MUTHIAH Muralidaran has tried to forget the indignity of being called for throwing on cricket's biggest stage, on its biggest day, and has urged his countrymen to cherish Sri Lanka's first Boxing Day Test since that infamous collision of cricket and politics.
As Sri Lanka returns to the MCG for a Test for the first time since Muralidaran was no-balled by umpire Darrell Hair on Boxing Day, 1995, the world's most successful spin bowler is back in Melbourne to represent the Renegades in the Big Bash League.
Asked whether Sri Lanka's involvement in a Boxing Day Test brought back painful memories, Muralidaran told Fairfax Media: ''For different reasons, I would love to forget that, but I think the boys will enjoy Boxing Day because hopefully [there is] a good crowd and good Sri Lankan support in Melbourne.
''I just don't want to speak about that [the throwing incident] much.''
Two years ago, Muralidaran said he had forgiven Hair for calling him, despite the deep embarrassment he felt at the time.
The incident caused an international storm, and the rules were eventually changed to allow bowlers to bend their arms by up to 15 degrees, with suspect actions reported and tested in a laboratory.
Muralidaran, who went on to take a record 800 Test wickets, expressed faith in Sri Lanka's obscure bowlers to improve on their performance in Hobart, where Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc bowled Australia to a 1-nil series lead.
''They are young bowlers, but they are good enough to get some wickets,'' he said.
''The Australian attack are not as good as what they think, so it's evenly placed most of the time.''
Next week's second Test will present the first chance for champion batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to play a Test at the MCG, where a crowd of about 65,000 is expected on Boxing Day.
The Sri Lankans were invited to tour at the peak of the Australian summer only because South Africa had previous engagements at home.
Sri Lanka bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake said the side was unfazed by the prospect of a possible demonstration outside the MCG by the Tamil Refugee Council in protest against the Sri Lankan government's human rights record.
''We are not worried about it. I hope they come and cheer for us,'' he said.
''It would be good if everybody from Melbourne came - a few hundred thousand Sri Lankans live here - and last time when we were here we had more Sri Lankan [fans] than Australians in that one-day game we won. I hope they come and cheer for us, it would be good. I hope they'll do it that way.''
With ADAM COOPER