Try to visualise Diego Maradona filling out the creases of an England tracksuit as Roy Hodgson’s lads honed plans to end their 48-year World Cup misery at Brazil 2014.
Imagine Kobe Bryant assisting the Spaniards formulate a game plan that might finally put paid to the Dream Team in an Olympic gold medal play-off.
Or even, if you can, think of Wally Lewis this evening in a blue jersey imparting his inspirational State of Origin insights to help New South Wales snap an eight-year losing streak at the hands of arch rugby league foes Queensland.
The vision of Muthiah Muralidaran pulling an Australian shirt over his lithe physique and flashing his ever-present smile while declaring “now I’m Aussie” is not simply arresting, it embodies just how completely the age of global cricket franchises has broken down parochial allegiances.
How else to explain how Muralidaran, a deserved national treasure in Sri Lanka for his extraordinary bowling feats and a man on whose right arm many of his nation’s most memorable cricket moments have been delivered, has joined forces with not just a rival, but an occasionally bitter rival?
It’s almost 20 years since Muralidaran was publicly humiliated on Australian cricket’s largest stage when, in Sri Lanka’s historic first appearance at the MCG on Boxing Day, umpire Darrell Hair called him seven times for throwing.
Three years later, umpire Ross Emerson repeated that episode during a one-day international between Sri Lanka and England at the Adelaide Oval, which led Muralidaran’s then captain Arjuna Ranatunga to threaten the removal of his team from the field and from their tour of Australia.
As a result, and despite having the legitimacy of his action scrutinised, tested and cleared en route to becoming the only man to claim 800 Test wickets, the genial son of a biscuit factory owner from Kandy in Sri Lanka’s heart has endured constant jeers of ‘no-ball’ from Australian crowds every time he bowls here.
And the ill-feeling emanated not only from fans in the outer.
In 2004, then Australia Prime Minister John Howard landed perhaps the most pointed insult when he indicated he agreed with those who felt Muralidaran was a “chucker”, a slight that led the Sri Lankan to vow he would never again return to display his rare cricket skills on Australian soil.
Muralidaran’s unorthodox bowling action, attributed to a congenital birth condition which renders him unable to fully straighten his right arm, has long sparked debate in cricket and other circles.
In the same year that Howard fanned that controversy, Muralidaran’s action was analysed by biomechanists at the University of Western Australia in Perth, who found he straightened his arm by up to 10 degrees when bowling.
This, in turn, led to the ICC altering its laws to allow bowlers to bend and then straighten their arms by up to 15 degrees when it was acknowledged that it’s an action perpetrated to some extent by a majority of bowlers.
While Muralidaran has publicly forgiven Hair for his actions on Boxing Day 1995 and Australian fans for their constant cat-calling, he has refused to extend his forgiveness to the former Prime Minister Howard, whose comments he deemed to be “worse than anything the crowd said”.
Today, Muralidaran has agreed to not only return to a country that has since softened its animosity and embraced his talent and self-effacing personality, but to actively help Australia’s efforts to unravel the perplexing art of ‘mystery spin’.
And to hitch himself to Darren Lehmann’s team caravan as it prepares to head to the United Arab Emirates where they will tackle Pakistan and their match-winning spinner Saeed Ajmal in two Test matches in October.
“Not as a ‘coach’ coach like you see for the whole year,” Muralidaran was quick to clarify when he spoke to cricket.com.au.
“I like to do, rather than ‘coaching’ coaching, do what my experience helps me with, (like) how to practice and that side of things.
“I just maybe teach the bowlers how to do things, sometimes people ask how to spin the ball … so there’s some basic things and I can give them my knowledge on how to do these things.
“That’s my aim.
“It’s not about coaching day to day.
“It’s all about putting them on the right path and getting the performances.”
While Muralidaran has long been admired and well-liked by his Australian on-field rivals even though many of them – such as Ricky Ponting, whose Test career began against Sri Lanka in that fractious summer of 1995-96 – had little clue as to picking his lethal ‘doosra’ delivery, his feelings toward Australia only began to change in 2005.
That was when he took part in a hastily-organised fundraising match at the MCG to aid victims of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, where his presence at such a tragic time for Sri Lanka was warmly received and he was genuinely touched by the host nation’s empathy and generosity.
"I will come to Australia from now on," Muralidaran said after that match.
"Before the game, it was one of the things I had to decide, whether to come again or not (but) the whole crowd was very supportive and help to raise a lot of money that will help people in my country.”
He has since lined up for the Melbourne Renegades in the past two KFC Big Bash League seasons where he became a crowd favourite with local fans, and has again been targeted by the franchise to return for BBL|04 next summer.
Now that he has formally retired from international cricket at age 42, Muralidaran is looking to broaden his involvement with the game beyond semi-regular appearances for T20 franchises around the world.
He recently signed on as a consultant coach, as did former Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis, with the Cricket Association of Bengal at the recommendation of ex-India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
And as the influence and seemingly endless variations of spin bowlers making an impact in the international arena continues to grow, the insights of experts such as Muralidaran and Pakistan’s ‘doosra’ pioneer Saqlain Mushtaq (who recently helped the West Indies) will be keenly sought.
But while there are a number of bowlers throughout the cricket world who are currently bracketed within the ‘mystery spinner’ category, Muralidaran notes that Ajmal – cited as a key reason by Australia coach Lehmann for getting the Sri Lankan on board – is the only one who specialises in the ‘doosra’.
“The doosra, not many people bowl that at the moment as Ajmal is bowling,” Muralidaran told cricket.com.au.
“Most of them are bowling the ‘carrom’ ball (flicked from the front of the hand) – (India’s Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Sri Lanka’s Sachitra) Senanayake are bowling carrom balls and they are different kind of balls.
“It’s not the doosra, so I think only Ajmal bowls the doosra.”
Even then, although they are supposedly practising the same art, Muralidaran claims that there are few similarities between the way Ajmal delivers his signature ball and the one that helped carry Muralidaran past Shane Warne to the head of Test cricket’s list of wicket-takers.
But regardless of the sorcery that Ajmal is able to conjure during next October’s Test series, nothing looms as more mesmerising than the sight of Muralidaran in his “Aussie” get-up amid a team huddle with his new Australian comrades.
Smiling broadly, as ever.