Murali deliversPhoto Reuters

Former Indian Test spinner Bishen Bedi has reopened controversy over Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action, comparing the Sri Lankan off-spinner's bowling action to that of a javelin thrower.

"If Murali doesn't chuck, then show me how to bowl," Bedi said in the interview.

"How can you call it bowling? He (Muralitharan) has no followthrough and he makes no use of his shoulders. "Murali's arm doesn't go up at all. I have a picture of him bowling somewhere. He looks like a good javelin thrower."

The legality of Muralitharan's unique action has been the source of great debate throughout his prolific career, which has seen him race to 400 Test wickets in record time.

Like Bedi, Australian umpire Darrel Hair, who described his action as 'diabolical' in his autobiography, believes that he straightens his arm and is therefore guilty of throwing.

Muralitharan has been called for throwing on three separate occasions, by three different umpires, but only in Australia, prompting accusations that his no balling was a cynical nationalistic conspiracy designed to undermine Sri Lanka's major weapon.

Murali - cleared by ICCPhoto Colleen Briggs

The first time was in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne in 1995 by Hair and that was followed shortly afterwards by his no balling by Ross Emerson and Tony Mcquillan in a one-day match at Brisbane.

With his career in jeopardy, Muralitharan's bowling action was analysed by University of Western Australia and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Both reports concluded his action was legal.

The University of Western Australia photographed Murali's action at 1,000 frames per second from six different angles, concluding: `From certain angles he does look suspect but from other angles there was not a problem.' The `throwing' was a mere `optical illusion', the report said.

Murali - 400+ Test wicketsPhoto AFP

After a three and a half day high tech examination in Hong Kong, the university revealed that Muralitharan was physically incapable of fully extending his right arm and concluded that even his partially bent arm did not straighten when he bowled off-breaks or leg-breaks..

An International Cricket Council (ICC) panel reviewed the evidence and cleared Muralitharan before the 1996 World Cup.

Then, on Sri Lanka's next tour to Australia in 1999, Ross Emerson called Muralitharan once again in a one-day match at Adelaide, forcing captain Arjuna Ranatunga to lead his players to the boundary edge in protest.

Emerson was largely castigated by the media for his decision; taken whilst standing at the bowler's end. One leading Sri Lankan commentator, Ranjith Fernando, accusing him of 'playing God.'

No further investigation into his action followed, the ICC apparently satisfied with its legality, although some contend they were simply too anxious to avoid further controversy.

Since the recent introduction of a formal three-stage process for analysing suspect actions, he has not been reported once by an umpire in a Test or ODI.

But Bedi, for one, is unconvinced, brushing aside his congenital deformity in his elbow as a legitimate explanation for his bent arm.

"It's just too bad, honestly," he said. "Some people are born blind... Will a blind man be allowed to fly an aircraft? So why should a bowler be allowed to chuck because he has a defective arm?"

He called for the ICC to take action.

"What does not conform to law is illegal and the law has to be applied uniformly. The problem is that the parent body (ICC) is not taking cognisance. It may soon become monstrous - every team may end up with three or four chuckers."

Bedi was also critical of fellow countryman Harbhajan Singh's action when he bowled his arm ball.

"In the good old days, it was called the floater. It was bowled using the shoulder, like an outswinger.

"You bowled it with the off-spinner's action, but without imparting any spin. You rolled it, and put in a little extra shoulder, so the ball drifted away.

"Now they do it with their elbows and wrists. Anyone using the elbow to turn it the other way is doing it illegally," he said.