“Change of bowler from the Lockett End for the Melbourne Renegades, Muttiah Muralitharan!”

When you think of the greatest wicket taker in the history of cricket, the Docklands Stadium based Twenty20 side doesn’t usually pop up straight away. Even less do you associate him with the greatest goalscorer in the history of the Australian Football League.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh NO BALL!”

That sounds about right.

Australia’s attitude towards Murali throughout his playing career has been nothing short of embarrassing and appalling. Ever since the Sri Lankan was called for throwing at that fateful Boxing Day Test in 1995, he has been lashed with abuse by bogans at whatever ground he visits. At the time of the incident, he was an unassuming 23 year old. Today he is 41, and while he may have grown up, many Australian fans have not.

The clash between the Stars and the Renegades (aptly named the Melbourne Derby) has become a spectacle for diehards and non-cricket lovers alike. The rivalry, if you can call it that after only five matches, has even shown signs of boiling over after the infamous altercation between Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels at the MCG last year.

Such is the nature of Victorians in that they have been slow to jump off the fence and select one team, but this season we have seen some large and passionate crowds turning out for each teams home games.

On Saturday Night I was a member of the 42,000 strong crowd that packed Etihad for the latest battle. The ‘no ball’ chants towards Murali were loud and clear from behind me, but perhaps the most disturbing fact is that children were joining in.

The naivety is strong in this one.

These children wouldn’t have been older than 10 and would have no idea as to why this is being chanted, let alone that it was abuse. They just heard ‘knackers’, the 45-year old cricket legend from their club chanting it and decided it would be fun to join in.

Darrell Hair called Murali for throwing seven times in only three overs 18 years ago. I wasn’t even thought of at the time; I’ve only read about the controversy and watched the clips on YouTube. I was alive however when our own Prime Minister called the Sri Lankan a chucker, which is regularly forgotten about but will have to go down as one of our country’s lowest sporting moments.

At the time of the incident, Sir Donald Bradman said of it “was the worst example of umpiring that [he had] witnessed, and against everything the game stands for. Clearly Murali does not throw the ball.”

So by trying to be more Australian and show their patriotism, are these fans being ‘UnAustralian’? Many of them would think of Sir Don as the most Australian of them all, and if he thought the action was legal in a sport he was arguably the best at, shouldn’t that be respected?

Abusing someone doesn’t make you more Australian than the bloke sitting next to you just watching the game. You may be having a laugh, but I’m sure as hell you wouldn’t like to be called a cheat.

Australian sporting culture is based around booze and boo’s. While it may all be in good fun, we all know that some can go overboard. Children witness this and ultimately assume that it is normal.

We all love seeing Hawkey skull a beer at the SCG. We all love seeing KP’s relationship with Bay 13 develop like a flower in the spring time; there it is give and take. But Murali has done nothing to deserve the treatment that he receives from certain fans.

Sure, I may be sounding a bit like Helen Lovejoy (“Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”) but seriously it is time for these fans to move on with their lives and grow up. This abuse is not passionate, nor is it patriotic or ‘fun’. It is just downright immature.

Unfortunately however, I don’t think it is going to happen.

I can already picture Stuart Broad being introduced to booing from the Cloke end of the Melbourne Olympic Stadium for the Melbourne Metros in 15 years time.

Written by Sam Mills

19. Sports lover and aspiring journalist. Proud Melburnian. @OnlyMillsy on Twitter.

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