Flintoff on ‘my mate Muthiah Muralitharan’
“I’d say ‘if you get three wickets, I’ll buy you a
crispy duck’ - and he’d say to me ‘if you get 50,
I’ll buy you two packs of Guinness!”
That was one of several anecdotes Andrew Flintoff
had to offer when talking exclusively to the BBC
about his friendship with Muthiah Muralitharan, the
Sri Lanka spinner who is preparing to retire from
Known to millions as ‘Murali’, he was born in Kandy
in 1972 and made his international debut against
Australia in Colombo on 28 August 1992.
His professional career began with Tamil Union
Cricket but he has also played several seasons in
English county cricket for Lancashire (1999, 2001,
2005 and 2007) and Kent (2003).
It was at Lancashire that Muralitharan first met
“You probably wouldn’t put me and Murali together as
mates,” said the former England all-rounder, who was
forced to retire from the game in September 2010.
“You look at the background, you look at the way we
are, everything about us is completely different.
“I’m 6ft 4ins to his 5ft 6ins; he grew up in Kandy,
I grew up in Preston. Personalities, public
perception... why we’re such good friends, I don’t
But after years of sharing a dressing room, Flintoff
speculates that it was a mutual love of cricket and
their similar approach to life that bought the pair
“He’s a bit of a free spirit,” Flintoff explained.
“He just lets himself go, he enjoys the moment and
just gets on with it - and probably I do too.”
On 3 December 2007 on his home ground in Kandy,
Murali made cricket history as he surpassed Shane
Warne’s record for the most career wickets in Test
cricket. Having batted against both of them,
Flintoff says it is hard to choose between the duo -
but Murali just about gets the nod.
“Because of my relationship with Murali, I think he
just edges it over Shane Warne,” stated Flintoff.
“Murali was full of mystery - I didn’t know which
way the ball was spinning and he always kept you
guessing - whereas Shane would grind you down, he
was all over you all the time.”
But controversy has dogged the Sri Lankan spinner’s
career, which Flintoff feels is unjust.
“He’d be the first one to prove that his action is
fine. He’d volunteer - ‘if you want to test me you
can test me’. People need to get over it. Doubts
were driven by external sources,” the Lancastrian
Between 1996 and 2004, Bruce Elliott from the School
of Human Movement and Exercise Science at the
University of Western Australia, Perth, oversaw four
rounds of tests on Muralitharan, whose bent-arm
bowling action was caused by a deformity from birth.
“He’s absolutely been cleared from a scientific
point of view, but whether we’ve been able to
convince the general public and selected aspects of
the media, that’s still a question that someone else
should answer,” Elliott commented.
Elliott said Murali presented himself with a
different arm structure to other spin bowlers and
Flintoff believes that as a bowler this uniqueness
has helped him.
“It’s helped him bowl like we’ve never seen anyone
else bowl before him.”
However, it is not just Murali’s unique action that
has secured his place in cricket’s record books,
with Flintoff pointing to a strong work ethic.
“I don’t think he always gets the credit for all the
hard work he’d put in, he would just bowl and bowl,”
said the 33-year-old Englishman.
“He became a bit of a groundsman’s nightmare -
they’d get the call at some ungodly hour from Murali
wanting the nets, wanting the covers off so that he
could go and practise.”
And this work ethic inspired a trade-off between
Flintoff and Murali.
“While in Manchester, he developed a love of crispy
duck so I used to bet him crispy ducks,” added
Flintoff. “I’d say ‘if you get three wickets, I’ll
buy you a crispy duck’ - and he’d say to me ‘if you
get 50, I’ll buy you two pints of Guinness!’”
The current World Cup will mark 38-year-old Murali’s
retirement from international cricket after nearly
two decades at the top.
Having quit Test cricket in July 2010, taking his
800th Test wicket in his final game, he then
announced in January that he would be retiring from
the one-day international arena after the current
World Cup, which is co-hosted by Sri Lanka.
He has signed contracts to play Twenty20 cricket for
Gloucestershire and in the Indian Premier League,
but Flintoff knows it will not be easy to leave the
“Knowing him as I do, he won’t want to sit on his
heels after his international career - he’ll want to
give something back. He already does a lot for
charity and I think there will be Murali academies
and spin academies,” he added.
“I think in 10 to 15 years, people will be talking
not just about Murali the cricketer but about what
he’s also done for cricket in general”. – [BBC]
legend Fred Titmus dies at 78
of the finest of all English spin bowlers, Fred
Titmus died at the age of 78 after a long illness on
In a long and remarkable career, the off spinner
played in five decades for Middlesex after making
his debut in 1949, aged 16.
His final first-class appearance came in 1982, when,
three months before his 50th birthday, having turned
up at Lord’s as a spectator for Middlesex’s County
Championship match against Surrey, he was persuaded
to play on a dry pitch and, with three second-
innings wickets, helped to bowl out Surrey along
with John Emburey and Phil Edmonds.
Emburey, his long-term successor as an off spinner
for Middlesex and England, said: “Fred was an
inspiration to me. He was one of the greatest spin
bowlers there has ever been. People talk more about
Jim Laker as an off spinner, but there are plenty of
people in the game who would say that Fred was
“He had a big heart and he was a fighter on the
pitch. He could be charming, funny, miserable and a
moaner, but overall he was just a lovely, lovely
Titmus, who was also a courageous batsman, played 53
Tests for England between 1955 and 1975, taking 153
wickets at an average of 32.22. He was a master of
flight and drift and his best Test figures of seven
for 79 came against Australia in Sydney in 1963. In
first-class cricket, only eight bowlers have claimed
more than his tally of 2830 wickets, taken in 792
matches at a cost of 22.37 each.
He was also a good enough batsman to open for
England on three occasions in Tests and he made six
first-class hundreds. He completed the double of
1000 runs and 100 wickets eight times and took 100
wickets in a season on a further 15 occasions.
On tour to the West Indies in 1967-68, he lost four
toes when his foot was caught in the propeller of a
motor boat, but he still managed to perform at the
highest level for years. He became a Test selector
after retiring and remained a familiar figure at
Lord’s until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I used to seek him out if I wasn’t bowling well,”
Emburey said. “He wouldn’t say much, but what he
said was worth listening to and I always went away
feeling more confident about my bowling.”
Titmus is the third England cricketer to die in the
past six weeks, after Trevor Bailey last month and
Peter Loader nine days ago.
A statement from Middlesex read: “Fred will be
deeply missed by all those who played with him and
by all those who were fortunate enough to have seen
him performing for Middlesex and England.”
Titmus twice served on the MCC committee, firstly
from 1968-69, when he was still a player, and then
from 1981-2000. He was also awarded an honorary life
membership of the club in 1981. – [The Times]
proud of protest which cost him all
BIRMINGHAM: It is eight years and two World Cups
back since Zimbabwe’s Henry Olonga made his famous
black armband protest against Robert Mugabe’s
political regime. He remains proud to have made a
stand even though it cost him his career and home.
“There are no regrets,” Olonga said in a telephone
“It was something that changed my life and taught me
a lot about myself and my country. I am incredibly
lucky to have done it with a man of the calibre of
Andy Flower, who is a fantastic human being.”
Olonga, 34, is aware his actions along with then
team-mate and current England team director Flower,
when they wore black armbands to mourn “the death of
democracy” in their homeland at a World Cup match in
South Africa, will dominate his legacy much more
than any wickets he claimed as a fast bowler.
He is now settled in London with wife Tara and his
Nowadays, Olonga is a singer, public speaker,
photographer, art worker, author and occasional
cricketer. Busy but not quite the high-profile life
he once knew as an international sportsman and
later, political activist.
Olonga, Zimbabwe’s first black cricketer, is unsure
of his status now back home but accepts speculation
of treason charges and a possible death sentence may
He is unsure whether he will ever return but feels
“When you go out on a limb and put your head above
the parapet and there are consequences. I don’t
think that is a time for regret,” he added. “It is a
time for reflection, to weigh up what you have lost
but what you have gained also.
“I look back on that day with a sense of
fulfillment. I did something more important than
just looking after myself. I represented people who
didn’t have a voice. So when I look in the mirror I
know I stood up for something I truly believed in.”
Olonga rarely sees Flower, despite both living in
England, but acknowledged the special bond they will
“We are not bosom buddies but I like to think we
have a huge amount of respect for each other because
of what we did together,” he said.
The current Zimbabwe team has struggled at the World
Cup, losing three of four matches so far and only
managing a win against the second-tier Canadians.
Their next group game is against Pakistan on Monday.
The team is a shadow of the competitive unit it was
when qualifying from the group stage at the 1999 and
2003 editions, when Olonga played.
With no television coverage of the World Cup in the
Olonga household, he has seen little of the action
but has followed news and results from Asia. He is
aware of the team’s plight and admitted to being “a
quiet fan from a distance”.
Cricket board politics played a significant part in
The most difficult period was in 2004 when 14
predominantly white players such as former captain
Heath Streak left the cricket system citing
mismanagement and racism, Olonga said.
“That put Zimbabwe cricket on a path of
self-discovery because we withdrew from test cricket
as we weren’t good enough and were left with a
young, predominantly black side that couldn’t
compete at the highest level. They had to start
“Zimbabwe was left languishing at the bottom of the
test-playing nations, struggling to make its mark
after this crisis.
“They have rebuilt quite nicely and the same goes
for the country, but I would guess that period set
our cricket back by five or six years, due to the
shenanigans of the board for getting rid of
For Olonga, international cricket is long gone.
After his premature retirement at 26, he does not
reflect with any bitterness at missed opportunities
in failing to add to his 68 wickets from 30 tests
and his 58 victims from 50 one-day internationals.
He is happy with his lot, and wrote about his
journey in an autobiography “Blood, Sweat and
Treason” last year.
“If I had stayed on for another five or six years I
might have taken another 100 or so wickets, which
would have been nice, but in the big scheme of
things, I think getting the message out was worth
the sacrifice,” he said.
“I wasn’t a great cricketer, I could be erratic,
though on my day I was capable of upsetting the
applecart. But preserving my career was not like
Shane Warne saving his. I was never going to set any
“The arts is the path I have chosen for the rest of
my life. I just hope the gods will smile on me and I
can be successful.” – [Agencies]
Babylon’ - documentary on West Indies cricket
NEW YORK: A documentary exploring the rise of the
West Indies cricket team against the backdrop of
their national liberation movements of the 1970s and
1980s will be premiered in the fifth annual
Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival that opens on
‘Fire in Babylon’, a documentary from the producers
of the Oscar-winning films ‘The Last King of
Scotland’ and ‘One Day in September’, blends a
distinctive sports narrative with music by legendary
reggae artists including Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs,
and Burning Spear.
Fire in Babylon is one of the six documentaries to
be screened by the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film
Festival, which has become the premier showcase for
independent films about sports and competition.
The six documentary feature films run the gamut of
sports, telling the stories of a foul ball that may
have altered MLB history, a team that changed the
face of cricket, an Indian boy who was born to run,
a tennis pro whose transformation startled the world
and one fighter’s humble quest for his 12th UFC
Fire in Babylon is a tribute to one of the best
international cricket teams in recent memory but the
sport is just the starting point - and that’s why
the film makes such rich and rewarding viewing,
according to critics.
Stevan Riley’s Fire in Babylon, premiered in the
London Film Festival, tells the story of the
all-conquering West Indies cricket team, comprising
Clive Lloyd and Vivan Richards and also several of
the most lethal fast bowlers of the modern cricket
In his documentary, Riley tells us about West Indian
national pride and English colonial bad faith.
The West Indies team was once termed as “calypso
cricketers” and though they had excellent cricketers
of great talent, the team did not win consistently.
In 1975-76, the team was humbled 5-1 in a Test
series against Australia that had fast bowlers Jeff
Thompson and Dennis Lillee. The West Indies players
were part of a generation determined to prove
themselves against their former colonial masters. –