Friday, April 15, 2016

Umpire Murali

The International Umpire from Srirangam  
Murali attained VIP status over the last decade after becoming India's most renowned logistics Manager of the 2000s
It was Murali who roped in Gavaskar to meet with ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ Kamal in the early 80s for a 'Star meet Star' show in Madras

Well over two decades after its occurrence, Umpire K Murali (referred to in the cricketing circles as ‘Dhaadi Murali’) is still famously remembered for his brave decision not to call for the third umpire and judging West Indian legend Brian Lara stumped on a close call in October 1994 in the one day match against New Zealand in Goa. Lara’s gesture to Murali to call for the third umpire earned him a one match ban and a big fine. Murali was lauded by Match Referee Raman Subba Row for his brave call (He also came to be called 'Lara Murali' for a while after that incident!!!).  

Murali had to his credit playing three different and successful roles in cricket – an international umpire from Srirangam, a man who has been running a league club in the TNCA for over three decades (TSR MSC) and a logistics / administrative manager for the Indian team and the ICC match officials in India.

Over the past decade, one could rarely miss a shot of him around the dressing room/ sight screen during the international matches played in India, for he was the go to man for any requirement, initially for the players and later on for the ICC match officials.
       Murali seen along with Venkataraghavan

Humble beginnings
With Venkatesa Perumal at Gunaseelam being his Kula Deivam, Murali and his family moved to Srirangam from Coimbatore where he had done his schooling in the 1960s. His initial interest was to become a NCC member and he had secured B and C certificates in that field.  While playing league and inter districts cricket matches in Tiruchirapalli the then TDCA secretary VKS Mani came up to him and suggested that he take up umpiring.

It was something Murali had not thought of earlier, though even in his school days in Coimbatore he would umpire some of the local matches that his elder brother played. He followed Mani’s advice and took to umpiring very seriously. 

He soon moved to Madras and settled down in Triplicane, one that has been home to him for the last four decades. Just prior to his move to Madras, he had been the local logistics manager for his team when a match took place at the Kallukuzhi stadium in Trichy involving greats such as Ajit Wadekar, GR Viswanath and Syed Kirmani. This opportunity was once again provided to him by Mani and it was this early initiation that later enabled him to expand his association in cricket by taking up logistics management for players and officials.

Once he came to Madras, it was Sriraman who spotted the talent in Murali and appointed him as a logistics manager for the Indian team when the team came here for a camp before an international tour or for an international match here in Madras. It was during that period that he came into close contact with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar.  It was Murali who would take the Indian stars around the city on his Vespa Chetak to show them around the historical places. Gavaskar was so impressed with the role played by him that he made a mention in his book ( Runs n Ruins) and later in a newspaper article.

Being in Triplicane and walking distance from Chepauk, he was the go to man for TNCA in the 1970s for any last many umpiring postings that Murali would happily accept and cycle his way to the ground. 

Umpiring
By 1980, Murali had qualified for the Ranji Panel and within the next five years into the national panel.

Once in a Ranji match when Atul Wassan bowled successive bouncers at Tendulkar, Murali warned the fast bowler for intimidatory bowling. Each of the four short pitched balls was hit to/over the boundary as Tendulkar reached his century. ‘When a batsman is hitting him out of the park every time, you do not warn that bowler for intimidatory bowling. I will anyway be removed from the bowling’ remarked Wassan to Murali!!!

In the 1980s, postings for Ranji matches were few and far between and Murali took whatever chances that came his way.

In 1989, he was set to make his test debut in a high profile match involving the Imran Khan led Pakistan team but unfortunately the tour was called off  and he had to wait another 4 years for his international umpiring debut. 
                     
Sets up a Gavaskar meet Kamal star show
One of Murali’s memorable moments in his career came when he roped in Sunil Gavaskar all the way from Bombay for a ‘star meets star’ show with Kamal Hassan.

The Tamil Cine hero had just become a star in Bollywood after his runaway hit ‘Ek Duje Ke Liya’. Murali went all the way to Bombay to convince the cricketing legend of the idea to meet with Kamal in Madras. Gavaskar who normally had a solid defence was easily bowled over by Murali and came down to Madras soon after to meet with Kamal at the AVM studio.

Murali also introduced Gavaskar to the then TN CM MG Ramachandran here in Madras. When Murali introduced Gavaskar to the CM as ‘Ivan thaan our great cricketer Gavaskar’, MGR who believed in treating everyone with respect corrected him and asked him to refer to the cricket legend as ‘Ivar Gavaskar’ leaving Murali completely stumped!! 

Logistics Manager
For a decade from 2003, he was the logistics manager of the Indian team and for a period of 5 years from 2009, the logistics manager of the ICC match officials in India.  Managing the logistics for the Indian team is a huge challenge but Murali enjoyed it thoroughly and attained a VIP status where ever he went over the last decade and a half. 

When John Wright landed for the first time in India for his interview for the coach’s post, it was Murali who stood as guarantee for Wright ( who had come without his Visa) at the airport and bailed him out of the tricky situation. When the leading international stars landed in Hyderabad, it was Murali who secured them a great ‘Golden' Jewellery deal.

Even the usually stiff looking and rigid Chris Broad (Match Referee) was so impressed with Murali’s role in managing the overseas umpires that he once surprisingly tied a luxurious watch around his wrists right in front of the international umpires leaving Murali stunned and speechless.

While managing the TNCA league team and even his two decades of top level umpiring have been 'quiet' roles, his stint as the man in charge of logistics made him a star where ever he went. He spent a major part of the last decade going around  with the who's who of Indian cricket.

And later in the first half of this decade with the who's who of the cricket match officials. 

Very rarely has any logistics manager received such glowing tributes. His role was even spoken about at ICC meetings such was his efficiency in taking care of the players and the officials. Where ever he went he was given a VIP treatment.

It takes a lot to gain the acceptance of the players and officials. Murali was a player's favourite for he took care of their needs with utmost precision. 

His unique distinction of being the only Indian to play the role of the logistics manager for ICC match officials for such a long period without a break is a tribute to the way he took care of the players and officials.

With Venkataraghavan making his foray into umpiring and with competition hotting up in the 1990s , Murali did not get to do as many international matches as he may have hoped for. Yet, for someone who had no inkling of getting into umpiring and who had spent his entire school and college life in the districts, it was a significant achievement to even get on the international stage. He used the limited First class and international exposure in umpiring to build a strong relationship with the leading players and converted that into an opportunity later on as he became one of the successful logistics managers in Indian cricket. 

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