Cricket : Walsh to opt for country over club

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Courtney Walsh may not be playing county cricket for Gloucestershire next season. Talks are to take place between player and club this weekend but Philip August, the club secretary, is not certain whether the West Indies captain will be staying.

"I should think it is a fair bet he will want to play for the West Indies," August said. "We are going to have a fairly open discussion and I think Courtney knows what we would like to happen. I think he accepts the situation."

Walsh's commitments to the West Indies for a Test series against Sri Lanka, which is not due to finish until 17 June, will force him to miss the opening two and a half months of the summer, a situation Gloucestershire are not happy with. "We don't want him just for the last few months if we can't have him for the entire season," August said.

His departure would leave Gloucestershire short of an overseas player, but August said it was "naive" to think they would ask batsman Andrew Symonds back after he pledged his allegiance to Australia rather than England last year.

"We are speaking to our contacts around the world asking their advice," he said. "But the difficulty is every country is playing international cricket of some sort during our domestic season."

Jack Russell, the England wicketkeeper, is earmarked to become the new Gloucestershire captain in the absence of Walsh, who was offered a new contract in September but still has not signed it.

The controversial off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has been included in Sri Lanka's 15-strong squad for their tour of New Zealand, which begins later this month.

The action of Muralitharan was questioned by John Reid, the New Zealand coach, during Sri Lanka's tour there in 1995 and last year two Australian umpires no-balled him, forcing Sri Lanka to leave him out of further matches during the tour.

Sri Lankan authorities requested international experts to carry out medical tests to prove he suffers from a congenital condition that does not allow him to straighten his arm fully as his generous wrist action sometimes makes it look as if the ball is being thrown.

The Sri Lankan cricket board yesterday denied reports in the Daily News, the country's state-run newspaper, which earlier this week reported that the actions of both Muralitharan and Kumara Dharmasena will be scrutinised during the tour.

The newspaper was quoting a confidential International Cricket Council report to the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. However, the chief executive of the board, Dhammika Ranatunga, said: "The ICC at no stage have cautioned that Muralitharan and Dharmasena's action will come under close scrutiny during the New Zealand tour."

The newspaper report was "misleading and mischievous and based on conjecture" the board said in a statement.

Arjuna Ranatunga will captain the Sri Lankan team in the month-long tour, which includes two Tests and three one-day internationals.

Sri Lanka squad, Digest, page 27