Saving Murali: Shehan Karunatilaka’s Retrospective Reflections

Michael Roberts

ASIMurali bowling 005 Pic 11 -bowling brace being fitted by Dr. Mandheep Dillon

28c-Murali prepares for brace test Pic 22- Murali ready to bowl with brace

Not all Sri Lankans disagreed with Darrell Hair. Initially the cricket buff Shehan Karunatilaka, now a famous author, also thought Murali was a chucker.. His reflections on this issue are now available courtesy of ESPNcricnfo. This is a beautifully crafted essay. I note some excerpts below but also add some published references noted in the ESPN site. Plus more after the extracts …. all of which will indicate why this theme is included here in THUPPAHI and not in CRICKETIQUE.

* “I was delighted to see science and rationalism – western imperialism’s hammer and sickle – being used by the East to clear a bowler’s name; tickled to see those who live by the sword being put to it.”* “a famous Tamil who could sidestep racial politics; a wronged man who threw no tantrums; a genius who almost literally rewrote the rules.”

* “The Murali saga unveiled a somewhat unsavoury fact, which many have been unwilling to swallow: under the biomechanical microscope, everybody chucks to some extent. The perfectly straight elbow is as much a myth as the idea that cricket is a sport played by gentlemen.”

* “Even those who dispute the legitimacy of his 1347 international wickets cannot deny his exemplary conduct in the face of provocation.”

* “Speaking to Murali’s biographer, Charlie Austin, I catch a glimpse of an unseen Murali, of the man behind the bulging eyes and the assassin’s grin. I hear about the obsessive preparation, the hours spent landing it on a spot in nets, conjuring up tricks and perfecting the unplayable; months spent poring over cricket footage, ball in hand, flexing and tweaking until the leather became part of his skin.”

* “Austin tells me of Murali’s influence in the dressing room, where he took younger players under his wing and kept the politicians at bay; about his unused strategy of reinventing himself as a legspinner, had science and a burly captain not rescued him from the wolves; that he has built almost as many houses for tsunami victims as he took international wickets.”

27a--Another moment of confrontation between Ranautnga and Emerson 27b--Arjuna & Team adelaide 04304467 Scenes at Adelaide Oval, 23 January 1999

What is Missing in Shehan’s Reflective Review of the Murali Saga?

Channel four’s televised study in England with Mark Nicholas may have been a critical moment in the review of Mrurali’s action because it occurred before an ICC-MCC meeting to define bowling rules. But it had been  preceded by years of secret filming of bowlers in match conditons by bio-technical boffins. And as for Murali himself, the first TV presentation of his bowling with brace was in Sri Lanka through ESPN with Ravi Shastri and Michael Slater involved. But needless to say when it comes to effect Western media products tend to trump action back in the Eastern boondocks .

However, what counted for most was the IDEA itself: test his capacity to bowl a doosra with a brace that prevents the elbow from bending. Such a test was conceived by Mahinda Wijesinghe — informed in fact by cricketing lore.  Dr. Mandheep Dillon, an Indian doctor at the Apollo Hospital in Colombo, then devised a suitable brace; while Kushil Gunasekara organised the initial testing at the indoor nets of Sri Lanka Cricket. Hence the pictures that front this essay! Look closely at Pic 22. There is a spec in the background. That is Mahinda Wijesinghe. He was so excited at the prospect of facing Murali that he forgot to don whites … or pads! …. and he even retained his tie! No matter. Well done MAHINDA!

24b--Murali's bowling graph 24c--Murali's permanently bent arm Dr Ravi Goonetilleke’s tests in Hong Kong 1996

But Murali would not have survied to this stage of having his newly-mastered doosra under question if he had been drummed out earlier in 1995/986 or in 1998 after Emerson no-balled him. He was saved from thos emachinations (for neither Hair nor Emerson were acting alone) because of the intervention of several biotechnician scientists, namely Daryl Foster, Bruce Elliott and Ravi Goonetillleke.  Sri Lanka’s cricket officials of that day, Arjuna Ranatunga and Tony Greig were also significant elements in the processes that saved Murali then. For fuller details, see my essay “Saving Murali: Action on-field and off-field, 1995-2005” Incursions and Excursions in and around Sri Lankan Cricket, Colombo: Vijith Yapa Publications, 2011. ISBN 978-955-53198-0-5.

ALSO SEE Peter Roebuck: “In a freakish league of his own,” in

* Muttiah Muralitharan, “I can’t please everyone,” in

* Michael Roberts & Alfred James, Crosscurrents. Sri Lanka and Australia at Cricket, Sydney: Walla Walla Press, 1998.

KushilGunasekera MahindaIMG 07_DarylFoster029 BRUCE ELLIOTT DHILLON

25a-Murali wired up25a--Murali being measured & wired for tests by Jacque Alderson

1 Comment

Filed under cultural transmission, life stories, literary achievements, sri lankan society, unusual people, world affairs

One response to “Saving Murali: Shehan Karunatilaka’s Retrospective Reflections

  1. Pingback: Muralitharan as Teacher: Overcoming Strife in Life, Cricket and Politics | Thuppahi's Blog

Leave a Reply