Seventeen years ago to the day, standing at square leg during the 1999 one-day series between Sri Lanka and England at the Adelaide Oval, umpire Ross Emerson no-balled Muttiah Muralidaran for chucking.
There had been an ominous air of expectation as Murali took the ball in the 18th over — Emerson had called him before during the 1995-96 tour. Channel’s Nine’s Tony Greig set the mood: “Right, well this is the moment everyone’s been a little bit nervous about, we’ve got Muralidaran about to be introduced into the attack. These two umpires when they were together both no-balled him for throwing, umpire Emerson, he started it last time.”
It only took four balls. What followed was a remarkable scene, as both Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga and Emerson set their fingers to point and very publicly went at it. Ranatunga then marched his players from the field.
Ultimately the heated exchange and the controversy that followed was the end of Emerson’s career, but ask him 17 years later whether he’d do it again and he has no hesitation.
“Do I regret calling Murali, no,” he told The Weekend Australian. “I regret what happened to me, but I don’t regret calling him.
“Why not (call him) for chucking, it’s one part of 42 laws. What if I don’t like the lbw, do I not apply that? The one thing that did piss me off though was that every umpire in the world, certainly in Australia, thought that he chucked, but it was only Darrell (Hair) and me that had the guts to do it — or the integrity.”
But while Emerson stands by the Muralitharan decision he doesn’t by another.
Midway through the 303-run chase England appealed for a run-out against Mahela Jayawardene.
“I made a mistake, I didn’t call for the replay with Jayawardene when he was run out for not many and he went on to score a hundred (120),” Emerson said.
“Sri Lanka won the game, but I reckon that evened out because McQuillan didn’t give (Graeme) Hick (126) out caught behind when he wasn’t very many and he scored 100 as well.”
Emerson maintains it was a “travesty of justice” England — who were his only supporters on the day — didn’t win the match.
“All the Pommies were running past me in the field tapping me on the back and saying, ‘Stick with it, you’re doing a good job.
“Alec Stewart, who I knew pretty well because he played a fair bit of club cricket in Perth, he put his arm around me after the Jayawardene decision and said, ‘It’s bloody lonely out here by yourself, isn’t it’ — and it was, it was terrible.
“And then I got sacked in the taxi on the way to the airport. I was due to do the next two games in Perth, both Sri Lanka games, and I got the phone call from Malcolm Speed.
“I umpired the first game of the next Shield season and then got told I lost form and wouldn’t be considered for the rest of the year.”
After 10 one-day internationals and 51 first-class games Emerson’s cricket career was over.
Emerson said he always knew he was up against it given the politics of the International Cricket Board at the time. “It was country v country. As my colleague said to me, ‘He throws, but you won’t get much support around the place’.”
“Because the countries are divided, the ICC used to always vote 7-3 because India and Pakistan want to throw nuclear bombs on each other in real life but in cricket they’ll vote together, Sri Lanka will vote with Pakistan and India, and Bangladesh they brought in — so that’s four out of the 10 straight off.
“South Africa and Zimbabwe are so racist they’ll only vote for the black countries, the West Indies are probably the most racist side in the world, so they’ll always vote with the black countries unless it’s a tour of England or Australia where they make their money and that leaves Australia, England and New Zealand.
“Now the ICC has started clamping down on chucking, why? Murali’s not playing any more — that’s why,” he said.
“They needed Murali to play for Sri Lanka because he was what kept them competitive. Now that he’s gone and Chaminda Vaas is gone — he was a great bowler — they’re a rabble again.” (Courtesy The Australian)