RETIRED international umpires Ross Emerson and Col Egar believe Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is still a chucker and have slammed cricketing bible Wisden for nominating him the most valuable Test bowler ever.
Emerson, who twice called Muralitharan for throwing, described Wisden's choice as a "disgrace".
Wisden's judges ignored the question marks over Muralitharan's bowling action to rank him ahead of New Zealand's Richard Hadlee, England's Syd Barnes and Australians Shane Warne and Clarrie Grimmett. And last night Wisden also named Muralitharan at No. 7 on its list of history's best one-day bowlers.
Emerson said most umpires believed Muralitharan was a chucker.
Egar, a former Australian Cricket Board chairman, said it was "disgusting".
"Records mean nothing now," Egar said.
Egar called Ian Meckiff for throwing in his first over of the 1963-64 season, effectively ending the left-arm quick's career.
He said if Muralitharan was at the top of the tree for bowlers it was
"just ludicrous, a complete joke. I feel sorry for the batsmen he's got out because some of them would have lost their careers over it."
Emerson is adamant the action of the 30-year-old, who has snared 437 wickets in 78 Tests, has deteriorated. "It's a disgrace, a joke," Emerson said.
"There's so much doubt about his action yet they name him as the best of all-time, ahead of (Shane) Warne, (Glenn) McGrath and (Courtney) Walsh. I certainly wouldn't have him ahead of Warne. I still consider his action illegal, as do most umpires around the world, but they won't do anything about it because they're worried about their job. Privately, all the top umpires say he throws but they've seen all the trouble that can happen if you call him, so they won't. Muralitharan's action has changed since 1995 — it's got worse, but he's not worried about it because who's going to call a bloke who has more than 400 (Test) wickets?"
Emerson said he had no regrets about calling Muralitharan, particularly in January 1999, when Sri Lanka played England at the Adelaide Oval, a stance which ended his career.
"Absolutely not," a defiant Emerson said. "There is no way in the world I feel I've done anything wrong. I did what I had to do. Umpires who feel his action is illegal but don't call him bring the game's integrity and credibility into question and if that is the case, the integrity and credibility of the entire sport comes into question."
Emerson, Hair and Tony McQuillan all called Muralitharan for chucking during the 1990s.
Emerson and McQuillan no longer umpire, while Hair is on the ICC International Panel of Umpires, but not the elite eight-member panel.
Many feel Hair's decision to call Muralitharan and his criticism of his action since — he has described the finger-spinner's delivery as diabolical — cost him a berth on the eight-man panel.
"Calling Muralitharan cost me my umpiring career and it certainly did not help Hair's," said Emerson, who never officiated again at international level after no-balling the Sri Lankan in Adelaide. "He's only just hanging in there. The thing is the Asian cricket countries run the game because of all the money with the TV rights. They want Muralitharan playing, even though most umpires feel he throws."
Egar said the only option now was to change the law on throwing.
"Legislators are allowing this to go on and the issue around this bloke has become completely political," he said. "They need to change the law and let others throw as well, or fix this bloke's action. Wisden has fallen for the trap of looking at this bloke's record, not his action."
Egar said he first saw Muralitharan bowl when Australia toured Sri Lanka in the early 1990s and made a note of his action then.
"People ask me if I've ever seen Muralitharan bowl. I say only if he bowled a leggie."