Chucking August 23, 2009

Murali goes beyond the 15-degree, says Richardson

Cricinfo staff

Mark Richardson, the former New Zealand Test opener, has reopened the question over Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action by saying that he was convinced many of his deliveries were well beyond the 15-degree allowance approved by lawmakers.

Richardson said he did not blame Murali for the situation but felt the ICC was not doing enough to police throwing in cricket. New Zealand are touring Sri Lanka for two Tests, two Twenty20s and an ODI tri-series. They lost the first Test by 202 runs, with Murali taking 7 for 161.

"Many of his deliveries may fall around the 15 degrees but, in my opinion, too many," Richardson, now a television commentator, wrote in his column in the Herald on Sunday. "In particular his faster deliveries appear well beyond it and since the introduction of the 15 degree allowance his action appears to have deteriorated.

"I know he's been tested, re-tested, tested again and cleared. And I know, with the special makeup of his limbs to the naked eye, his action looks worse than it is. But, for goodness sake, half of cricket is now not watched with the naked eye, thanks to the invention of super-slow-motion cameras, hot-spots, snicko and Hawkeyes. Many of the slow-motion replays I've seen of Murali have only strengthened my conviction he is exceeding the 15 degrees bending and straightening allowance. Is it not meant to be the other way round? Isn't the hi-tech equipment meant to alleviate my fears?"

Richardson doubted whether the numerous tests conducted by the ICC proved that Murali stayed within the 15-degree limit. "What he proved is that he can bowl within limitation, not that in the heat of battle he actually does. Cricket is not played in a laboratory. On the field it matters where and how the ball gets to the other end. In a laboratory it doesn't, all that matters is how you delivered it."

Murali was first no-balled for his action during his first tour of Australia in 1995-96 and though he was cleared after a biomechanical analysis, the controversy didn't die out. He was called again on the 1998-99 tour to Australia and sent for further tests in Perth and England only to be cleared again.

In 2004 the ICC stopped Murali from bowling the doosra, because his arm bent by an average of 10 degrees when bowling the delivery, which was double the permitted level for spinners. But next year, the ICC tweaked the bowling laws to allow all bowlers "to straighten their bowling arm up to 15 degrees, which was established as the point at which any straightening will become visible to the naked eye".

Richardson said the ICC had to amend procedures and use the technology introduced into the game to check bowlers with suspect actions.

"We can use technology to access where the ball pitched, where it may be heading, how much it bounced, turned, seamed and yet we can't use it to access the most important thing - how it got there in the first place. Surely the technology exists for the match referee or third umpire to assess, during the game, bowling actions and take appropriate action when someone is operating outside the laws of the game."

Last November former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist also said he believed Murali had a suspect action.