Fashioning the Book “CROSSCURRENTS: Sri Lanka & Australia at Cricket”

 Michael Roberts

This book, with its pot pourri of cricketing items and photographs, was published in 1998 by the Walla Walla Press in Sydney. It was enabled by (A) the cooperation of two authors who never met each other: one Michael Roberts …. a Sri Lankan Australian in Adelaide and one Alfred James, an Aussie in Sydney who had a unique collection of cricketing statistics on Australian tours abroad which provided the pertinent data on their whistle-stop matches in Colombo on the trips to Britain and back – rare data that.

The printing was facilitated by (A) Richard Cashman of Sydney: a sportswriter[1] and ‘owner’ of the Walla Walla Press who I did not meet till later and (B) Cathy Ashton of Mobitel in Colombo to whom I was introduced by the late Ananda Chittambalam when I visited Sri Lanka on research work in 1996.[2]

The book, I stress, has items that are sharply critical of powerful figures in the Australian cricketing world of the mid-1990s. These criticisms are directed at their prejudiced readings of Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling action[3] and their misuse of power to ‘interdict’ Murali.[4] The photo on the back cover of Crosscurrents embodies the stance taken by ardent Sri Lankan fans in Melbourne on that momentous occasion in late 1995.

The Inspirations & Process of Production

The sensational no-balling of Muralitharan at the MCG by umpire Darrell Hair – inflicted from both positions at square-leg and as head umpire – on 26th December 1996 was the initial spark. I was present as an onlooker located in the stands at midwicket with my nephew Herbert Roberts[5] and did not quite grasp what was going on.

It so happened that I met Dr Quintus De Zylwa, a Sri Lankan in Melbourne,at the match. As chief contact for the BCCSL, Quintus was unofficiallymarshalling  support for Sri Lankan cricket in Australia writ large. Thus, Quintus’ request to me was not focused on the no-balling incident, but directed towards seeking support in Adelaide for Sri Lanka cricket’s parlous economic situation.[6]

Quintus & Joe

When I reached Adelaide around the 29th December 1995 I proceeded to approach interested Sri Lankan personnel to set up a meeting in order to form a ginger-group seeking monies for the cash-strapped Sri Lankan cricketing order.[7] One ‘outsider’ named Joe Hoad, a White Barbadian cricketer and umpire, was among the invitees because he was a member of the Australia Sri Lanka Association and a known supporter of our little world. [8]

Then , ………  aaah then:  a few days later in early January 1996 our doorbell rang. On opening the door, I found Joe Hoad standing there. “Murali does not throw,” he said.

I did not seek further clarification when he entered our home. My focus was on the projected meeting. That is, I took him at his word on the issue of Murali’s action. But, retrospectively now, I see (and we should all discern) how perceptive Joe Hoad has been …. THEN. His eye, cricketing nous and intelligence had deciphered what the examination of Murali’s peculiar arm by Dr Buddy Reid then in 1995[9] and subsequent examinations by the University of Western Australia’s, biotechnology unit[10] and Dr Ravi Goonetilleke’s tests in Hong Kong in January/February 1996 told the world.[11]

Part III of Crosscurrents is devoted to two items about the no-balling Incidents of 1995/96; while Part IV presents the subsequent cricketing events of early 1996, including the supremely sweet revenge exacted on the Australian cricketing world by the Sri Lankan cricketing team when they carried away the World Cup with a commanding defeat of Australia at Karachi on 13 March 1998.  This emphasis is highlighted by photographs marking the dominance of the Lankan cricketers (alas, poor black & white pictures).

The three items making up Part IV are entitled

11: Letters: About Tigers, Bombs and Cricket

12: Avoiding Lanka: Australia and the World Cup

13: The World Cup on Field and Newsprint

Read. Reflect. Enjoy.


THOSE who made the Book Crosscurrents POSSIBLE

Richard Cashman

 Cathy Ashton




Cathy Aston at a Mobitel launch in 1999 ….indicative of that firm’s support for Sri Lankan cricket


[1] For bio-data, see …. And …. ………… …. And …. …………………………… …………………

[2] Ananda Chittambalam (alas now deceased) was an entrepreneur educated at Royal College and a man of many talents with a wide range of contacts and interests. He sponsored many projects and was of immense assistance to me in the course of my academic work in Colombo in the 1980s and 1990s. I miss him greatly.

[3] Muralitharan has a unique physiognomy: a plasticine wrist and a unique shoulder ‘unit’ that enables him to inject spin like no other. For details and photos, see (A) Barclay Reid, 2022;  and  (B) Roberts ….

[4] Insiders in Melbourne (for example Owen Mottau of Prahran CC) were aware that a contretemps would develop well before the match commenced; while subsequent trickles of information indicate that the Australian coach Bob Simpson (a former captain) and one or two Australian Cricket Board members had planned the umpiring action so as to cleanse the game of “chuckers” – a conspiracy enabled by a combination of “moral rectitude” and a position at the pinnacle of the ICC. For fuller details, see Roberts  “Saving Murali: Action On-field and Off-field, 1995-2009, in Roberts, Incursions & Excursions in and around Sri Lankan Cricket, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2011, pp. 111-139.

[5] Herbie, alas, passed away several years back. I arrived in Melbourne just before Christmas 1995 –flying in from the Netherlands where I had worked on a short research stint in Leiden.

[6] Quintus was speaking at the behest of Ana Punchihewa, President of the BCCSL.

[7] This led to a meeting in mid-January 1996 at “Dr Eye Karunaratne’s house in Adelaide which resulted in the formation of the Adelaide Friends of Sri Lanka Cricket with Savithri Fernando as its Secretary. That is another tale.

[8] Joe Hoad was a white man born and bred in Barbados (and thus identified like all Barbadians as “Bajan” in Caribbean speech). A good batsman, Joe had the misfortune to be competing for the Barbados XI with Worrell, Weekes and Walcott in the 1950s. He went on the play cricket in the Lancashire League. He eventually migrated to Queensland in Australia with his wife Jean (also white Bajan). He acquired drawing and painting skills in Queensland – partly via interaction with Aboriginal artists. After the Hoad family  migrated to Adelaide, Joe became (A) a high-level table tennis coach; and (B) a cricket umpire.  It was when I was playing for Flinders University at B grade levelin cricket that I got know Joe in the late 1980s. He joined the Australia Sri Lanka Association at my instigation and remained a loyal participant for decades.

[9] See Dr. Buddy Reid’s recent clarification of his medical examination then in late December 1995 in Thuppahi:……………

[10] See …. AND …. School of Human Movement, UWA 2004 The Murali Report,” 15 May 2004, …. signed by Daryl Foster

[11] See RS Goonetilleke, “Legality of bowling actions in cricket,” Ergonomics, 42/, pp. 1386-97 and Roberts “Saving Murali: …,” 111-38.

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