Muttiah Muralitharan has, in an extraordinary outburst, responded to longtime critic Bishan Bedi, the former Indian captain, calling him an 'ordinary bowler'. Bedi, who took 266 wickets in 67 Tests and was known for his classical action, has repeatedly questioned the legality of Murali's action, even likening it to a javelin throw.

"He (Bedi) did not have any variation," Murali - who retired from cricket last week - told PTI. "He just bowled left-arm spin and the pitch did the variation for him. That is what he bowled." This is perhaps Murali's first retort to those who have long questioned his action and the legality of his doosra.

"I saw some (of his) bowling of his playing days. He would have been hammered every ball had he played in the modern era."

Bedi was part of India's famous spin quartet in the 70s, which also included offspinners S Venkataraghavan, Erapalli Prasanna and legspinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar. Murali said he rated the other members of the quartet above Bedi. "Prasanna is a good bowler. I have seen his bowling. Venkataraghavan is good. But Bedi does not come under it."

Murali, 38, retired last week after a fairytale Test in Galle where he took eight wickets to set up Sri Lanka's win and become the first man to reach 800 wickets. On the occasion of Murali's retirement, Bedi had praised the Sri Lankan as a wonderful human being. "I may not agree with Murali's action or may have called all Murali wickets as run-outs, but I have the highest respect for him as a human being, a kindhearted man."

In August 2007, Murali had reportedly considered taking legal action, seeking US$17 million in damages for defamation, after Bedi had compared him to a "shot putter". Murali had also threatened to sue Bedi in June 2004 for similar statements.