Despite being contracted to the Firebirds this season, the closest Sri Lankan player Muttiah Muralidharan will get to playing Twenty20 cricket in Wellington is Melbourne.
Muralidharan has signed to play for the Melbourne Renegades in this summer's Big Bash League and goes with Cricket Wellington's blessing.
"He was contracted but more importantly we've had some good chats and agreed," Cricket Wellington director of cricket Robbie Kerr said.
Muralidharan's manager approached Cricket Wellington about getting out of the second season of his Twenty20 deal with the Firebirds some time ago.
With New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 not going to be stand-alone this time round, Cricket Wellington did not dig its toes in.
"Our programme's going to be extended over a longer period of time, so it was looking like it was going to be difficult to get Murali in for more than a few games," said Kerr.
Next summer's schedule is yet to be made public, but the draft version is said to contain just one Twenty20 match a week during November, before the competition concludes in the new year.
Muralidharan arrived to a cool reception last summer. Originally scheduled to play all 10 Twenty20 rounds, plus two one-day matches, Cricket Wellington decided it was not keen on all that.
It quickly changed its mind after seeing him bowl, but the Sri Lankan went home after five games in which he had taken seven wickets at 15.71 with an RPO of just 6.11.
"He was magnificent in what he did – on and off the field," Kerr said.
But not coming back, all the same. Without him, Kerr said, Wellington would pin plenty of hopes on the batting of Jesse Ryder and Luke Ronchi.
With the international schedule likely to limit the participation of Black Caps players in the domestic competition, players of Ryder and Ronchi's calibre should stand out.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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