Australia and Sri Lanka begin a Test series on July 1. Sri Lankan

Australia- Sri Lanka: At loggerheads....Always!

- By Statsman    

Australia and Sri Lanka begin a Test series on July 1. Sri Lankan ace Muttiah Muralitharan's pulling out of the tour in the aftermath of the controversy over his action, particularly his 'doosra', makes it yet another contest between the two countries that has been dogged by acrimony and controversy.

Following is a list of controversial events that have plagued cricketing ties between Australia and Sri Lanka since the 90s.

1995-96 - Ball Tampering: The umpires in the Adelaide Test decided that a Sri Lankan bowler had doctored the seam of the ball. The tourists refuted this charge. The umpires failed to impound the ball and thus, the piece of evidence was lost. However, ICC Referee Graham Dowling seemed to be convinced of their guilt even before he heard their side of the story. Sri Lanka subsequently became the first team to be directly accused of ball-tampering in Test cricket, but the ICC reversed the finding a fortnight later.

1995-96 and 1998-99 - Chucking: Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled seven times by the Australian umpire Darrell Hair in a span of just three overs for 'throwing' in the Melbourne Test. Unusually, Hair made the no-ball calls from the bowler's end. Murali then switched ends and bowled without any problem. In a one-dayer between Sri Lanka and West Indies at Brisbane in the same season, another Australian umpire, Ross Emerson, standing in his first international no-balled Muralitharan repeatedly for throwing. The bowler resorted to leg-spin, but he was still no-balled. When acting captain Aravinda De Silva showed no signs of taking the bowler off and thereby prolonging his agony, frantic signals from the dressing room prompted Murali's removal from the attack.

In 1998-99, in a one-dayer between Sri Lanka and England at Adelaide, Ross Emerson no-balled Murali for throwing. Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was involved in a heated exchange with the umpire, and he then led his men towards the boundary and the match was stopped for 14 minutes as the Lankan team management used a mobile phone to talk to their Board in Colombo, who ordered the team to carry on with the game.

1995-96 - A Boycott: Australia refused to play Sri Lanka in the preliminary round match of the World Cup in Colombo. The bomb blast in the city a fortnight earlier was mentioned as the reason, but Australia's players were already uncomfortable about visiting Sri Lanka, against whom they had just finished an acrimonious Test Series. Ironically, the Lankan had the last laugh when they beat Aussies in the all-important final at Lahore.

2002-03 - A long gap - From August 31, 1999 to September 27 , 2002, the two teams did not play Tests or one-day internationals against each other.

1999-00 & 2003-04 - A series defeat for the Aussies: Steve Waugh's all-conquering Australian team suffered a 0-1 defeat to Sri Lanka in the three-Test series played in the Emerald Isles in 1999-00. Muralitharan was the highest wicket-taker (15 victims at 23.26 apiece) in the series. However, when the Aussies toured Sri Lanka next in 2003-04, the outcome was different. Ricky Ponting's side achieved a 3-0 clean sweep. Interestingly, Murali took 28 wickets and Shane Warne 26.

2003-04 - Prime Minister vs Player : Australian Prime Minister John Howard backed away from the furore he created by calling Murali a chucker. Murali reacted by stating that the Prime Minister ought to be bothered about his country's problems instead of commenting on issues with which he was not connected. The off-spinner subsequently withdrew from the tour.