Spinning Murali

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is in the middle of an election campaign at the moment and I have just stumbled across a bloody good piece from Mike Ticher at The Guardian. Howard is a raging cricket fan and, like any dirty politician, attempts to misuse it to his advantage. Man of the people, and all that, when he quite clearly isn’t.

Howard’s application of clunky cricket analogies to politics is as elegant as his bowling action. In the last election he claimed at one point his Liberal Party was “three for about 268 [in the campaign] but the right-hand opener is still there.” This time it needs several hundred to avoid the follow-on, and is wishing it had dropped the right-hand opener before the series started.

Superb. But it gets better. Who’s coming to town? That’s right! Muttiah Muralitharan.

Murali has two Tests before the election in which to snare the nine wickets he needs to overhaul Shane Warne as the leading Test wicket-taker. Howard has form. The last time Sri Lanka visited, in 2004, he was instrumental in Murali’s refusal to tour, when he branded the spinner a chucker with the words: “They proved it in Perth too, with that thing.” That thing, to be more technical, was the biomechanics test that showed Murali straightened his arm to an extent that was then illegal when bowling the doosra.

Howard might have to bend the truth by only about, say, 14 degrees, to whip up a wave of anti-Murali sentiment. It is an edgy time. The visitors have already had anxious meetings about likely crowd reactions, and plain-clothes police are to be deployed inconspicuously (presumably dressed in body paint and watermelon helmets) to weed out the kind of troublemakers who have targeted Murali in the past.

If Howard could only harness that sentiment, then hold up Warne as the iconic national figure who represents everything good about Australia . . . no, you’re right, he’s a goner.

A cracking read.

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