and became the most-successful bowler in Test history.

Sinnasamy frowns briefly when asked about Sri Lanka’s slide to seventh on the current Test rankings. He says “politics” has been a factor.

The retirements of Murali and batting superstars Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene haven’t helped either.

“Sri Lanka has gone down because of its politics. And Mahela and Sangakkara, the best players are out,” Sinnasamy said.

“After Murali has left the team, a lot of people have gone down and the team has also gone down.”

Murali says his decision to work as a consultant for Australia is part of his desire to avoid fulltime touring after an international career that spanned two decades.

He says Sri Lanka already has a spin coach anyway.

It’s family time for Murali, which means short-term gigs are on his agenda.

Would seeing Murali help the Aussies retain the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy really “take the biscuit” for Sri Lanka’s fans?

It’s hard to say.

Leading Sri Lanka cricket scribe Rex Clementine, writing in The Island newspaper in Colombo, says Murali’s decision to work with Australia against his home country has caused “much murmur within the Sri Lankan cricket team and in cricket circles”.

Clementine said in Sunday’s edition that it’s up to Sri Lanka’s cricket officials to find a better way to make use of its former champions.

“The bigger issue here is that Sri Lanka and Australia are playing for a trophy named after two of the greatest spinners to play the game — Muralitharan and Warne,” Clementine wrote.

“So when a trophy is being dedicated to your name, joining the rival camp obviously upset people.”

Clementine says Murali has been available to Sri Lanka Cricket to share his knowledge “without charging a penny”.

“On that aspect, he has been quite magnanimous,” Clementine said.

“SLC in the meanwhile should look at ways and means to hire experts like Murali or if possible stalwarts like Shane Warne on similar short term stints to help our cricketers improve and develop. Our administrators obviously have other priorities.”

Clementine said the manner in which Australia had prepared for the Test series was admirable.

“We have a lot to learn from Australia,” he said.