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June 10, 2004
The Sri Lankan board has recommended to the ICC that the bowling laws be reassessed to make allowance for Muttiah Muralitharan's doosra.
Mohan de Silva, the president, said that the board had written to the ICC urging them to have another look at the stipulated levels of tolerance because the research for slow bowlers was going to be carried out only during the Champions Trophy tournament in September.
"What we are trying to tell them is whether it is fair to victimise just one bowler because he is the only one who has been reported by a match referee and gone under scrutiny," de Silva said. "There are so many other bowlers who also continue to bowl the doosra. We have actually asked them a few questions. The expert who tested Murali has in his report said that although Murali went beyond the stipulated tolerance level he was not gaining any undue advantage by going up to ten degrees. He also mentions that his arm-rotation speed was equal to that of a pace bowler.
"With such evidence available we didn't want to destroy his entire cricketing career. We were not thinking of short-term benefits. As a responsible body we want to protect him because he is an invaluable asset to Sri Lanka. If he had gone to the second stage there would have been other tests carried out and the next thing would have been his usual delivery, the offbreak.
"The present levels of tolerance, as laid down by the ICC, we feel, have been arrived at by research carried out on fast bowlers at this stage, and it should be reviewed. We don't want to go on a confrontational path against the ICC but follow the laid-out procedure."
de Silva also pointed out that even Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager of cricket operations, had suggested a tolerance level of 15 degrees for all bowlers based on research carried out on fast bowlers: but the ICC had not accepted this. de Silva said it was one of the points the board would raise in Murali's defence.
Meanwhile, Duleep Mendis, Sri Lanka Cricket's chief executive, said: "After Murali was reported by Chris Broad in March there were many things we needed to get clarified from the ICC. There were some grey areas like speed. Were they referring to the ball speed, or rotation-of-the-arm speed?
"Some of these areas are not very clear. A fast bowler can bowl a slower ball and a slow bowler can bowl a fast ball. Are we going to have two sets of tolerance levels for one bowler? These are some of the areas we were not sure [about]. And so was Murali. We felt that it is our duty to clarify from the ICC, and we are awaiting a response."
Mendis said that at no stage had Sri Lanka Cricket left Muralitharan alone. "From the very first day he was reported we have been backing him and giving him the correct advice. When we found that he was going beyond the tolerance level of five degrees for a spinner we felt that we should advise him. We did and he refrained from bowling the doosra in the second Test against Zimbabwe.
"Anyone who had common sense would realise if he bowled the doosra, the match referee would put a report to the ICC, who would then take over and do whatever they want. They could even ban him for 12 months until his action is rectified. At the moment we are on the right path. We are not trying to antagonise the ICC, because there are certain set rules which we have to follow. We will follow that and give Murali the proper advice."
de Silva said that the SLC had a strong case to support Muralitharan and that he was confident that they would be able to push it through with support from other ICC member countries. "I have personally contacted a fair number of heads of boards from the rest of the world. They have pledged their support in our cause to get a review done on these stipulated levels. Six of the boards I have spoken to have more or less assured us of their support," said de Silva. There are ten full-member countries in the ICC.
de Silva said that Mendis would raise the issue at the ICC chief executives' meeting on June 28-29 at Lord's. "We have been able to put together a strong case for Muralitharan because lots of eminent lawyers voluntarily came forward on behalf of Murali to support and join hands with us. We had a couple of meetings with them and we reached a consensus of our next step forward."
de Silva was also critical of people trying to gain political mileage on the Murali issue. "Certain individuals have gone on record saying that we should have never sent Murali to the University of Western Australia for testing. I think this is a ridiculous and baseless statement. We don't want such statements to mislead the public," de Silva argued. "Right-thinking people will not take them seriously but it is important that we educate our cricket-loving public because we have a responsibility towards them. It is with that intention that we have called this media conference today."
Ajith Jayasekera, the team manager, clarified the board's position: "The ICC's official handbook specifically mentions that scientific testing has to be carried out. The local bowling-review group is given the responsibility for stage one - lasting for a period of six weeks - and a human-movement specialist from the ICC panel may be co-opted to this for the purpose of testing him.
"The procedure itself is laid down where the tests have to be done by synchronised high-speed cameras operating at a minimum of 200 frames per second to collect the data. We do not have the facilities here," Jayasekera said. "It is available only in a scientific laboratory, which is in Western Australia. There was no question of whether Murali should have been sent to Western Australia or not."
Jayasekera said that during the tour of Zimbabwe, the team management convinced Muralitharan not to bowl the doosra during the second Test, and Mike Procter, the ICC match referee, was so pleased with the decision that he came to the Sri Lanka dressing-room and thanked Murali for refraining from bowling the doosra.
Jayasekera also stated that reports in certain sections of the media that the ICC had banned the doosra delivery were incorrect. "The ICC has never banned it. It has still not been banned. The ICC will ban it only if it goes to the second stage."
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