A season of barely-stifled controversy exploded at the MCG on Boxing Day 1995 when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing. 'Murali', a rubber-wristed off-spinner, was no-balled seven times in three overs by Hair, who believed the then-23-year-old was bending his arm and straightening it in the process of delivery; an illegal action in cricket.
Murali's action (he bowls with a slightly bent elbow) had been queried before by a handful of international umpires, but this spell, in front of a huge MCG crowd, was the first time he had been called for 'chucking'. Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga spoke briefly to Hair after the second call, and after the seventh call, at the end of Murali's sixth over of the morning, he removed his deadliest bowler from the attack.
The controversy bubbled on during the rest of the two-day Australian innings, as Murali bowled 32 more overs from umpire Steve Dunne's end without protest from either Dunne or Hair, at square leg. The Sri Lankan camp was outraged after the incident, but the ICC leapt to Hair's defence, outlining a list of steps they had taken in the past to determine, without result, the legitimacy of Muralitharan's action.
Hair found himself in more hot water later, when he called Muralitharan's action "diabolical" in his autobiography, and claimed he would have no-balled the spinner "27 times or more" but he "did not want the matter to become a complete farce".
Both Hair and Muralitharan remain major figures in Test cricket, although the two have never crossed paths on the playing field since that Melbourne Test.
Muralitharan was no-balled for throwing seven times more in the 1995/96 season, by Australian umpires Ross Emerson and Tony McQuillan in a one-day game at the Gabba, but his cricketing career survived. He has now taken twice as many Test wickets as any other Sri Lankan in history. Darrell Hair hit the headlines again in September 2000 by calling Zimbabwe's Grant Flower three times in an over for chucking.
Back to top