CA urges fans to respect Murali

Melbourne, June 29 (PTI): Cricket Australia has urged home fans to treat Muttiah Muralitharan with respect when the Sri Lankan off-spinner tours Down Under in his bid to become the highest wicket-taker in the longer version of the game.

Muralitharan, who needs 25 wickets to equal Aussie legend Shane Warne's record of 708, will play two more Tests against Bangladesh before Sri Lanka's tour of Australia.

The ace offie has become a victim of sustained abuse by crowds on previous tours. But, the troubled relationship between Muralitharan and the Aussie crowd was temporarily healed when he visited the country for a tsunami appeal game in 2005.

The CA hoped that this time around Muralitharan would be appreciated by the Australian fans.

"Last year we had Monty Panesar and we were really pleased that he became a cult figure. With Murali coming back, our ambition would be to achieve the same outcome," a CA spokesman was quoted as saying by 'The Age.'

"As Ricky Ponting said, any international cricketer visiting Australia has the right to be treated with respect and in the same manner as Australian players are treated. That is the bottom line," the spokesman said, adding "our message to the public will be 'please treat all visitors with the respect they deserve. If you don't the consequences go through to the possibility of life bans from venues."

The CA has toughened the conditions of entry and security adviser Sean Carroll will lead a police team to London this month to help improve venue security around the country.


Copycat of 'sexy' Malinga ends up in hospital

A man who tried to bleach his hair to look like Sri Lanka's "sexiest" cricket player, Lasith Malinga, has ended up in hospital with severe burns, the Daily Mirror said here Friday.

The 20-year-old man in the central town of Kandy was hospitalised after he used two types of acid to try to dye his hair, the report said.

The 23-year-old Malinga was named the sexiest cricketer of the World Cup by the Barbados Sunday Sun newspaper because of his "eye-catching, blonde-streaked curly hairdo, eyebrow ring and tattooed biceps."

Many Sri Lankan men have been trying to copy Malinga's unkempt style, although the stylist behind the hair said he took two days to create the distinctive bleached-blond corkscrews.


Connie Talbot Video


Connie Talbot Photos


Six year old Connie Talbot, the "next Charlotte Church"

She's never had a formal singing lesson. Instead, she has had to hone her skills on a £39.99 karaoke machine.

But Connie Talbot, the six-year-old star of ITV1's Britain's Got Talent, is already being hailed as the "next Charlotte Church".
And after wowing both the audience and the judges - in particular Simon Cowell - she is now tipped to earn more than £1million over the coming year.

Indeed, so impressed was the 47-year-old pop mogul by Connie's performance, that he has preliminarily agreed to sign her up to a seven-figure deal with his own record label, Sony BMG.

Despite the avalanche of attention, she is keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

Indeed, after progressing to the third of the live semi-finals, Connie declined a celebratory restaurant dinner in favour of a chip supper at their three-bedroom home in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, alongside her parents, Sharon and Gavin, and 14-year-old brother Josh and sister, Mollie, 12.

She even refused to tell anyone at school about her show- stealing performance - the first her teachers knew of Connie's television debut was when they watched the programme for themselves.

While Connie is desperate to take Cowell up on his offer, her 38-year-old mother, a part-time utility worker, is rather less enthusiastic.

"I'm a big worrier," she said. "I just want my Connie to stay the way she is. I never wanted all this for her - I never took her to dance lessons or singing lessons.

"But I wouldn't be able to turn down a record deal with Simon because Connie would just be like, 'Yes!, Yes!' She'd feel like Leona Lewis from the X Factor who, along with Joss Stone, is her absolute idol."

Mrs Talbot, who bought her daughter a karaoke machine because the family could not afford singing lessons, also revealed that Connie only discovered she could sing in tragic circumstances - when her grandmother, Violet, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"When her grandma was really ill in bed, Connie used to sing the DVD to the Wizard of Oz to her, to cheer her up.

"It was her grandmother who first told me, 'She's really good, you know'"

Following her grandmother's death two years ago, at the age of 72, Connie sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow at the funeral.

"Her grandmother would have been so proud," Mrs Talbot added. "She had her fortune told years ago and was told her she was going to have a famous grandchild - maybe that's Connie."

On Monday night, seven million viewers saw

her sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow at the reality show's Birmingham auditions.

She received a standing ovation and left the programme's three judges, Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan, speechless.

On Saturday night, viewers and the trio of panellists will vote to decide if Connie makes it through to the following evening's studio final for the chance to sing in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Show and win £100,000.

"This girl is just special," Cowell told the Mail last night. "I have never felt such a powerful silence in my life as when Connie sang. It was pure magic.

"She's all over the world at the moment, this girl - she's the number one clip on YouTube, for instance - and that's a worldwide number one.

"She's got a wonderful opportunity here and I'll make a prediction that Connie will sell more records than Joss Stone this year.

"Of course a record deal with a Sony BMG is on the cards - but only if Connie wants it.

"We can't go rushing into anything. I will initially talk to her and then I'll have a word with her mum and see what she wants.

"She could easily make a million quid-plus this year, but of course none of this is guaranteed until the competition is over.

"I think a comparison with Charlotte Church is interesting - she's certainly got a shot."

Last night, Connie said: "I am really excited. Simon is my hero."

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Ranatunga wants Indian job, Bayliss aims a little lower

TREVOR Bayliss will fly to Colombo next week to interview for Tom Moody's recently vacated post - but the impending arrival of the NSW coach was not the biggest development in Sri Lanka yesterday.

Instead, the emergence of former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga as a leading contender for India's head coaching position had the cricketing world abuzz, particularly with India set to tour Australia next summer.

The nomination of Ranatunga, who has made an artform out of antagonising Australian players for over a decade, reflects India's willingness to adopt an unorthodox and aggressive approach ahead of a 12-month period in which they will play Australia in eight Tests and about 20 one-day internationals.

With almost no coaching experience to speak of - most of his post-playing career has been spent in Sri Lankan politics, where he has held sporting and tourism portfolios - Ranatunga's allure to the Indians lies in his headstrong leadership style, which he employed to great effect as captain throughout Sri Lanka's triumphant 1996 World Cup campaign.

At this stage Ranatunga is ranked behind former South African coach Greg Ford in the race to succeed Greg Chappell as coach of India. But with a final round of interviews scheduled for this Saturday, the BCCI could yet call on Ranatunga to drag India out of their recent cricketing malaise and transform them into an aggressive force able to compete with Australia.

Ranatunga's sudden emergence on the scene has prompted Indian officials to announce that Dav Whatmore, the former Australian batsman and coach of Bangladesh, was out of the race to succeed Chappell.

Whatmore, however, remains in contention for the Pakistan coaching position.

"I'm just deciding what the next move is," said Whatmore, who has returned home to Melbourne after completing all his coaching duties with Bangladesh.

"When I know, you'll know."

News of Ranatunga's candidacy for the Indian position coincided with confirmation that Bayliss, who has two years remaining on his contract with the Blues, will compete against Australian assistant coach Jamie Siddons and Queensland mentor Terry Oliver for the head coach's job in Sri Lanka.

The Blues coach has already turned down an offer from the Australia Centre of Excellence and an approach from Bangladesh this off-season but will likely take the Sri Lankan job if it is offered to him.

He is due to be interviewed by Sri Lankan officials in Colombo on June 14.
"It's a job with an international team, and one of the better international teams, so you'd be nuts not to hear them out," Bayliss said. "And if something was offered, you'd be silly to knock it back.

"I spoke to Tom [Moody] about a week ago just to find out what I can expect in the interview. So now it's just a case of going over and seeing what they have to say."

Bayliss's current employer, Cricket NSW, has confirmed it will not stop him taking up the coaching position in Sri Lanka if he is successful.

Chief executive Dave Gilbert added that Sri Lanka's pursuit of Bayliss had prompted Blues officials to formulate contingency plans in the event their head coach departs.

"We won't be standing in the way of Trevor," Gilbert said. "If he wants to prove himself on the international stage, we will stand aside. We don't want to lose him, but we realise he is very ambitious, and in the long term he wants to coach Australia.

"Coaching another international side would be a big step towards that goal. Just look at the way it catapulted Tom Moody to the upper echelons of world cricket."

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has contracted Chappell, Bruce Reid and John Wright as consultant coaches for next season.

Wright was CA's first choice to succeed Tim Nielsen as head coach of the Centre of Excellence, but the former New Zealand batsman was apparently reluctant to relocate his family across the Tasman.



Barmy Army to boost Sri Lanka tourism

COLOMBO: Advance bookings for England's winter cricket tour of Sri Lanka has been rising steadily even as fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels escalates, officials said on Monday.

A tour organising official at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said at least 4,000 bookings by British cricket fans have been almost finalised and more were in the pipeline. "We are very happy with the response," the SLC official said.

The cricket board is teaming up with the island's tourism authority to have special counters at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and at Colombo airport here, to handle the 'Barmy Army', as English supporters are called.

England will tour Sri Lanka in two stages, with the one-day internationals being played in October and the three-Test series in December.

Sri Lanka's tourism officials expect the tour to lift sagging arrival figures, which have suffered from the violence with nearly 5,000 people killed in the past 18 months.

The SLC official said British fans seemed undeterred.

"You must remember that England tour in 2001-02 attracted a huge contingent of fans despite the (rebel) attack on the airport just six months before the tour," he said.

Arrivals from Britain, a major market for Sri Lanka tourism, had fallen 13.7 in April over the same month a year earlier, according to tourist board figures.

But the English tour could swell numbers if the current promotional work became a success, the SLC official said.

England will play the one-day leg mostly in the north-central town of Dambulla, which is a major cultural heritage site with the famous rock fortress of Sigiriya in the backdrop.

The Tests are to be played in Colombo, the southern sea port city of Galle and the popular hill resort of Kandy. "The Galle Test is likely to be well patronised by British tourists given the work of British charities there in the post-tsunami era," the official said.

It will be the first Test match in Galle since the town was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami.



Moody Embarrassed by Aussies

TOM MOODY has lashed out at Australian crowds, admitting he is embarrassed by the derogatory reaction and constant harassment directed towards Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralidaran.
A World Cup winner with Australia in 1999, Moody, who has resigned after a successful stint as Sri Lanka coach, claims Murali's action is more legal than some other bowlers playing international cricket.

"As an Australian through and through, when I have been with the Sri Lankan team in Australia, or playing against them in the World Cup, it's the only situation we find in the whole of the cricketing world where we have this disgraceful slant on a cricketer," Moody said this week.

"My take on it, and I hope I'm right, and I've shared this with Murali, is that it's Australia's nature to show that response in a way of respect and acknowledgement of someone who is pretty special and unique.

"It's a direct insult as it may be seen or heard or given. It's treading a very fine line of sportsmanship.

"I don't know if I'm right. I hope I'm right because at times I've found it incredibly embarrassing when you tour all around the world with a team that has a bowler who is a unique genius; that he's subjected to that type of behaviour in Australia."

Moody believes part of the reason for this is the competition between Murali and Australia's recently retired champion spinner Shane Warne, who is the world's leading wicket-taker with 708.

Murali is second with 674 but given the amount he bowls and the rate at which he takes his wickets he is likely to pass Warne within a year. When Murali tours Australia for two Tests in November, he will still be behind Warne.

"They're protecting their own. Australia has produced the greatest leg-spinner of all time and Australians are very proud of that," Moody said. "There's that constant comparison between Warne and Murali, but I just think you cannot even begin to try and compare the two."

Many Australians, including most of the national team, have harboured suspicions about Murali's ultra-flexible action, which includes a bent elbow, apparently a birth deformity.

This exploded publicly on Boxing Day 1995 when umpire Darrell Hair called Murali seven times for throwing, creating a furore. He was subsequently called during a one-day series in Australia, which almost prompted Sri Lanka to walk off midway through a one-day match in Adelaide four years later.

Murali refused to tour Australia in 2004 because of his treatment by Australians, including Prime Minister John Howard, who sparked an international incident when he claimed publicly that science had proved Murali threw.

Largely on the back of controversy surrounding Murali, the International Cricket Council set up a detailed study of bowling actions with the latest scientific equipment, and found to its horror that just about every bowler threw the ball to some extent.

It was only when a bowler's arm flexed to 15 degrees that it became detectable to the naked eye so the ICC set 15 degrees as the limit for a bowler's elbow movement.

Any bowler now reported by umpires for having a suspect action must be scientifically tested. If found to be outside the 15-degree parameter the bowler is banned and must have remedial work with experts before being allowed to play again.

When Murali was on his last tour to Australia for a one-day series two seasons ago he became so sick of crowd treatment and media claims he was never properly tested that he took himself off to the University of Western Australia to be tested again.

"We were incredibly alarmed and surprised about that because we thought if you're going to do that, at least do it through the management, but he felt an obligation to prove to himself that he wasn't bending the rules, so to speak," Moody said.

"There were articles claiming he hadn't been tested bowling at different speeds so he took himself off one morning on his day off and organised himself to get tested properly.

"He bowled the whole shooting match of doosras and toppies and offies at all different speeds and he walked away comfortably under the 15-degree parameter. There wasn't one delivery that was over.

"I've got the report that shows it all; every single delivery. So where do you go, what else can a bloke do?"

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ICC panel proposes free hits to speed up one-dayers

A no ball in one-day cricket for overstepping the crease could prove costly to bowlers in future after cricket officials recommended giving the batsman a free hit off the next delivery.

Copying the fast Twenty20 game which already has the rule, is among several changes to the one-day game suggested by the cricket committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

A free hit would mean the batsman could be dismissed only by being run out from that delivery, as is the case with a no ball.

The move should encourage bowlers to reduce the number of extras and help matches finish on time.

The panel also wants the ball to be changed after 35 overs, instead of when it loses its shape or whiteness and is recommending allowing a third outfield player during the last two of three “powerplay” or field restriction overs.

The recommendations made by the cricket committee will have to be approved by the ICC’s Chief Executives Committee and then ratified by its board to become law. The panels are due to meet during the ICC’s annual conference starting in London on June 24.

The committee also reviewed the ball tampering law and said the code of conduct governing fair play should be tweaked to bar the fielding side from deliberately throwing the ball into the ground to rough it up or applying any substance to it, other than saliva or sweat for polishing.

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Official Google Blog: Adding more flare