Muralitharan, Law 24.2, and the ICC - Back
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The prestigious World-Cup 1996 is just 5weeks away. All eyes of
the cricketing world, no doubt are focused at ICC and on Sri Lanka's
leading test match wicket taker, Muralitharan. Is he really contravening
any accepted rules? If not, is there anything more to this controversy?
All these are still under careful scrutiny. Leading cricket personalities,
very knowledgeable media personnel & 101 others have said 1001
things. Many vital questions have been raised, but regretfully only
a handful had been selected yet, for answering, when contacted,
said Ajith Perera, a former international panel senior cricket umpire
of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board.
Over a period of time symptoms of a suspected illness had been
identified and many reasons are still being debated whilst the patient
is critically ill at present. Past is dead. The need of the hour
is to put all heads together, to find an effective remedy to cure
him fully and permanently from this dreadful sickness, without leaving
room for a possible relapse. It's essential that we act very promptly
& sincerely, but systematically adopting a professional approach,
not only to prevent premature death but also to resurrect a healthy
giant for the immediate future, added Mr. Perera, who is an authority
on the game, at the start of this interview.
Q: How does a delivery become illegal? Please clarify this for
A: Well, in about seven ways this is possible. But let's
deal with only that aspect, relevant to us now, The requirements
of the arm of the bowler. There is, One and only one criteria, as
per the requirements of the laws of cricket, that could and should
be used to judge, for fairness or unfairness of a bowler's delivery
action. At the point of releasing the ball in his delivery action,
the elbow of the bowling arm, either fully or partially, should
not in any way be straightened. Straightening of the arm', is the
key phrase. It is this particular movement of the arm only &
nothing else, that form the legal requirements, for a ball projected
to be fair or not. This is thus the only tool that could and should
be used for all judgements, in this regard. Thus, all one has to
determine to judge a fair delivery from an unfair delivery would
be,. At the point of delivery, is he straightening his arm in any
way, either completely or even partly or not. If there is any straightening
- it is an illegal delivery. If there is no straightening - it is
a fair delivery. Of course, each delivery should be judged separately
on it's own merits. Many spin bowlers have a Bent Arm bowling action
and there is nothing specific in such to violate rules. If this
bent arm does not in any way straighten in delivery action, it meets
this criteria for acceptance and hence is a fair delivery. Any other
observation or happening, is of no use for judgement of fairness
or unfairness nor be of any direct or indirect clue. Behaviour of
deliveries & the amount of turn the bowler is able to generate
in comparison to other bowlers, are of no value at all, towards
judgements. Unorthodox, peculiar and suspicious bowling actions
are quite common and like in all other walks of life it is common
to raise doubts & curiosity in oneself. All that is required
in such instances is to use the criteria I just explained as the
judgement meter and then analyse judiciously. All suspected or peculiar
actions or even the majority are not at all illegal, when judged
judiciously but the viceversa is true. It is not strange to see
very many falling for these hidden traps, due to ignorance of the
proper criteria and understanding.
Q: Some blame the local umpires, for allowing bowlers like Muralitharan
to get away with such suspected action. How do you feel about this?
A: As I just said, very many without knowing facts, fully
and properly, run into incorrect conclusions in life. This is no
exception. In this regard, bowlers fall into four main groups. (a)
Regular obvious thrower. (b) Odd-delivery, obvious thrower. (c)
Those with unorthodox/ peculiar/suspected actions, which is not
obvious to the eye, with no deformities/ abnormalities/ injuries
in their bowling arm/ palm/ wrist. and (d) Same as (c) above, but
having deformities/ abnormalities either from bith itself or thereafter,
due to accidents/ surgery/ etc. restricting their free movements
fully or partially.
With an alert mind & adequate experience, types (a) & (b),
could be detected, have been detected and reported by our umpires
to those concerned. With (c) & (d), one may sense & feel
that something is not quite right with his action, but human faculty
of vision with its limitations, does not and cannot permit any one,
to arrive at any firm & fair conclusions. Vision on the other
hand, is not a straight forward direct affair as most of us think.
It's complicated process with many limitations, involving the eye
& brain, both. Vision in reality, takes place not in eyes but
in brain. Greater the swiftness of occurrence of an act, lesser
the chances the brain will, have to register things properly leading
to greater uncertainties in judgements. Usually, umpires have only
a fraction of a second to watch simultaneously, many things in the
delivery stride, even from the strikers' end. Things get further
complicated with type (d) bowlers, like Muralitharan, because with
shoulder rotations, such affected arms give false impressions of
straightening of elbow, although no actual straightening occurs.
Video filming of such suspected bowling actions coupled with super-slow
several action replays covered from many angles is the only effective
remedy. Unfortunately, the umpires are not fortunate enough to have
(ready) access to such facilities. As explained earlier, suspicion
should never be taken to conclude illegality and rush to act foolishly,
based on such imagination. In such circumstances, all what a poor
umpire can do is, to indicate tactfully the need to video such bowler,
which had been the case very many times, I assure you not only with
Murali but with few others. Some time back Mr. Bandula Warnapura
who initiated such a scheme, never received assistance but resistance,
hence the project died prematurely. BCCSL now having the resources,
as part of their planned future training activities, should re-embark
on such a mission, systematically.
Q: You would have seen very many times in the past, Muralitharan
bowling in reality on field of play in umpiring matches. What are
your personal views on his bowling?
A: Yes, I very well remember him playing for his club Tamil
Union C & AC in 1991/92. He falls to my group (d) type, said
before. No doubt he bowls with a peculiar unorthodox wrist action.
When elbow comes into play gives rise to all these doubts. As I
stressed before, doubts & abnormalities do not indicate anything
firm. Of course, I never had the chance to view any of his video
tapes. Over the recent TV replays, I now have seen some. Although
arm is bent (which is permitted, as said before), I have not seen
then nor am convinced now, of him straightening bowling arm, even
partly, in his delivery action at the point of delivery. In fact
his arm comes down without a straightening across his body. As such,
his deliveries do not qualify to be termed unfair or illegal, in
accordance with the laws governing cricket.
Q: Is there anything more, you may like to add now, in this
A: Yes, perhaps two things. (1) Dr. Buddy Reid well known
Melbourne based surgeon confirms after a thorough examination he
has fixed deformities in both arms from birth, right elbow more
prominent than left which is said to be a natural condition amongst
all members of his family. As a result of these natural flaws, 1.1
His bent bowling arm is reported unable to straighten at all, even
partially. This means nature protects him at all times completely,
from contravening the legal requirements for a ball to be deemed
projected unfairly. Thus even if he wishes, he is unable physically,
even to throw the odd delivery. Here he has the legal & medical
backing. 1.2 Deliveries in which his shoulders rotate the arm prominantly,
it gives a false impression of the elbow straightening up. Movement
of extention of the wrist tends to enhance such false effect. (2).
In 1991, he was under the direct care of Bruce Yardley. Having corrected
initial flaws in Murali, he has turned him to a really world class
bowler and even now assures there is absolutely nothing wrong in
his delivery. Then from July 1995 to-date, he is also under Davenall
Whatmore. After filming him from several angels, he too confirms
that there is nothing in him that needs correction. Now these are
two very competant & qualified cricket coaches of great repute.
Q: Would you like to express your views on Umpire Darrel Hair's
action, in no-balling him for illegal bowling, 7 times in 3 overs,
during the 2nd test match at MCG on December 26, 1995?
A: Responsibility for dealing with bowling actions suspected
for illegal deliveries, is a demanding one with possibility of serious
ramifications. Every umpire has a duty to ensure that the game is
played strictly in accordance with the laws. He must have courage
to act against any unfair play, without fear or favour. He must
act firmly without any hesitation but with abundance of tactfulness
and commonsense, as the intention should be eradication of the actual
``illegal bowling'' and not the bowler
What really matters is ``What the umpire interprets at that instance''.
Unfortunately, information so far available to us do not say what
was that he really found objectionable, beyond any doubt, in those
7 deliveries out of the 228 bowled. Perhaps he may have done his
job correctly. He must have in his mind interpreted what he has
viewed from behind as ``Murali's bent arm straightening at point
of delivery'', in those 7 projections whilst in others deemed fair,
such unlawful straightening never took place. This may and should
have been his interpretation of the next 120 deliveries viewed from
side-on position. If, that is the exact truth, most certainly he
then has done his job very well.
Q: However, this episode has opened doors for lots of criticism,
controversy, confusion, doubt and unrest in the minds of tens of
thousands cricket lovers around the world, than any other single
happening in the test match arena for a very long time. What are
the causes for all these happenings?
A: Possibly 6 to 7 major factors, all combining to produce
an enhanced synergic effect, leaving us all, confounded still. I
feel these include the following.
1. The way it happened and the manner in which Darrell Hair acted,
in calling Muralitharan.
2. Lack of uniformity in the interpretation and application of
the legal criteria for judgement, Law 42.2, by the ICC Independent
Panel of Umpires, with respect to Muralitharan's bowling.
3. Remarks made in this regard, by well accepted past and present
day cricketers and highly knowledgeable reputed media personnel,
from all around the world.
4. Rather passive role, played by the ICC match referee Graham
Dowling in this regard, todate.
5. Recent chain of unsporty activities, witnessed in Australia,
since the arrival of our team.
The manner in which the ICC, supreme controlling body for world's
cricket, has acted so far.
Q: Could you please clarify and elaborate on these points?
A: (a). Darrell Hair is unique in being the first ever umpire
in test cricket history, to call a bowler for illegal arm movement,
from the bowler's end itself. There is nothing in laws, to prevent
or discourage in doing so from that position and in fact B/E umpire
is in a better position to pick-up a bent arm straightening action.
But, when a bowler is in his delivery stride, B/E umpire needs greater
concentration with minimum head movements, to watch very closely
with great alertness, bowler's front and back foot placings, flight
and path pick up of the projected ball and then of course the arm
of the bowler, all these occurring simultaneously within a fraction
of a second. As such, humanly it's an almost impossible task to
devote adequate attention to the bowler's arm movements to judge
legality of delivery, specially with my type (d) bowlers like Murali.
Usual accepted practise thus is to request assistance from the striker's
end umpire, in working more closely with him, a thing that never
(b). Just 4 days before this happening, in umpiring the 50 overs
match in Sydney, Hair did not called nor even raised even the slightest
doubt over Murali's action.
(c). As per the ``Page'' newspaper reports, Hair had given a warning
to the Sri Lanka team taking field after the tea interval on first
day, inducting his determination to continue to call him from whatever
end he bowles there after. Hence Muralitharan did not bowl thereafter.
(d). In the light of all these happenings, it is difficult to ignore
the very bad reputation Umpire Hair earned in being ``accused of
bias'', just one year ago in umpiring that decisive 3rd test against
South Africa in Australia itself.
In this very match itself, we had 2 umpires conveying rather two
different opinions, based on how each one has interpreted the movement
of the arm. To Steve Dunne scrutinizing 228 deliveries over two
consecutive days, both from behind as well as from the side-on position
nothing illegal happened. But Darrell Hair viewing from behind,
in spite of his other vital simultaneous jobs, has been able to
differentiate and detect 7 deliveries in 3 consecutive overs, some
flaw in Murali's arm, no complying with the laws.
He too does not spot anything illegal, immediately thereafter in
viewing from side-on position 120 deliveries projected. Prune and
Davis umpiring the very next B and H game in Hobart, both have vindicated
his action after close scrutiny, each one from both ends, over 60
deliveries. Further confusions occur next when Ross Emerson who
was earlier under one match suspension and standing in his first
one-day international, from bowler's end calls seven times in 25
deliveries, in spite of Murali bowling Leg spin from the wrist.
What's amazing is, seeing one delivery being judged unfair and the
very next which appears identical to the naked eye, being judged
fair! Video recordings and statements by umpires confirm that, there
had been no differences at all in his actions, over this period.
About 15 Members of the ICC Panel of Umpires and 10 Referees have
seen Muralitharan in action over long spells. Out of these, 03 umpires
and 03 referees have interpreted differently. This again confirms
divisions in opinions even amongst the world's best, very much in
favour of Muralitharan.
In fact scientifically also, there is accepted evidence to confirm
of differences in the interpretation of same act by two or more
people, specially when time-duration of an act is very little, like
in these instances, as it hampers, the capacity of the brain to
discriminate and register finer details of the act. Based on each
individual's perceptual style, brain will analyse and interprets
visual perception of an act leading to the formation of conclusions
and thus decision making. Quite often, the relationship between
actual happening, image registered and final visual perception by
the brain, due to many factors, is not the expected 1:1:1 ratio.
This also leads to such great controversies.
Very eminent personnel like Everton Weeks, Zaheer Abbas, John Reid,
Venkataraghava, Frank Cameron and Peter Vandermerwe all who have
acted as ICC referees, have seen nothing unusual at all in his deliveries
to report to the ICC. Richie Richardson and Carl Hooper who faced
the 25 deliveries when he was called 7 times and Tony Greig were
all in disbelief and has openly defended Murali. Colin Croft the
famed West Indian fast bowler commenting over ABC radio has remarked
that ``The ICC rules seem to be pretty flexibly applied by some
Allan Border amongst many others admits he is unorthodox but not
illegal. The much respected Peter Roebuch over the ABC radio was
wondering if Sri Lanka had been easy meat, compared to other nations
when placed in similar situations. All these goes on to prove one
thing in common - their great disapproval of all that's going on
One of the main objectives in having a match referee as per the
ICC code of conduct and regulations, section (1)(b), is for him
to ensure the spirit of the game is observed and conduct of the
game maintained by players, umpires and officials, both on and off
the field. To what extent at this turbulent period has he acted
in accordance with these legal expectations?
We now here of unsporty tactics creeping into the game and unethical
practices being adopted, given the Nelsonian eye of those who are
concerned, all against the spirit of the game, even violating the
rules by the very same who make them, through a series of well planned
and times activities, to unsettle batsmen, bowlers and even an entire
team, aimed specially at those deemed as thorns in the flesh of
homesides, with ``Inviting home to Insult'' like attitudes.
Cricket at test match level, is no more a game nor form of entertainment,
but a highly commercialised competitive profession, on which the
existence and survival of many depend. Australian media campaign
speculating on Murali's action and raising questions loudly on it's
legality on the eve of the 1st test match, tour itinerancy making
even a kangaroo ill, substandard facilities given for all warm-up
matches and of course that infamous false accusation against an
entire team of an illegal tampering with the ball and many others
we are experiencing for the first time, has become part and parcel
in this war without guns and ammunitions.
The Herald Sun of December 28 has spoken of discussions among influential
officials over Muralitharan's action weeks before he was called.
Much respected and admired former Australian team leader, Allan
Border, is on record saying boldly and clearly the ``It's been a
bit of a set-up''. (Daily News issue of 11.01.96)
Source : Daily News
courtesy of Prof. Ravi Goonetilleke