Thrown out, 12.5.06

Research has shown that controversial Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, the all-time second highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, does not throw as is widely perceived, says a top International Cricket Council (ICC) official.

“People can’t understand that Muralitharan’s [arm bend] is less than 15 degrees. And we can’t ignore that research,” said ICC general manager (cricket) Dave Richardson.

Richardson, a former South Africa Test wicket-keeper, was referring to the 15 degrees level of tolerance for bowlers who straighten/bend their arm while bowling.

“What happens with Muralitharan, though, is if you run up to bowl and keep your arm bent and bowl, it will look like you are throwing. But you haven’t straightened your arm even one degree,” Richardson said. “Now, the law permits you to do that. It only says that you can’t straighten it.

“He [Muralitharan] is not straightening his arm more than a whole host of international bowlers, but looks bad because he starts with a bent arm.”

Muralitharan has been called for throwing on several occasion during his illustrious over 13-year career. But he has returned every time to fox batsmen with his prodigious turn, especially the ‘doosra’, a delivery that spins away from a right-hander and which is often looked at with suspicion.

Aravinda de Silva, the former Sri Lanka captain, told Eastern Eye that it has been difficult for Murali’s team-mates to deal with the allegations about their champion bowler.

“It was depressing at times – then again, an opinion is up to an individual, so you can’t stop people saying things. The main thing is you just have to carry on and do your job, which Murali has done pretty well, and not worry about what people are saying,” said de Silva, who will commentating for Sky Sports during the series,

“I think he is a one-in-a-generation bowler, and there is always something exciting happening when he is bowling.”

The Sri Lankan has so far captured 611 wickets in 103 Tests, 74 wickets less than the tally of all-time leader Australian Shane Warne, who has played 140 Tests.

Richardson, the first Test player to be employed by ICC, said there was a common misconception that the 15 degrees rule was introduced for the bowlers who throw.

“It was introduced simply because with 99 per cent of bowlers… their arms don’t stay 100 per cent straight. There will be a degree of extension,” he said referring to the research on which the ICC relies.

“It will be nonsensical to ban (Glenn) McGrath, (Allan) Donald, (Andrew) Flintoff… ban 99 per cent of the world’s bowlers because the arm is not a metal rod, it moves a little bit. So that is why the 15 degrees is there.”

“And it is 15 degrees because any movement below 15 degrees can never be seen with the naked eye,” Richardson said.

Currently, on-field umpires and match referees can report a bowler to ICC and then the bowler undergoes a double check at one of four labs around the world.

Richardson, who played 42 Tests and 122 one-day internationals, said that he did not foresee any wholesale changes in the procedure for reporting bowlers who come under throwing rules.

“It’s the best process that we have, given the existing technology that is available to us. Ideally, we would love that we were able to test a bowler in a match condition. But we know we can’t reliably do so at the moment,” he said.