Looking back in retrospect, my respect for the resilence and strength of character shown by Muttiah Muralitharan has expanded by ‘metres’ these last few days. The story –involving numerous episodes — has been set out in my old essay “Saving Murali: Action On-Field and Off-Field, 1995-2005″ which has been presented as Chapter 5 in the book Incursions & Excursions in and Aound Sri Lankan Cricket, printed by Vijitha Yapa Publications in 2011 (ISBN 978-955-53198-0-5).
Murali did not face the several challenges alone. Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva and his team mates as well as numerous Sri Lankan officials over the years (see list appended) and Dr Buddy Reid; Daryl Foster, Dr Bruce Elliot and Jacque Alderson and the UWA team; Dr Ravi Goonetilleke and his aides in Hong Kong in 1996; and, thereafter, Dr Madheep Dhillon (of the Apollo Hospital in Colombo), Mohan De Silva and Mahinda Wijesinghe in Colombo in the year 2003 and Glucka Wijesuriya in the UK in 2003/04 were among the personnel who assisted the process of defending the legitimacy of Murali’s action when bowling both his stock balls and the deadly “doosra” which he unveiled circa 2002.
Ravi Goonetilleke’s studies
Looking back from the vantage of 2022, my appreciation of Murali’s courage and fortitude has expanded by miles. As it happens, I was witness to one stage of the assaults: when umpire Emerson no-balled him at Adelaide Oval on 23rd January 1998. Ranatunga immediately challenged Emerson on the field in a set of actions that has rarely been seen on the cricket field. He even led the fielding side to the sidelines (but did not step beyond the boundary) where the Manager Ranjit Fernando and coach Roy Dias joined him.** The match continued after this interruption.
Fortuitously, Alex Stewart and the English team did not protest and Tony Greig was among the commentators. Good sense saw the contest on the field taken to a conclusion (with England amassing 301 runs and Sri Lanka overtaking that target in the 50th over for the loss of nine wickets — largely due to young Mahela Jayawardene’s inning of 120 runs in 111 balls …. in what was then a record chase.(see https://i.imgci.comdb/ARCHIVE/1998-99/OD_TOURNEYS//CUODS/SCORECARDS/ENG_SL_CUODS_ODI8_23JAN1999.html).
As it happened, I was heading the “Adelaide Friends of SL Cricket” at that moment of time and we had arranged a special fund-raising dinner function for the team and interested locals the next day — a Sunday. The head table at this function included Arjuna and Ranjit as well as Ted Corbett an English journalist friend.**
Arjuna and Ranjit left us early to attend a strategy meeting in the latter hotel room — a meeting, I gathered subsequently, that included Dr Quintus de Zylva & David Cruse (who had flown in that day from Melbourne) and Tony Greig. Yes: Tony Greig, a true friend of our land and a man as sensible as fair.
These strategic discussions continued over the next few days in Perth where the next ODI was played — being held usually in the home of Tilak Chandrasekera (a relative of BCCSL President Thilanga Sumathipala).* Significantly, Tony Greig participated in some of these meetings.
This was not the end of the Muralitharan saga. When Muralitharan improved his skills and invented the doosra few years later, the worldwide campaign agianst “chuckers'”was revived. The battle to protect his genius had to be revived: the defenders included many old hands (such as Daryl Foster and the UWA team); but also had fresh hands.
Those interested in the topic need to spend time reading my article “Saving Murali.” Re-reading it this week was a lesson of sorts for me because I had forgotten some of the specifics.
The UWA team’s principled and tecnically advanced work on the bio-mechanics of bowling and the specifics of Muralitharan’s unique arm (namely, a plasticine wrist and a shoulder that is capable of unusual rotation) unlocked the reason’s for his bowling bag of tricks. Alas, such work had no impact on the stubborn head-in-the-sand diehards — such as Geoff Boycott and Martin Crowe and journalists such as Robert Craddock and Malcolom Conn who remained adamnatine in their conviction that Murali was a chucker who should have been banned from the cricket field.
Murali went on to bag 800 scalps in Test Cricket …..a phenomenal feat. He played his last match in Galle and was quite rightly feted by one and all on hat occasion:
It is on a sad note that I close this account: Murali has survived and continues to serve Sri Lanka and the cricket world in general. But FATE hit Tony Grieg: he has passed away.
Let Murali’s survival and success serve as a Requiem for Tony.