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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
Murali boycotts Aussie tour

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent, Delhi

Muttiah Muralitharan
Muralitharan spent much time debating whether to tour Australia
Sri Lanka's star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan says he will not be available for the forthcoming tour of Australia because of personal reasons.

His decision comes after the Australian Prime Minister John Howard reportedly called him a 'chucker'.

Speaking to the BBC, Muralitharan said he had handed over a letter to Sri Lankan Cricket explaining his position.

"I have already sent a letter but my decision is purely due to personal reasons," he said.

The star off-spinner, the leading wicket-taker in Test history, has been upset by criticism of his bowling action from various quarters.

A cricket board statement said: "Sri Lanka Cricket is fully aware of the unwavering commitment and dedication Muralitharan has placed right through his cricketing career.

"Sri Lanka Cricket has therefore considered his request favourably and granted him leave."

Muralitharan will still play in the six-nation Asia Cup hosted by Sri Lanka in July-August.

James Sutherland, chief executive of Cricket Australia, said Muralitharan's decision would be a disappointment to fans in Darwin and Cairns who were hoping to see him in action.

He added: "It's disappointing for the Australian players who relish the opportunity of playing against the best in the world.

"Nevertheless, we're confident the two Test matches will be memorable events.

"Ricky Ponting will play his first Test on home soil as captain of the Australian side, while Shane Warne, if fit, now has an opportunity to become the leading wicket-taker in the world. Glenn McGrath is also due to make his Test comeback."

Warne remains doubtful for the series, however, after breaking his hand while playing county cricket in England for Hampshire.

He currently lies third in the all-time Test wicket-taking list with 517 victims, two fewer thanm West Indian Courtney Walsh and 10 behind Muralitharan.

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