Sri Lanka spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has one simple message for the man behind match-fixing allegations surrounding the national team – prove it.
Muralitharan, the most successful bowler in Test history with 800 wickets, did more than anyone to make Sri Lanka a force in world cricket in a 19-year international career which ended with a World Cup final in India earlier this year.
Yet the spin king’s achievements risk being cast under a shadow by the claims of former captain Hashan Tillakaratne, who alleges corruption has been endemic within the team since 1992.
The International Cricket Council is currently investigating those claims and Tillakaratne, a World Cup winner in 1996 and now a politician in his homeland, has also discussed the issue with the country’s president. But, as far as Murali is concerned, all the damaging talk must stop, unless Tillakaratne can provide evidence to back up his claims.
“He has to get some proof,” said the 39-year-old. “Proof is most important, without proof you can’t accuse.”
The leg-spinner, currently playing Twenty20 cricket for Gloucestershire, added: “From the cricket I’ve played, I don’t think anything was fixed. Because I can’t suspect any team-mates of doing this, this or this because sometimes players can play a bad shot, bowl badly – that’s form.
“So these allegations can come but they have to have a lot of proof to prove that somebody has done wrong. Up until now nothing has been proven about Sri Lankan cricket as far as I know. I think it’s clean. This is my opinion but if someone gives proof and it’s proven, then I’ll be wrong.
“I have played for 20 years and in those 20 years I have played clean and my team-mates, I think and I hope and pray, they have played clean because until you’ve proven anything, nobody is guilty.”
Muttiah Muralitharan was speaking at an event for Rubicon, official drink of the 2011 Friends Life t20.