Muralitharan to be welcomed by Australia fans - CA chief

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SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) Sri Lanka off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan can expect a warm welcome from Australian crowds next month, Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland said today.

Muralitharan, just eight wickets behind Australian Shane Warne's world record test tally of 708, was heckled by spectators on his only previous full tour of Australia in 1995-96 after he was no-balled due to his controversial action.

He boycotted a two-test series in Australia in 2004 but did play for a World XI in Sydney two years ago.

''He has been to Australia before and the mere fact that he is coming is fantastic for cricket and we are very much looking forward to seeing him on our shores and doing his best,'' Sutherland told reporters.

Sri Lanka are due to play two tests on their tour of Australia, starting in Brisbane on November 8, and the 35-year-old Muralitharan is within sight of breaking Warne's record.

''I think it is great he is happy and feels he has matured as a cricketer to come out here but he understands that he is not coming out for a holiday, it is serious cricket,'' Australia opener Matthew Hayden said.

''But by the same token, our administration has made it very clear that there is no racial vilification of any kind that's acceptable amongst our multicultural society in our venues.'' Sutherland also played down fears that Indian players could be subjected to racist taunts following the experience of Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds during the world champions' recent tour of the sub-continent.

''I'm not concerned about it,'' Sutherland said. ''We don't need to go any further than we went last year in terms of educating the public about coming to the cricket and enjoying themselves.

''We had a major campaign last year to increase awareness and understanding. People know where the line is drawn.

''There is no place for racism in cricket. We will take the strictest, harshest action possible if there are incidents.'' CA took out newspaper advertisements last year to remind spectators of their responsibilities and this season the ruling body plans to launch a television campaign.

India play four tests in Australia starting in late December before a one-day Tri-Series also involving the Sri Lankans.

REUTERS CS DS1143

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