Cricket: Umpires to keep mum over Murali

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UMPIRES WILL will be asked to put any concerns about the controversial action of Muttiah Muralitharan in writing to Lord's rather than call him for throwing when he begins his spell as Lancashire's overseas player this summer.

The Sri Lankan off-spinner, who will be 28 next month, is due to begin his lucrative contract at Old Trafford as soon as his country's involvement in the World Cup ends. But his action has caused concern among umpires here, many of whom will be encountering him for the first time. Muralitharan has twice been called for throwing during one-day internationals in Australia - most recently in the Carlton and United Series in a match against England in Adelaide.

The reaction which followed the decision of the umpire Ross Emerson to call Muralitharan for throwing, which resulted in an on-field row between the official and the Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, is a situation that Lord's is anxious to avoid.

The Umpires' Association chairman, Barrie Leadbeater, is to ask his members to put any concerns in their match reports rather than draw further attention to the controversy by calling Muralitharan for throwing.

"I'm going to ask the first class umpires that if they have a doubt about his action, which they are perfectly entitled to have, that they should put it on paper rather than call him," said Leadbeater, who meets with his fellow umpires and the England and Wales Cricket Board on 6 April.

"All I can do is ask them to do that, but when it comes to umpiring the actual matches they all have minds of their own and they have to decide for themselves - I can't tell them what to do."

Leadbeater added: "I don't really want him to be called because I don't think it will do either the game or the individual umpire any good. If there are cameras there, which I'm sure they will be, and the particular delivery which is called subsequently turns out to be legal then that's not going to achieve anything.

"He has a unique action which this remarkable rotation of his wrist and I have only seen him on film but it looks very difficult to determine because it looks so unusual.

"On first look, your reaction is to think that he must be throwing it, but when you see it in slow motion the action is legal."

The International Cricket Council have recently formed a committee to look into Muralitharan's action and from the film they have viewed, they have determined that he is bowling legally.

"We are trying to avoid the sort of hysteria which happened in Australia recently," said Leadbeater. "Who's to say that Muralitharan doesn't actually throw the odd delivery, I don't know?

"The problem we have is to pick a possible throw from all the other deliveries and we don't want to have another unsavoury incident like we had in the one-day international over in Australia."

Leicestershire, the county champions, have signed Michael Kasprowicz as their overseas player for this summer.

The Australian Test paceman has agreed a one-year contract and replaces the West Indian Phil Simmons as the overseas player at Grace Road. Kasprowicz has not been named in Australia's World Cup squad, which means he is available to play for the whole of the summer. Leicestershire will lose Alan Mullally and Vince Wells for the early part of the season because they are both in the England World Cup squad. Mullally is then expected to play for England in the Test series against New Zealand.

Nottinghamshire have also named their overseas player for the new season, signing up the the 29-year-old West Indian all-rounder, Vasbert Drakes, following the decision to part company with the Zimbabwe spin bowler, Paul Strang.