Bernard Part 1
Part 2 | Bernard
WHIMPRESS ON 'THE CONTROVERSY' - Part 1
WE AIN'T LEARNED NOTHING YET: 1990s
Throwing had practically disappeared from
world cricket for thirty years and the only Australians no-balled
involved calls against Victorian leg-spinner Jim Higgs (1975) and
Western Australian off-spinner Bruce Yardley (1978), both in matches
when playing for Australian touring sides. However, neither bowler
was ever regarded as a serious transgressor and because the incidents
occurred outside Australia little notice was taken here. The persistent
calling of Sri Lankan off-spinner Muthiah Muriladaran by umpire
Darrell Hair at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day 1995
thrust the throwing issue back firmly into the international spotlight.
It must be admitted that Muralidaran fell into the category of
a suspect bowler and that pressure was growing for changes to the
throwing law. At this point in his career Muralidaran had played
22 Tests and taken 80 wickets at 32.76 to be Sri Lanka's leading
Test bowler but murmurs had become more intense rumbles after a
series in New Zealand the previous year when the home team coach
John Reid had accused him of throwing. It was also felt that a number
of the International Cricket Council (ICC) match referees wanted
the power (and perhaps responsibility) shifted from the umpires
to television evidence.
At the beginning of December 1995 it was believed that increased
scrutiny of Muralidaran's action would occur when the Test series
began because in November he was the subject of an umpires' report
from a tour match against Queensland which recommended a close examination
of that action. Unfortunately the law was both flawed and improperly
administered. While it demanded that a bowler be called if the umpire
was less than 'entirely satisfied with the absolute fairness' of
the delivery, Muralidaran was seen by some as escaping punishment.
He had never been called across four continents but he had been
cited as suspicious in three series by three separate ICC match
Debate about Muralidaran's action slipped from the news during
most of the month in which Sri Lanka was engaged in the Benson and
Hedges World Series Cup one day internationals with Australia and
the West Indies, and also following the First Test against Australia
at Perth where he bowled 54 overs without question. This match was
far more controversial for the report of umpires Peter Parker and
Khizar Hayat against the Sri Lankans under Law 42.5 for ball tampering.
It was this issue, and an ICC apology for it on the morning of the
Melbourne Test, which created the major cricket headlines. The major
subheading surrounded concern about the form of Australian batting
stalwart David Boon's ability to hold his place as the side's number
Sri Lanka v Australia (Second Test), 26 December 1995
The first day of the match was a Tuesday and the drama unfolded
midway through the second session of play. Muralidaran had bowled
two overs before lunch from umpire Steve Dunne's or the members'
end of the ground with umpire Hair at square leg and these passed
without incident. At 2.34 he took up the attack from umpire Hair's
or the southern end. Muralidaran's third over was a maiden with
all deliveries again passed as legitimate but in his fourth Hair
no-balled him twice for throwing on the fourth and sixth balls.
The umpire continued to call him three times in his fifth over on
the second, fourth and sixth balls. While the bowler stood with
his hands on his hips perplexed, the five calls provoked an immediate
response by the Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga who left the
field at 3.03 in order to take advice from his team management.
He returned at 3.08 and continued with Muralidaran who was called
two more times in his sixth over on the second and sixth balls.
At 3.17 Ranatunga removed the offending bowler from the attack although
he reintroduced him at 3.30 at umpire Dunne's end. Although Hair
reports in his book, Decision Maker, that at the end of the tea
break he stated that he would call Muralidaran no matter which end
he bowled he did not do so. Muralidaran completed another twelve
overs without further no-balls and, after bowling Mark Waugh, finished
the day with figures of 18-3-58-1. The seven calls were the first
ever made against a visiting bowler in Australia and the greatest
number in a match since those by umpire Andrew Barlow against Eddie
Gilbert in 1931. What were the reactions of outside observers?
One man who felt the pain was Ian Meckiff who watched the game
from the Australian Cricket Board's official enclosure. According
to reporter Ron Reed, Meckiff didn't want to talk about it and found
the incident 'very difficult to comprehend'. A fortnight earlier
Meckiff had offered a wish that Muralidaran would not suffer in
the way he did. One of the main difficulties Meckiff had in dealing
with his dismissal from the game was the nagging doubt that it had
Predictably journalists offered a range of views. Two who criticised
the process rather than the outcome were Peter Roebuck and Greg
Baum in the Melbourne Age. Writing under a headline 'No subtlety
in MCG's day of shame' Roebuck deplored the 'public humiliation'
and echoed some of Keith Miller's language of thirty-two years before
about an 'execution'-only far more eloquently. It was not a performance
he cared to witness again, there was no sport in it. It was a day
of 'empty triumph and personal sorrow'. Roebuck saw Muralidaran's
career 'in jeopardy' and his mind 'in turmoil'. What he objected
to was that 'it was not done quietly, in some hallowed corner of
cricket officialdom, with the senior men of the International Cricket
Council studying film and gravely reaching their verdict. It was
done, instead, in front of a crowd of 55,239 on the first day of
a match scheduled to last five'.
Rare among journalists who have discussed the throwing issue throughout
cricket history, who either conclude that the no-balling umpires
are brave or mistaken, Roebuck also queried the nature of umpire
Hair's bravery. And he almost accused Australia of bullying.
Throwing cannot be tolerated. History also tells of brave
men who've stood up and condemned a practice that is accidental
in almost every case. Perhaps Hair has been brave. But his action
was also public and certain to catch the headlines. Some men like
to wear their courage on their sleeves. It would be nice to think
that hostile tourists from powerful teams would be treated with
For his part Baum's major concerns were with cricket's equivocation,
dithering and procrastination. His claim was that the ICC and the
various national cricket boards had had ample time to act against
Muralidaran. Like Roebuck he queried why the toughest decision had
to be played out on a showcase occasion.
Other reporters were less critical of the way the calls were made.
Robert Craddock for the News Limited group used the most emotive
language, labelling Muralidaran a 'convicted "chucker"'
in the lead to his front page story, 'Furore over Test "chucking"
call' in the Adelaide Advertiser on 27 December. And neither he
nor stablemate Ron Reed queried Hair's unusual practice of standing
back several metres from his normal position to give himself a view
of the bowler's action. Reed did agree, however, that Sri Lankan
coach Dav Whatmore (the former Australian Test batsman) was within
his rights to ask why the bowler could deliver 50 overs in the Perth
Test without question, and pass another examination in front of
Hair in a limited over international in Sydney the previous Thursday
night. Both Craddock and Reed noted that no calls were made from
square leg by either umpire but Reed drew a different implication
from Dunne's lack of action than Roebuck had made from Hair's call.
'The assumption can only be that the umpires differ in their opinions
- or perhaps, in their preparedness to make the hard call.' At this
point 32 other umpires had stood in Muralidaran's 23 Tests and passed
him. Why should the view of the odd man out be accepted?
At the end of the day the ICC moved swiftly, requesting Sri Lanka
to take 'corrective action' to save Muralidaran's career. The game's
ruling body issued a statement from London which seemed to support
Hair. The Sri Lankans found the calls a shock and the bowler had
been dealt a huge psychological blow although he had responded well
by bowling purposefully in the final session. ICC chairman Sir Clyde
Walcott outlined two years of official concerns. These revealed
that in 1993 ICC referee Peter Burge had spoken to Sri Lankan cricket
officials after expressing his suspicions about Muralidaran's delivery
in a series against India; that ICC referee Barry Jarman had been
so concerned by Muralidaran's action during the Sri Lankan tour
of New Zealand in March 1995 that he had arranged for a slow motion
video to be taken of the bowler's action and had this forwarded
to the ICC; and that at an ICC meeting in July 1995, a new policy
had been adopted whereby an umpire having doubts about the legitimacy
of a bowler's action should raise the matter with the ICC referee
handling the series. In such a case video evidence should be obtained
for the ICC to pass on to the player's Board for consideration.
When Sri Lanka had played in a one-day series in Sharjah in early
October umpires Hair, Dunne and Nigel Plews advised the ICC referee
Raman Subba Row of their concerns. As a result further footage of
Muralidaran was taken and passed on to the Board of Control for
Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL). The ball was now in the Sri Lankans'
The ball remained in the hand of the spinner on the Wednesday as
Australia amassed a huge first innings total of 6-500 declared with
David Boon occupying the crease for just under seven hours for 110
runs and Steve Waugh making an undefeated hundred. Muralidaran (unlike
Meckiff) bowled on as if nothing had happened the day before. In
all, he bowled 20 overs in the first two sessions to finish with
figures of 38-7-124-1 for the innings while umpire Hair stood silent
at square leg.
The second day ended in as much confusion as the first. An hour-long
meeting after play in a locked dressing room involved the BCCSL
secretary Anura Tennekoon, team manager Duleep Mendis, coach Whatmore,
captain Ranatunga and vice-captain Aravinda de Silva failed to reach
any conclusions but there were fears that Muralidaran's tour, if
not his career, would be ended. Tennekoon conceded that if the no-balling
situation arose again it put the team in a quandary as it left them
a player short. After the meeting the Sri Lankans called for a summit
with Hair and referee Graham Dowling before the end of the Test.
Whatmore stated that an issue for the summit was the question of
why just seven balls out of 38 overs had been called. In his view
Muralidaran needed no 'corrective action' because his action was
legal. Whatmore went on to say that the ICC film sent from New Zealand
was inconclusive because it had been shot from long on. The Sharjah
film had not reached Sri Lanka by the time the team had departed
Among reactions from former players those of Australian off-spinners
Bruce Yardley and Ashley Mallett provided the sharpest contrast.
Yardley was disgusted by the allegations against the bowler whom
he had coached in Sri Lanka four years before. Referring to Hair
he said: 'Some umpire goes back five metres to call him for chucking
when he should be watching his feet instead of his arm. Who does
this bloke think he is?' Regarding Muralidaran he added: 'The laws
of cricket state a bowler is not allowed to straighten his arm once
it is bent in the delivery stride. We should be celebrating his
action, not trying to run him out of the game.' Mallett, on the
other hand, felt the bowler was 'very suspect' because he straightened
his arm. He thought the action could be modified successfully and
offered his assistance.
Muralidaran did not bowl again in the Test as Australia went on
to dismiss the Sri Lankans twice on the way to a 10 wicket win.
By the end of the match there was a wider reaction to the action.
West Indian captain Richie Richardson, in Australia, said: 'He's
just unorthodox. When I look at the slow motion picture I don't
really think he chucks. He comes over with a slightly bent arm and
when he releases the ball his wrist straightens. But if you look
really carefully the arm remains bent.' Thilanga Sumathipala, vice
president of the BCCSL, was confident Muralidaran would pass any
test and considered it was only umpire Hair who had a problem with
him. Former Australian captain Allan Border thought the bowler might
have been set up. He added: 'I'm not convinced he straightens his
arm all the time. I think occasionally he might-which constitutes
a throw-but if I was an umpire I wouldn't be prepared to call him.
Australian captain Mark Taylor stated that he had an opinion but
wouldn't divulge it because he felt the only opinion that mattered
was the umpire making the call at the time. Len King, the Victorian
director of umpiring (and former Test umpire), thought the action
'very, very suspect'.
Muralidaran's own view of himself at the end of the game was that
he did not throw. He spoke for the first time after a medical examination
by a Melbourne-based surgeon, and former Ceylonese captain, Barclay
Reid certified that he was a victim of a 'fixed deformity' of 32
degrees at the right elbow on his bowling arm and 26 degrees on
his left. The report continued 'as the shoulder rotates the arm,
and the arm continues forwards and downwards, the forearm then comes
into a straight line with the arm, giving an impression of a straightening
of the elbow, although no actual straightening of the elbow occurred'.
Muralidaran even hinted at litigation to prove he had done nothing
wrong. 'My arm is born like that. I can't change my action. If you
cannot straighten your arm, how can you bowl with a different action.'
He went on to say: 'Darrell Hair had done my matches in Sharjah,
about four matches, then in Sydney. Why shouldn't he call me then?
Because I am not changing my action. The same as I did in those
matches was the same as I did in this.' Plainly the bowler and the
Sri Lankans did not appear to be accepting the situation meekly.
What did Hair have to say about this?
Bernard Part 1
Part 2 | Bernard