Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Muttiah Muralitharan (born April 17, 1972 in Kandy), also simply referred to as Murali, is a Sri Lankan cricketer specializing in off spin bowling. He has been a member of the Sri Lankan cricket team since 1992 since making his Test debut against Australia at Colombo in the Australian cricket tour of Sri Lanka of 1992 and ODI against India at Colombo in 1993. Muralitharan is the only Tamil in the Sri Lankan cricket team
Statistically, he is without doubt one of the most effective spin bowlers ever to play cricket in both forms of the game (Test and One Day International). Currently his record stands at over 500 Test wickets at an average of just 22. This compares favourably to other contemporary spin bowlers; Shane Warne's bowling average is 25, Anil Kumble's 28 and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's 27.
In 2002, Wisden named him the greatest bowler of all time. On May 8,2004, in Zimbabwe, he overtook West Indian Courtney Walsh's then record of 519 Test match wickets to become the highest-wicket taker of all time, and it seems likely that the new record he eventually sets will not be beaten for many years to come. Warne, an Australian leg-spinner, is his only current rival for that record; he overtook Muralitharan's number of wickets in late 2004. Warne believes that Muralitharan will eventually be the one to finish with the record, saying he believes that Muralitharan will take "1000 wickets" before he retires. Later that year, Muralitharan became an ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program, and joined the campaign to prevent children around the world going hungry.
A notable feature of Muralitharan is his unique run-up action of "flapping wings" resembling the flapping wings of a chicken and bulging eyes, in which the latter adds a somewhat painful look to his highly effective bowling. He is considered as a "big turner" of the ball due to the amount of spin he puts on the ball with his fingers, in addition to the flighting of the ball that is very hard for a batsman to play at.
His main weapons include the off-break which turns into the batsman and the stumps, the top-spinner which goes straight on and is bowled at a faster speed then a normal off-break, and his controversial doosra, which is his version of a leg-break that turns away from a batsman and the stumps.
Muralitharan said he was "lucky to be alive" after narrowing missing the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake by just 20 minutes . One week later, Muralitharan was reported  to have helped to distribute food to victims of the Tsunami.
Controversy of bowling action
Muralitharan's bowling action is highly controversial amongst many pundits, as to some it appears that it contravenes the laws of the game by straightening the arm in the course of the delivery. This is despite his action being exonerated unanimously by an international panel consisting of members from every Test playing nation. The controversy came to a head after Australian umpire Darrell Hair called a "no ball" for an illegal action seven times during the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne, Australia, in 1995. After discussions between the Australian Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, Hair umpired no further games involving Sri Lanka in the season. Reaction to Hair's actions was mixed. He was widely criticised in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, but some, particularly in Australia, felt that it was long overdue. It would be simplistic to assume that opinion was divided purely by nationality though, with Australia's greatest ever cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman quoted as saying it "was the worst piece of umpiring (he had) ever encountered".
Muralitharan was later no-balled for throwing by Australian umpires Ross Emerson and Tony McQuillan in a one-day international (ODI) against the West Indies, in Brisbane, Australia, later in the same summer. Following this season, Muralitharan underwent biomechanical tests in Hong Kong and Australia under the supervision of bowling experts, who cleared his action as legal, citing a congenital defect in Muralitharan's arm which makes him incapable of straightening it, but giving the appearance of the arm straightening in the bowling action. 
Doubts about Muralitharan's action persist, particularly in Australia. In 1999, he was once again called for throwing by umpire Ross Emerson in an ODI against England, at the Adelaide Oval in Australia. The Sri Lankan team almost abandoned the match, but after instructions from the president of the BCCSL (relayed to captain Arjuna Ranatunga by mobile phone) the game resumed.
Muralitharan took his 500th Test wicket in the second Test against Australia in Kandy on March 16, 2004. At the end of the series his doosra delivery was officially called into question by match referee Chris Broad and Muralitharan was entered into a two-stage remedial process for bowlers with suspect actions under the supervision of the International Cricket Council ('ICC'). The delivery was examined by biomechanical experts who found it to exceed the current tolerance limit, regarding the degree of bend in the arm, of 5 degrees for slow bowlers. Australian prime minister John Howard weighed in, controversially labelling Murali a 'chucker'. Despite this he won accolades from former Australian captain, Steve Waugh, who said he was "the Don Bradman of bowling". Waugh went on to say that he felt Muralitharan's action was perfectly legal.
Muralitharan has subsequently been videotaped bowling while wearing an arm brace that prevents the straightening of the arm in an attempt to clear his name once and for all. It appears unlikely that this will ever happen, as his critics maintain that only his bowling during real matches can be considered and that it's possible he changes his action when under scrutiny. However experts who have viewed such tests have maintained that this is not the case. Former Indian spinner Bishan Bedi has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the testing, asking, "Why should a bowler be allowed to chuck because he has a defective arm?" and comparing Muralitharan's action with that of "a javelin thrower".
There is speculation that the match referee's actions were an attempt to de-rail Muralitharan's attempt to become the all-time leading wicket taker. Former players like Arjuna Ranatunga believe this to be a "white conspiracy" with some Australians and Englishmen wishing to get the name Muralitharan expunged from cricket records. Ranatunga asserted that Muralitharan was being picked on because of his skin colour. Ranatunga's actions were seen by some as an attempt to deflect inquiries over Muralitharan's action by branding those making such claims with the pejorative term "racist". It should be noted that Muralitharan has many powerful allies in Australia and England. Examples include Mark Nichollas, Bruce Yardley and Steve Waugh, all of whom have supported Muralitharan publicly. It is claimed that Sir Donald Bradman also spoke very highly of Muralitharan.
An extensive ICC study, the results of which were released in November 2004, was conducted to investigate the 'chucking issue'. A panel of former Test players, with the assistance of several biomechanical experts revealed that 99% of all bowlers bent their arms when bowling. Only one bowler in the world (Ramnaresh Sarwan) did not transgress the rules when tested. Muralitharan's off break and top spinner were deemed within the rules (2 to 5 degree straightening), but the Doosra was still an area of concern. The flexion measured when bowling the Doosra was not excessive, however, considering the amount of flexion in the actions of many other bowlers. The panel has recommended that the current law be expanded to extend the tolerance limit on the degree of bending to 15 degrees for all bowlers. If these findings are implemented then Muralitharan's doosra would be deemed legal.
This scientific evidence has gone a long way to convincing many of Muralitharan's former critics that his action is legal. Two vocal critics of Murilatharan's action were former Test cricketers; West Indian Michael Holding, a member of ICC's Advisory Panel on Illegal Deliveries and Australian Dean Jones. Holding had been quoted as being in "110% agreement" with Bedi regarding Muralitharan's action and Jones had said "by my interpretation, I think he throws it". Following the ICC study and the video analysis of Muralitharan's action while wearing the brace, they have both retracted their comments (see article). Holding, a member of the panel that conducted the ICC study proclaimed, "The scientific evidence is overwhelming".
- CricInfo Player Profile: Muttiah Muralitharan
- Muttiah Muralitharan International Fan Club
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