Sydney:Former Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist has hit the hornet's nest by calling spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan a chucker and accusing Sri Lankan authorities of splitting the cricket world between 'white' and 'black' countries in the '90s.
Gilchrist, in his autobiography 'True Colours', minced no words in saying Muralitharan chucked the ball and alleged that the International Cricket Council protected him after Sri Lankan authorities interpreted questioning of his bowling action as a 'racial attack'.
"'Does Murali chuck the ball?' ... I thought for a few moments, and then said, cautiously: 'I think he does'," Gilchrist said referring to a question posed to him.
"I say that because, if you read the laws of the game, there's no doubt in my mind that he and many others throughout cricket history have," he wrote.
The former Australian vice-captain lamented that the ICC changed the rules to accommodate Murali instead of rectifying his fault when he was first caught for the offence in mid '90s.
"I will take opportunity to clarify what I think about Murali and his action. I don't back away from what I said... (But) I don't think he's personally to blame: he bowled the way he bowled, and it was not up to him to do anymore than he was asked."
Gilchrist also said he was sure not many in international cricket accepted the theory of optical illusion proposed just to bail Murali out.
"...there is no doubt in my mind that his arm did straighten more than the rules allowed when he started playing Test cricket in the mid-1990s... I have heard the theories about optical illusion but I don't buy them... It should have been dealt with back in 1995-96 when Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson no-balled him in Australia," Gilchrist said.
The former stumper felt the real issue of suspect bowling action was overshadowed when Sri Lankan authorities gave the whole episode colour of racial vilification.
"But the real issue - does he straighten his arm? - was rail-roaded by Sri Lankan cricket authorities, an Arjuna Ranatunga, turning it into a debate over race. They were threatening a walkout, and there was talk of a split in the game between 'white' and 'black' countries, because the questioning of Murali's action was interpreted as a racial attack.
"This was ridiculous, as is proven when you look at the long list of bowlers, fast and slow, white and non-white, whose actions were scrutinised over the next few years and who were taken away for remedial treatment. There was no threat to split the game over these players - only over the Murali," said a fuming Gilchrist.
Gilchrist said the issue worsened during Sri Lanka's 1999 tour Down Under and reached an "absurd" point when the ICC introduced the 15 degree rule.
"It got even worse in 1999 when Murali was again no-balled in Australia and Ranatunga tried to take his team off the Adelaide Oval. Ranatunga was charged under the ICC Code of conduct, but turned up to his hearing with lawyers who argued that as the ICC match referee brought the charge, the same guy could not also sit in judgments on it."
"Legally this was true, but morally it was a landmark moment, a direct attack on the spirit of the game... the Sri Lankans seemed to be saying 'If you hold Murali to the laws, we're going to tear the whole game apart'," Gilchrist said.
The ex-Aussie vice-captain felt Murali was behind spoiling the Test career of many batsmen.
"Nobody seemed to spare much thought for the batsman playing Murali. Because he was so potent, guys were losing there wickets, and eventually losing their Test careers in some cases -- because of this bowler.
"As much as I like Murali, my sympathies lay more with those batsmen, from every other nation, whose careers suffered because of a bowler who was in technical breach of the rules and seemed to enjoy a kind of political protection.
"This reached an absurd point when the laws were changed to accommodate him. When I heard that the rules would now allow degree of straightening -- 15 degrees to be exact, a fraction more than Murali's straightening had been measured at -- I thought 'That's a load of horse crap. That's rubbish.
He also disapproved of Murali's 'doosra' delivery, saying ICC appeared to have passed it without the required level of examination.
"His doosra, the ball which spins away from the right-hander and attracted new scrutiny in 2004, seemed to be passed without any rigorous examination.
"Often Australian players, having seen him bowl yet another suspect doosra past the outside edge, would look at each other in changing room and say: 'Wasn't that one meant to have been sorted out?'.