The controversy over Muttiah Muralitharan’s bowling action will not abate.
Just when we believed that Murali would waltz off into the sunset – peaking at 800 Test wickets – we find alarm bells tinkling in the Indian media.
Bishan Singh Bedi was among those who remarked on Murali’s latest achievement but qualified his congratulations saying that he thought that Murali was a lovely person and a nice chap (something on those lines) but he believed that the ICC had bent its rules to accommodate his equally bent arm. He pronounced him a chucker and maintained that he would always consider him one.
His protégé, Maninder Singh, echoing his godfather,penned a column noting that Murali would always remain a disputable figure because of his unorthodox action.
Over the years, Murali appeared to have chugged along smoothly without responding in kind to any of the criticisms. He preferred to have his supple fingers do the talking and let the ICC decide on the legality of his action. That seemed good enough for him.
But all that changed this week, when Murali in an interview with the Indian TV news channel, Times Now, went on the offensive, claiming that there is a lot of jealousy about his achievements among former players. He targeted Bishan Singh Bedi and lambasted him, disparaging him as “an ordinary bowler”.
Quote of the day:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye. – Miss Piggy
Murali On Bedi
Murali , uncharacteristically , had the following to say about Bedi:
"Bedi, I don’t think he even comes to a contest on that. I saw some (of his) bowling of his playing days. In modern era, if he plays he will get hammered every ball, that is what will happen. So no comparison,"
"Prasanna is a good bowler. I have seen his bowling. Venkataraghavan is good. But Bedi does not come under it,"
"He (Bedi) is also a controversial person. He has lot of controversies everywhere in the world. And he should think about himself first rather than talking about other people,"
"He (Bedi) did not have any variation. He just bowled left arm spin and pitch did the variation for him. That is what he bowled,"
Muralitharan also had praise for his contemporary Anil Kumble.
"You forget the best spinner is Anil Kumble. Not Bedi or Venkataraghavan or any other. I think the best ever spinner produced (in India) is Kumble. No doubt about it and nobody can doubt it. Statistics-wise and on the basis of other things, he is far ahead than other guys",
Bedi’s response was swift :
“I don’t call Murali a chucker. He is a chucker.”
Bedi was supported by his colleague-in-arms, Prasanna:
"He (Murali) should have avoided it. Murali should have been little more mature. He just can’t make such loose comments that anybody could have achieved Bishen’s feat. We all admire him for his achievements. He should have avoided making such comments"
"The fact of the matter is that ICC bent its rules for Murali. With that, flexibility was allowed to him and most of the bowlers,"
"He doesn’t fit into the slot of conventional bowler but fact of the matter is ICC bent the rules and permitted him. Therefore it’s ok"
Maninder Singh joined the fray next:
“If he (Bedi) was allowed to bend his arm by ICC, he would have taken 5 wickets in every of the 67 matches that he played in his career. Murali should keep his mouth shut really,"
"Whole world knows that he has the licence from the ICC to keep chucking and that’s why he started his ‘doosra‘. Nobody stopped him. Wickets started increasing for him. It’s best time for Murali to keep shut.
"He should understand he is talking about such a great bowler Bedi. I don’t think he is doing justice to himself. I have lost respect for him after this verbal attack",
Former Australian captain and great Steve Waugh commented:
"Bishen has been very strong in his criticism about Murali. I don’t necessarily agree to what he said but I think Murali must have held his tongue for 15 years and just gave it back today,"
Commentary And Analysis
Let us look at the protagonists in this war of words ,examine their statements and verify the veracity of their utterances.
First , Bedi.
Bedi is right. Murali is unconventional. The ICC, though, has given him the benefit of the doubt. He has been subjected to varied scientific tests but the ICC – unable to slot him into a pigeon hole – pressurized by the Sri Lankan board caved in and exonerated him of all charges of throwing.
Bedi , however, is an old-fashioned man and speaks his mind. He believes that cricket should be pure and chaste. He does not mince words and has gone head-to-head with various sporting personalities, the most famous example being his spat with Sunny Gavaskar, one that has endured over the years. He has termed Gavaskar “a destructive influence” and says that he "always liked power without accountability".
Bedi has always been critical of Murali; some of his earlier, unequivocal remarks about the bowler were similarly pungent, vehement and caustic.
"If Murali doesn’t chuck, then show me how to bowl."
He has compared Murali’s action to a javelin throw and shot putting.
Muralitharan "will complete 1000 Test wickets but they would count as mere run-outs in my eyes".
Muralitharan is a "Sri Lankan bandit closing in on a dream artist called Shane Warne”
Bedi has been equally adept in antagonizing Harbhajan Singh similarly terming him a ‘chucker.
Murali , in 2004, threatened to take Bedi to court unable to put up with his constant derision and barrage of criticism.
But Murali has been a veritable sea of calm since.
Why this sudden volte face? What made this normally, unaffected person turn on Bishan Singh Bedi and savage him in his own country’s media?
Let’s consider Murali again.
His whole life has revolved around cricket. It has been his life, his bread-and-butter for the past nineteen years. Murali would have dearly wished to continue till he achieved the milestone of 1000 Test wickets and why not? He is a spinner and his body could easily withstand the wear and tear for another couple of years.
His decision to retire was prompted by Ranatunga’s televised assertion that it was time for Murali to go. That was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. The exhortation from his former captain and mentor was probably more than the normally stoic,ever-smiling Murali could take. And bear in mind, there were three talented Sri Lankan bowlers nipping at his heels, clamoring to be a part of the Sri Lankan eleven.
Much as we would like our heroes to go quietly into the dark night, they rarely do. Now that Murali has retired from Test cricket, he probably felt a huge weight was taken off his shoulders. Is it possible that he felt it was time to take on his detractors, that he could devote some time to their many allegations? Work, work and more work makes Murali a blinkered boy! He has hit back and how!
Murali declares that Bishan Singh Bedi would be hit out of the attack if he were playing now. There is some truth to that; Bishan played in an era when not much one-day cricket was played and bats were much lighter.
It has been the bane of the current cricketers that they believe that the former greats fail to acknowledge the current cricketing realities and seem to live and breathe an anachronistic heyday of their own. It is also true that the spinners of today bowl much flatter; that’s because they are punished by the batsmen (and their captains) when they flight the ball specially when mishits clear the ground and switch hits are the order of the day.
But the great ones will always adjust; they always do! Murali’s criticism of Bedi rings true but slightly muted!
As to, who among the four, Venkataraghavan , Bedi , Chandrashekhar and Prasanna was the best? That debate rages to date! Though it is always felt that Venkataraghavan never really got his due. Murali has an opinion and he’s entitled to it! Big deal!
As for Bedi being a controversy monger, well, need we say more!
What are your views on this fracas?
I would love to hear from you.
Have a great day!