As he strode into the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Saturday evening, the overwhelming backdrop was all about issues that often dent the sporting spirit as evident in the ‘Sri-Lankan-cricketers-not-welcome’ theme in Tamil Nadu. Irony could not have been bigger as Muttiah Muralitharan, a Sri Lankan Tamil, cannot ply his wares at Chennai in the Indian Premier League!

The off-spinner then had a chat with Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Ray Jennings.

International cricket’s highest wicket-taker shared a laugh with fellow RCB spinner Murali Kartik and soon the unassuming off-spinner picked a ball from the kit-bag and sauntered towards the nets.

He bowled a few that were pegged on the middle and leg line before adjusting his radar and soon struck a fine tandem with Kartik. It became a ‘Murali vs Murali’ show as the two seniors held centre-stage in the first net reserved for spinners.

Joyous self

International affairs and diplomacy took a backseat as cricket reigned and Muralitharan became his usual joyous self though the extra inches around his waist revealed his 40 summers.

After a long spell, the man from Kandy, did some stretches monitored by physio Muthu Kumar and then took refuge on the massage table.

Besides Muralitharan, Saurabh Tiwary too joined the RCB camp while more high-profile arrivals are expected over the next few days with men ranging from skipper Virat Kohli to Chris Gayle all set to don the red and golden shades.

Meanwhile, Zaheer Khan skipped practice as he was away in Delhi for a charity football game.

de Villiers’ wedding

Incidentally RCB might miss the services of A.B. de Villiers during its early games. de Villiers is busy with his marriage in South Africa this weekend and also has his playing-obligations with his home club Titans.

In the event of the South African failing to turn up, RCB may well bank on Arun Karthik to chip in both as a wicket-keeper and aggressive batsman, a role that de Villiers has performed with aplomb.

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