ROSS Emerson — the last umpire to no-ball Muttiah Muralitharan for an illegal bowling action — claims the Sri Lankan's suspect style has cricket set to be hit by a generation of "chuckers".
Just days after Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist was reprimanded by the ACB for saying Muralitharan's action was illegal, Emerson said it would be "an absolute joke" if the off-spinner went on to become Test cricket's all-time leading wicket taker.
Now an adviser for the Western Australia Umpires Association, Emerson feels so strongly about the subject he even tried to contact Gilchrist to offer his support.
Asked what he thought of the fact that 30-year-old Muralitharan, with 412 Test wickets, was on target to beat West Indian Courtney Walsh's record of 519, Emerson replied:
"It's a joke — an absolute joke. They're talking about him as the best spin bowler ever, but how many people has he got out through illegal actions? Gilchrist got it right. He's only said what all the players think.
Over in the subcontinent they're now producing a generation of chuckers and nobody cares — it's just getting worse. Talking to some of the Australian players that came back from a tour of there a few years back, they said all they've got to do is walk down the street past any school and you've got a whole playground of kids chucking.
So who's going to stop it? Where does it stop?"
Emerson's belief that a generation of chuckers is on the way comes as ICC officials assess the action of Sri Lankan paceman Ruchira Perera.
England batsman Mark Butcher is in hot water for accusing Perera of throwing in the first Test between the two countries.
Emerson triggered incredible scenes at Adelaide Oval in 1998 /99 when he no-balled Muralitharan in a one-day game between Sri Lanka and England.
His stance led to a threat from Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to take his team from the field. It came at a time when relations between Australia and Sri Lanka were still cool from fellow umpires Darrell Hair and Tony McQuillan calling Muralitharan in 95/96.
It was to be Emerson's final appointment to an international match as he was sacked by the ACB two days later.
Adding to the drama that summer was that Hair had already been stood down from the series after describing Muralitharan's action as "diabolical" in his autobiography, which was released on the eve of the tour.
Emerson, a former NSW detective, remains a keen observer of cricket and claims Muralitharan's action has not changed.
"No — of course not," he said. "The other thing is he's never been cleared by the ICC. If the ICC have actually cleared Murali, they've never told the umpires. That is fact. The only document I saw was that video evidence was inconclusive. The only umpires in the world that have actually called Murali have never received any documentation from any cricket authority to say that his action has been cleared.
The umpires now are too frightened to do anything. They've seen what happened to me, they saw what happened to Darrell (Hair), so what are they going to do? If the umpires can't call it as they see it, their whole credibility is gone and if they lose that, where is the credibility and integrity of cricket? Down the gurgler."
Despite his early demise as an international umpire, Emerson says he would do it all again.
"I don't regret it — not one bit," he said defiantly. "I regret what happened to me, but I don't regret calling him because I thought he threw."