Muralitharan: The Arm that Did Not Chuck

Dr Barclay  “Buddy” Reid …. with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi **

Boxing Day is back, reviving memories of the 1995 no balling of Muttiah Muralitharan, the greatest bowler of all time.

Following the no ball call, the focus was on Murali’s elbow. Did he straighten it during delivery? The answer would determine whether the no ball call was justified.

I was the first person called upon officially to provide the answer. I say “Officially” because the request to examine Murali medically came from  Duleep Mendis the Manager and Arjuna Ranatunga the Captain of the Sri Lankan team. They chose me because of my experience in my regular job as an Independent Medical Examiner of injured workers for WorkSafe Victoria.

I examined Muralitharan in the dressing room on the third day of the match and my conclusion was that he did not straighten his elbow during delivery and he was therefore not throwing (chucking). My opinion was proved right by subsequent examinations by other specialists, high speed videos, secret filming while Murali bowled during matches, and filming while he wore plaster casts, splints and with wires attached to his arm to to electronically track his arm movement.

Why then did Darrell Hair repeatedly call no ball? He called it as he saw it. What he saw was an elbow that wobbled rapidly during delivery in a way which seemed to him to be a throw. He was obliged to call “no ball” because the rule stated that if in the opinion of the umpire, the delivery was unfair, the umpire should call a no ball. At the time, there was no technology available to show that he was wrong and there was no requirement for him to use anything but his eyes.

I would like to present the explanation of the anatomical factors that went into producing the illusion that prompted Umpire Darrell Hair to call, “No ball.”

Muralitharan has two deformities — one at the shoulder and one at the elbow.

He cannot lift his arm at the shoulder to a vertical position. It remains angled sideways, away from his ear, abducted by about 30 degrees.

He cannot straighten his elbow. At maximum stretch it remains bent to 30 degrees.

When looking at the action from behind, as Darrell Hair did, half-way through the action, the arm is seen as an L shape with the arm at an outward angle, the elbow pointing sideways and the forearm angled inwards to the hand above his head (See Pic 1). As the action progresses, the arm swings forwards with the elbow pointing forwards. Seen from behind, the arm, elbow and forearm then appear to be all in a straight line giving the illusion that the elbow has straightened (See Pic 2). This illusion is further enhanced by what happens at the forearm wrist and fingers.

At the half way point of the action, while the elbow is pointing sideways, the forearm is in full pronation so that the palm faces half forwards. The wrist is full flexed so that the palm faces downwards and forwards and the fingers are wrapped around the ball in a fully flexed position (Pic 1). As he delivers, the forearm supinates (rotates clockwise) so that the palm also then rotates clockwise to faces backwards. The wrist next extends to make the palm face upwards and the fingers then extend and fan outwards to open the palm and deliver the ball (Pic 2).

All of this gives an impression of extension, but it is all happening at the forearm, wrist and fingers and not the elbow. This is all completely legal. It is the elbow that is not allowed to extend. His elbow remains bent at 30 degrees right throughout the action.

A further illustration of the action can be seen in the video with the bent stick. The bend in the stick represents Muralitharan’s elbow. Obviously, the stick cannot be altered in shape. The beginning of this video represents Murali at the middle of his action, with the elbow pointing sideways. The stick is then rotated  till the   “elbow” moves forwards. This makes the stick look as though it has straightened, but of course it has not. It is only an illusion. It represents Murali at the end of his action with the elbow forward, looking as though it has straightened, but of course it has not. It is only an illusion.

In summary, Muralitharan looked as though he was throwing, but he was not. Darrell Hair called “no ball” to what he genuinely saw as a throw though it wasn’t.

Buddy Reid, Surgeon, Independent Medical Examiner, Worksafe Victoria; and Former Sri Lankan Cricketer. … here seen today wearing the coat he wore when he examined Muralitharan 

















**  A NOTE by Michael Roberts, 21 December 2022: It so happened that I was at the MCG on 26 December 1995. I will be presenting an essay with some recollections and information on the subsequent events (including Emerson’s no-balling of Muralitharan in Adelaide in January 1998). Readers should note that Buddy Reid played cricket for S. Thomas College,  Colombo; the University of Ceylon and Ceylon over the coursea of the 1950s and 1960s. It is a measure of his balanced evaluation that he does not castigate Darrell Hair and play to the gallery.

Our evaluations of Emerson, however, should be more critical: by 1998 there had been a range of studies presented on Muralitharan’s peculiar physiognomy.

Towards this end I will be presenting an extensive Reference List when I fashion my tale and review.

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One response to “Muralitharan: The Arm that Did Not Chuck

  1. Kersi Meherhomji

    You may present all the explanations but I won’t be convinced that Murali did not chuck the ball occasionally, if not always.

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