COLOMBO: Australian skipper Steve Smith on Wednesday banked on the advice of retired local spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan to help deliver a victory on Sri Lankan soil as his team looks to reverse recent setbacks in the subcontinent.
Muralitharan, the highest wicket taker in Test cricket history, has got a temporary job coaching the Australian team during training in Colombo ahead of an upcoming Test series there.
Australia’s last outing to South Asia in 2013 saw them lose all four Tests against India.
Smith said three Tests, five ODI matches and two T20 games in Sri Lanka starting later this month could help them turn around Australia’s fortunes playing in hot and humid conditions.
“We haven’t had as much success in the subcontinent as we would have liked in the last couple of years and this tour is a chance to turn that around,” Smith told reporters at the pre-tournament press conference in Colombo.
He said the team decided to give themselves more time in Sri lanka before the start of the games so that they could better acclimatise to the local conditions.
“It will be great entertaining cricket, but it is always a tough tour in the subcontinent, ” he said, adding that it was good to get extra time and receive expert advice from former Australian player Stuart Law as well as Muralitharan.
During his Test career, which spanned nearly two decades, Sri Lankan bowling great Muralitharan had taken 800 wickets after playing 133 Tests.
But his playing in Australia became so controversial that even the then- Australian prime minister John Howard called Muralitharan a “chucker” before he was formally cleared of any illegal bowling action by the cricket governing authorities.
– ‘Truckload of wickets’ –
Asked about the inputs from controversial Muralitharan, who retired in 2010, Smith said it was great to have his insights.
“You know he’s obviously got a lot of experience here in Sri Lanka and he took a truckload of wickets and you know (he) is helping our spinners out.
“So it is great to have someone like that on board with us for this series to give us that insight.”
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews played down Muralitharan’s role for the rival side.
“Well I think he is doing a consultancy job and well he is a professional and he is into coaching now,” Mathews said.
“When a foreign team comes it is a great help for them to get some (local) advice.”
Australian coach Darren Lehmann said his team were geared up for the series.
“We made a choice to come a little bit earlier and obviously stay and mark the extra time I think,” he said.
The Sri Lankan side — though recovering from a disastrous England tour — had actually benefitted from playing against the highly English competitive team, coach Graham Ford said.
“Having played a really tough series in England has certainly toughened up a lot of players that are in the early stages of their career and I hope we will see them put in some really tough performances in the next couple of weeks,” Ford added.