Muttiah Muralitharan no-ball controversy
Muttiah Muralitharan no-ball controversy

Back in the day, legendary Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was accused of “throwing” during two consecutive tours of Australia by the same set of umpires. Happening for the second time, the incident ended up becoming one of the greatest controversies ever witnessed in the sport.

During the Benson & Hedges Series 1995-96, Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka were fighting a tough battle. In the seventh match between Sri Lanka and West Indies, Sri Lanka were bundled out for 102 in 45.2 overs after winning the toss.

Nonetheless, this was not the only setback which the Sri Lankans received. During West Indies’ innings, umpire Tony McQuillan called Muttiah Muralitharan’s off-breaks as no-balls citing “throwing” as the reason. Muralitharan subsequently had to bowl leg-spin deliveries to complete his over.

A 23-year old Muralitharan had to miss the rest of the tournament. ICC hired officials from the biomechanics sector to look into the matter. Muralitharan had to go through various tests and came back with a re-modelled action.

Muttiah Muralitharan no-ball controversy

Sri Lanka toured Australia for the Carlton & United Series involving host Australia and England in 1998-99. January 23, 1999, saw exactly what happened three years ago. The same duo of umpires in McQuillan and Ross Emerson again called Muralitharan for throwing.

But this time the Sri Lanka captain in Arjuna Ranatunga did not resort with the umpires. The fact that the ICC officials had cleared Muralitharan turned strongly against the umpires. Ranatunga, in the middle of the ground, was seen involving in an animated cum aggressive chat with Emerson. It seemed as if both the parties were adamant to stick to their notions.

Ranatunga finally led his players off the field in a protest against the umpires. Ranjith Fernando, manager of the Sri Lankan team, intervened in between and convinced Ranatunga to continue with the match. While Muralitharan completed the innings with bowling figures of 7-0-46-0, Emerson wasn’t allowed to officiate in the remaining matches of the tournament.

It took an audacious Ranatunga to do what he did on that day. His body language was the proof that Sri Lanka would not bow down to unfair umpiring decisions. He couldn’t see anything unfair happening to a bowler who, by then, had 200-odd test wickets under his belt. For all we know, he was the first one to realize that Muralitharan’s career was at stake. Who knows what would have happened had Muralitharan been handed a suspension or a ban at that stage of his career?

The consequences of the altercation could have been severe on Ranatunga’s personal career. Yet, he fought for his bowler, which brings us to the conclusion that a captain has to step-up for his team on such an occasion to ensure that his players are also given a fair chance.