Murali eyes Ponting as the prime target Down Under

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Sydney, Oct 7 (UNI) Sri Lankan off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, just nine wickets away from the world record of highest test wickets, is eyeing the wicket of Australian captain Ricky Ponting as his prime target on the tour 'Down Under'.

The 35-year-old spinner said Ponting has improved enormously in facing the spin bowling in recent years and it will be a challenge taking his wicket.

''The greatest challenge will be to get Ricky Ponting out, the best batsman in the world,'' Murali said.

''He is hard for everyone,'' he admitted.

Muralitharan who will arrive in Australia this month for a two-Test series, in Brisbane (November 8 to 12) and Hobart (November 16-20), says the conditions may suit him, pointing to Shane Warne's strong record at Gabba.

In 11 Tests in Brisbane, Warne flourished on the traditionally bouncy deck, claiming 68 wickets.

''It depends how well I will bowl.'' ''Everyone says there will be a little bit of bounce and a little bit of spin in Brisbane, it will be a good challenge. Time will tell,'' Murali opined.

The champion off spinner who has the highest wicket per match ratio 6.2 (for any bowler with over 200 Test wickets), has not performed according to his prestige on the Australian soil picking only three wickets against Australians since his debut in 1992.

However, these facts hold no importance to the man.

''There is nothing to prove. What shall I prove? I have taken wickets almost everywhere. I will just try to play well and try and make the team win.'' ''I have done everything in cricket. If I do well, that's good, but I have nothing to prove anymore. Just to try and win matches,'' Murali stressed.

While the Australian team has made a pact to stop Murali from overtaking Warne's test record of 708 wickets on leg spinner's home soil, he has played down the importance of reclaiming the record saying his dream of reaching 1000 test wickets will be a bigger achievement.

Murali said, ''I have had the record before, it's just another wicket - 1000 will be the big one, if I can get that.'' ''I think I can achieve a little bit more than the world record,'' he added.

Murali overtook Courtney Walsh's (West Indies) record of 519 Test match wickets in May 2004, to become the highest wicket taker. However, because of his injury in 2004, Murali missed a number of matches with Warne overtaking his record on October 15, 2004 during the second test against India in Chennai.

Warne went on to become the first bowler to claim 600 and 700 wickets before retiring in January this year, after Australia's 5-0 Ashes series victory over England.

Murali, nursing a bicep injury, has his eyes fixed on his goals.

''I hope to play until the next World Cup in 2011 and the challenge is that before I retire I am thinking of taking 1000 Test wickets.

If I put my mind to it, then I can do it,'' he was quoted as saying by 'The Daily Telegraph'.

The Sri Lankan great, who has received taunts and abuses from Australian crowd during his past tours, said he is ready for any such behaviour this time.

''If they do (it again), I won't listen to them. I (will) just bowl, that's it. It's OK. I have learned to deal with it.'' ''It's all in the past. That happens but that was a long time ago. Hopefully it's good times now,'' he added.

Sri Lankan team will start the tour playing a three-day match against Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in South Australia from October 27.

UNI

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