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Murali conspiracy theory that angered Australia

A quarter of a century later, the decision to call Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing during the Boxing Day Test of 1995 remains one of the game's biggest controversies.

Umpire Darrell Hair called Muralitharan seven times in the space of three overs, sparking furious scenes at the MCG.

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Just as contentious was the decision by Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to switch Muralitharan to the other end, where New Zealand umpire Steve Dunne allowed the off-spinner to bowl for the rest of the innings without once calling him for throwing.

Darrell Hair no-balls Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing on Boxing Day 1995.

It sparked comparisons to a similar incident in 1963, when Australian fast bowler Ian Meckiff was called for throwing in his opening over of a Test in Brisbane.

Meckiff's captain, Richie Benaud, removed the left-armer from the attack for the rest of the game, after which Meckiff announced his retirement.

Fast forward to 1995 and Australia's then-captain, Mark Taylor, say the decision to keep bowling Muralitharan further inflamed the tensions.

"I would have liked to have seen him not bowl again," he told Wide World of Sports.

"It would have taken the sting out of it. But that wasn't Arjuna's style. He ended up bowling 38 overs."

Taylor said that summer was one of the most difficult periods of his time in charge.

"From a captaincy point of view for me, it was a pain in the neck to be Australian captain at that time. All of sudden there was an issue that people wanted me to comment on, that from both a personal and team point of view, didn't concern me," he said.

"It wasn't our bowler and to be honest, Murali wasn't worrying us at the time. He took 1-124 in that match and 2-224 in the previous match in Perth."

Taylor's biggest gripe concerned accusations the Australian team was involved in some sort of conspiracy against the Sri Lankan off-spinner.

Umpire Darrell Hair speaks to Muttiah Muralitharan after no-balling him for throwing on Boxing Day 1995.

"We had this issue with people asking us what we thought, even whether or not we had a say in it," Taylor explained.

"That's what annoyed me the most.

"There was an inference from certain journalists that somehow this whole thing was instigated in the Australian change rooms because we were worried about Murali.

"That certainly wasn't the case and his figures in that series back that up."

Former Sri Lankan opening batsman Roshan Mahanama confirmed the team had heard the rumours during the tour of involvement from Australian players.

Mark Taylor leaves the field after being dismissed in a one-day match against Sri Lanka.

"There were all sorts of stories that the Australian board and the Australian team knew that Murali was going to be called, and that's why some of the Australians said we shouldn't have played Murali in that Test match," he told Wide World of Sports.

For his part, Hair says any suggestion of a conspiracy is fanciful.

"That was because Bob Simpson was coach," Hair told Wide World of Sports.

"Whilst I knew that Simmo had some views about it, I had never spoken to Bob Simpson about the issue. I've spoken to him a lot since, but I'd never spoken to him prior. You just don't go to the opposition team and ask what they think about another player.

"That was disappointing that a journalist would think of writing that.

Sri Lankan players celebrate their 1996 World Cup win while a dejected Mark Taylor looks on.

"I'd never spoken to any Australian players about it. I never spoke to Taylor. I'd never made representations to the Australian Cricket Board. It's funny how people want to develop a story."

Taylor said Hair deserved credit for sticking to his guns during the match.

"I think Darrell's been much maligned in this whole process," he said.

"I think people have tried to convince themselves that there may have been more to Darrell's thinking than just an interpretation of a cricket law.

"That's the most disappointing thing."

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