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Murali to join Warne for hard slog

THE stalking Shane Warne’s world record, Muttiah Muralidaran, will be playing in India alongside the Australian leg spinner in the official Premier League.

Murali has 700 Test wickets, Warne retired with 708 and the Sri Lankan has a chance to set a new mark during two Tests in Australia next month.

The worth of champion Test spin bowlers in a domestic Twenty20 series remains to be seen but both have been offered lucrative contracts and the international leg (Champions League) of the tournament offers cash prizes of more than $2million for the winning team.

Glenn McGrath and Stephen Fleming have also signed for the Indian division of the official league, which culminates in a match between the two best domestic sides from Australia, Pakistan and England.

At the same time, Mohammad Yousuf, who signed with the rebel Indian Cricket League then made up with the Pakistan board, was a last-minute withdrawal from the first Test against South Africa, citing lack of practice.

Yousuf was lured back to the side and promptly granted 6million rupees ($200,000) by the board for winning the ICC Batsman of the Year award in South Africa in September. His team-mates who lost the Twenty20 final were awarded less than half of that amount.

The brilliant Pakistani did not collect the official award as he was preaching in the mountains on the border with Afghanistan. He refused to speak to his board at the time about signing the rebel contract and now cites lack of match fitness for his refusal to take part in the first Test against South Africa.

Yousuf, who scored 1788 runs in 11 Tests last year, including nine hundreds, denies his withdrawal has anything to do with his rebel contract.

“I have not played for two months and I require more time to regain full match fitness,” he said.

“They (the selectors) didn’t ask me about my fitness or form (before his call-up) but I told them last night I was not playing.”

Yousuf says he will be ready for Monday’s second Test in Lahore. Australia captain Ricky Ponting wrote in The Weekend Australian last Saturday that he hated missing any form of cricket with the national team.

“There is no worse feeling in the world than missing a game for Australia,” he said. Subcontinental cricket appears to be played in another orbit, if not another planet, to the rest of the world. Yousuf said he was keen to play in the second Test in Lahore.

Murali is one of eight Sri Lanka players to join the official Indian Premier League, including veteran Sanath Jayasuriya and captain Mahela Jayawardene.

“We are all thrilled to be joining the IPL,” Jayawardene said in a statement.

The ICL, which is designed for a local Indian television network, begins next month and the IPL in April with the international finals in October.

While the rebel ICL has suffered with the creation of the official league — specifically designed to stem the loss of players from the establishment — it recently clawed back a little ground by signing English batsman Darren Maddy and ageing New Zealand players Chris Harris, Hamish Marshall, Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns.

Cairns, 37, said his body was not up to the rigours of international cricket at Test or ODI level and he was attracted by the extraordinary amounts being offered — in excess of $500,000, according to some reports.

“It’s a lucrative deal,” he said.

“It’s something which has brought me out of retirement and to do that it has to be worth it.

“The competition is also a chance to have one last go playing in front of heaps of people.

“If it was 50 overs, four-dayers or five-day Tests, there’s no way I could do that. But bowling four overs and having a slog suits me down to the ground.”

Cairns will have company from his days in New Zealand and Canterbury colours. Harris and Astle have signed up and Craig McMillan is expected to soon join them. Former Black Cap Marshall has also signed.

“That will be good (having his former team-mates playing) but it’s also the guys on other teams I played against yesteryear and it will be nice to be in that environment again,” Cairns said.

However, one part of being an international cricketer Cairns has not missed is the training.

“I’ve just been mucking around (playing) in England.

“This is a different level and I’ll have to train appropriately.

“I’ve had mixed emotions.

“It’s such a good offer I thought I will have to train again — I thought I’d finished with that garbage.

“I had done it for so long and thought ‘I can now kick back’ but I have to get serious, I want to acquit myself professionally.”

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