Nigel Kerner

We can write endlessly about a cricket phenomenon we call Muralitheran. We can hail him with the most extended expletives – we can equally condemn him with the most destructive oaths. Yet very few of us notice the real essence of the controversy raging once again about his bowling action. It really has nothing to do with his bowling – and all to do with the man. We have in this vibrant charismatic Sri Lankan cricketer the most powerful format for the examination of ourselves, our motives and our own extensions as human personalities whether cricket observers, or lovers or not.

It matters not a jot – the truth of his bowling action. – Whether it is legal or illegal in cricketing terms. If indeed it is truth we are seeking; it is never going to present itself, because most of us view and comment about things with our prejudices firmly hitched up to our eye balls. Our certainties usually lacerated with the liquor of tribal, ethnic or racist bias. Hard non-refundable bias that underlines the extent of the primitive and the ape in us. Hidden agendas and motives emerge that are nothing to do with the apparent question at hand. Is Muralitheran’s bowling action within the
laws of the game of Cricket as defined.

There is of course a new development relevant to the whole business since Muralitheran’s action was cleared by the ICC and that is the question whether his latest addition to his accepted bowling repertoire, the ‘Doosra’ as it is evocatively called, constitutes an infringement of his bowling remit. It was of course inevitable that anyone taking issue with its legality as a legitimate cricketing tool would be vilified for doing so.

Objective clinical analysis of the law relating to the legality of the practice of any sport is enshrined in the ‘duty boards’ of international bodies representing sporting activities around the world. These bodies are and should be the only arbiters of any allowances of the specific design of any sport – their will and their sanction known through a grant or a license to practice. By this all encompassing yardstick Muttiah Muralitheran is beyond reproach and all dissent should have been politely put where it belongs, in the back yard of the individual human brain – what scientists

call the R-Complex; the playground of lizards and snakes and the squirming magnitudes of ritual and deceit. So why is it not? Why is this man being constantly persecuted for throwing or chucking a cricket ball? Why is he constantly vilified for being quite simply the best bowler in the world?

At this point it is relevant to say that the entire law on ‘throwing’ or ‘chucking’ as it is commonly called was conceived to apply to pace bowling only. It was never meant to be applied to spin bowling. When you simply throw a ball you put more force into the object and thus get it to travel at a greater speed than if you bowl it with a contrived circular motion of the arm. The procedure or technique was designed to prevent life threatening damage to the batsman with a hard ball propelled at such speed as to make the entire game of cricket too difficult or even impossible to play.

The safety pre-requisites designed to do this somehow got mixed up in the more modern post administrative adjuncts of the game, that were added through the years, and no one really noticed that slow bowling with no risk to life and limb was also included in these forbiddances. It is however a matter of how the law stands and is interpreted at present time that decides the final fate of the controversy. This had been done and the matter settled under a ruling of the ICC with regard to the Sri Lankan bowler’s  general bowling action until the ‘Doosra’ came along. The ICC has yet to rule on this particular ball in the Murali armoury. With their record for prompt firm action, I am not holding my breath for a quick pronouncement on the legality of this ball as Muralitharan bowls it now.

Meanwhile, it is inevitable that a magnificent talent that delights hundreds of millions of objective lovers of the game of cricket with a wizardry and an aplomb that can make unprejudiced and objective lovers of the artisanship and craft of the game drool in wonder, will attract the perverse and the fool, for their commentary. There will always be those who will meticulously examine every particle waveform, digit muscle flexure, and bone extension to nanometre

lengths to prove their point of view. Whilst all this is sometimes essential in deciding the objective truth of anything, few take care that while staring at a gnat they might swallow a whole herd of camels.

Rightly or wrongly most Brits have the reputation of being the most polite and therefore the most lethal racists in the world. The Australians are more apparent and more crude at the art. Chris Broad’s adjunct as Match Referee in the Test series between  Sri Lanka and Australia in March 2004, tasted unfortunately in many people’s minds of the same bubbling and evil stew of lies, hypocrisy racism and humbug that coat other Anglo Saxon contemporaries of Iraq and of ‘burning Bush’ and ‘Blairing bulldog’ infamy. Mr Broad was no doubt doing his duty as he saw it without a tinge of racism in it. But it raises doubts in some peoples mind as to his impartiality. There is always going to be your side and

my side in such questions. All hitched to the word of the law, not the spirit of the law. The fact that it is always Anglo Saxon Englishman and Australians who officially raise the spinnaker of doubt about Muralitheran’s action, brought out the horns in the mildest brown Sub-Continental be they seen as sahibs or serfs, with accusations of racism. A hidden racial motive in it all.

The whole world now knows as never before that ‘white man speak with forked tongue’. It draws the comment out of the lips of many non white cricket enthusiasts and indeed many white cricket enthusiasts that the Murali controversy is all part of the white man’s way of showing his or her resentment of black dominance and achievements in world sport when blacks are allowed to compete as equals. This put-down can be ill afforded for safety reasons these days when white Caucasian sponsored evil in Iraq and Zionist Israel shows that colonialism is still very much alive and has another more covert and thus insidious face. All meat and grist on a grievance ridden and deadly terrorists table.

How on earth can a game, so noble and so adroit as cricket, and a man with a smile in every heartbeat such as Muttiah Muralitheran provide a draw string that brings all these seeming irrelevancies together. The Global glass window with four electric corners in your living room. The silver wings that fly past a hurricane. The fingers that can punch open the mouth of your friend seven thousand miles away at the speed of light, provides the garment whose hem sews the true and the preposterous in the same stitch. It is I’m afraid the language of guilt and insufficiency. A general contemporary anthem for disaffection with the Gods, now bleeding to death and ideals gone awry. But also it must be said, that the racism quip is understandable. Some might even say a deserved conclusion of some merit in truth, when the white man’s recorded practices through history are seen in the perspective of man’s inhumanity to man. They are hardly kindred feelings towards his own kind. World Wars one and two bear ample testament to that. These feelings are multitudes worse as history records, when seen and measured in terms of the practice of tribally motivated racist wickedness world wide. The Holocaust bears testament to that. The evil they did through the centuries against non whites and are still doing voraciously to this day marks the Euro-American to some, with the ‘Mark of Cain’. Perhaps the complexion is what is meant by the ‘mark’ of Cain some speculate. After all most people were brown or black

because they all lived in the tropics in ancient times they claim. The complexion change in some came about because of a more recent generic change. It cannot be a climatological prompt that did it or the northern climes they come from would demand a black skin to absorb as much of the more meagre sunlight there for better Vitamin D production. A polar bear has a black skin under his white coat – to do just this.

The legacy of Muralitheran’s bowling action is the focus of all these sometimes desultory points of view it seems to me. It lays us all bare to ourselves. How much of us, each of us, is in the lens that views this great man. But it is the viewing point that so often governs a point of view. And so we get the most monstrous and shameful commentaries with further irrelevancies knitted into the Muralitheran compendium. The entire existential gamut of his bowling arm, his cricket bat, his family’s Confectionary business, his racial and ethnic ancestry, his spiritual purposes in life, and no doubt sometime in the future, his toilet habits.

It seems to me that the perverse emerges incidentally out of the pure and we are all debentured and blinded by it. We cannot see the wood for the trees. We cannot see that we are all privileged to be alive to witness the talents of two of the greatest ever exponents of the art of bowling in cricket in our lifetime. Muralitheran of Sri Lanka and Warne of Australia. Each at either end of the visual scale and each magnificent for being that. The brunette and the blond. They are magnificent for their difference and at the same time for their similarity if you see what I mean. We don’t
appreciate them for what they are. We deny them for what they are not. We should all sing an alleluia simply because they are there alive for our children to see the wonder of an art that spins the wind with such scales of skill. Alas the primate in the nature of some men seeks to make monkeys of us all, if we let it. Too often it succeeds. From Presidents and Prime Ministers to common red-necks and street thugs, they’ll have all our numbers marked if we don’t spot their subterfuge and we let them. It is essential that we never let them, for they will see that yesterday’s mistaken premises are tomorrow’s folly for our children. Cricket or not.