Muralitharan deserves a fair deal

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Saturday, May 15, 2004, 14:44 [IST]
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No other bowler in the history of cricket would have passed through the trauma that Sri Lanka's premier off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has. Despite being the leading wicket- taker in Test matches, and undergoing numerous trials and tribulations, Murali's action is still under the scanner. The latest controversy surrounding his 'doosra' has put question marks over the career of this spin wizard as the ICC has warned him of a 12-month ban in case he persists with his controversial delivery.

It was in Australia that eyebrows were first raised about his action in 1995. Australian umpire Darrel Hair called him for 'throwing' the ball in a Test match. Australia continued to be a nightmare for him as he was called for chucking during his second visit there in 1999. This time it was Ross Emerson's turn to no-ball him in a One-day International. It looked as though the establishment there was ready to finish him off. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who is a die-hard cricket fan, has put salt into Murali's wounds by calling him a 'chucker'. However, he always had the backing of his captain as well as the cricket Board. Or else, he would have been finished off much earlier.

In the run-up to oust Courtney Walsh as the leading wicket-taker in Tests, Muralitharan was running neck and neck with Australian Shane Warne. So when English match referee Chris Broad (who himself had a pretty bad conduct certificate during his playing days) reported his controversial delivery to the ICC, the conspiracy angle came to the fore. Eventhough the International Cricket Council was quick to put down such theories, Murali and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had enough reasons to believe that they were subjects of victimisation.

Yet, he was destined to reach there on top first. History was made at Harare when Mluleki Nkala was caught by Mahela Jayawardene to give Murali his coveted 520th scalp. At a time when glowing tributes should have poured in for the record-breaker, Murali finds himself in a conundrum as more space has been allotted to doubts over his action. Earlier tests had proved that there was a deformity in his bowling arm. The recent tests conducted in Australia under the guidance of a biomechanical expert too have ruled in his favour. A plethora of current players including ace Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble has jumped to his defence.

To Muralitharan's credit goes the fact that he has been least perturbed by all the controversy surrounding him and he keeps scaling one peak after the other. In fact, he has won many friends in the process. Courtney Walsh (whose record Murali broke) has backed him to go for 700 victims. Indian spin legend Erapalli Prasanna too feels that Murali is being harassed unjustly.

The usually reticent Murali at last gave vent to his feelings by seeking a fair deal from the game's governing body who seems to have double standards especially while dealing with the players from the subcontinent. It is unlikely that Murali will bow to ICC pressure and stop delivering the 'doosra'. And it is very likely that ICC won't keep mum on the issue. Cricket is in for a new battle on the cards. A battle between Murali and ICC. Game is the biggest loser in the present crisis.

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