Ramadhin Owns Up at Last: I Used to Chuck It
Byline: PETER JOHNSON
AT LAST the truth can be told. Forty-nine years after Sonny Ramadhin's sleight of hand first made fools of the world's finest batsmen, he is prepared to reveal the dark secret hidden beneath the shirt sleeve that always stayed discreetly buttoned down.
The West Indies spin bowler, immortalised in song and statistics, illegally chucked the delivery which brought him so many of his 158 Test wickets.
'I have never admitted it in public before, but I think it's about time I got it off my conscience,' he said with a grin which suggested that the burden of guilt had not cost him a wink of sleep over the years.
'There was no way somebody of my build - he was 5ft 4in and nine stone - could have produced my faster ball without throwing it.
'Nowadays, the television cameras would have picked it up immediately and they would have put a stop to it.
But I got away with it in every grade of cricket for 30 years. Many of the players knew it and some, like Tom Graveney, told me so. But the umpires just ignored it.' That, of course, was back in the gentlemanly Fifties when it was permissible to raise an eyebrow but essential to make sure that the English stiff upper lip remained as firmly buttoned as Ramadhin's shirt sleeve. So the uneducated orphan, who adopted the first name Sonny because he was never given one of his own, was allowed to become one of the game's legends rather than one of its outlaws.
He fears that Mut-tiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan off-spinner whose style is so reminiscent of his own, will not be so fortunate.
Muralitharan, who destroyed England in last summer's Oval Test, has long been under suspicion and was again called for throwing in the recent triangular one-day tournament in Australia.
Now he is threatened with renewed and intensified scrutiny during this summer's World Cup and, possibly, with public condemnation if, as planned, he plays county cricket for Lancashire later in the year.
'I sympathise with him,' said Ramadhin. 'I know how he must feel knowing that every time he goes on to bowl he is being examined. I have watched him and there's no doubt in my mind that he throws when he tries to give the off-break a bit of extra spin. Television shows it clearly, but I did not need the cameras to spot it.
'I don't believe he has any intention of cheating. I don't think he could change because, like me, he apparently has some abnormality of the elbow. In fact, if he tried to alter his action he would probably become innocuous. But if he starts bowling day in, day out in the English game most of the county captains are bound to object. That will not make life pleasant for him.
'But it's a bit late to try to drum him out of the game. He has had official clearance from the International Cricket Council and he has taken more than 200 Test wickets.
It's not as if he is physically dangerous. Bowling at that pace he is not going to knock somebody's block off.' One thing is certain. Notoriety will earn Muralitharan far more than fame ever brought Ramad-hin. The West Indian will be 70 in May and for the last eight years he and his wife, June, have lived in a rented, one-bedroom council flat in one of those communities built in the wind-raked creases of the Pennines above Oldham.
He could have found no spot in the cricketing world more distant in climate and temperament from his roots in Trinidad and blames the harsh weather for the arthritis that is beginning to stiffen and disfigure his hands.
He settled and eventually married in the area in 1951 when he signed for Cromp-ton, a local league club quick to recognise the drawing power of the little man who, the previous summer, had helped the West Indies to their first Test victory in England.
Ramadhin, immaculate in length and able to turn the ball both ways with an apparently identical action, took 135 wickets on the tour, 26 in four Tests. …