During the second Test between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day 1995, Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in front of a crowd of 55000. The 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.
Ross Emerson, an Australian cricket umpire, made his ODI debut in a match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in Brisbane on 5th January, 1996. He immediately became controversial, no-balling Muralitharan several times, and continuing to do so even when he switched to bowling legbreaks, which are regarded as being impossible to throw. This led to Muralitharan being dropped by Sri Lanka for the rest of the tour, as he was unable to bowl without being called.
Just before the 98/99 tour, Muralitharan’s action was tested in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The tests had concluded that Muralitharan could not straighten the elbow due to congenital deformity. The end result of the Test was that the throwing appeared as an optical illusion. The tests in Hong Kong and the green signal by the ICC allowed Muralitharan to play.
On 23 January 1999 in Adelaide, standing at square leg, Emerson once again called Muralitharan, leading to Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga to lead his team off the field in protest and consult team management and the match referee. The match later continued after Emerson threatened to award the match to England, with Muralitharan confined to bowling legbreaks; Emerson claimed that cricket was controlled by Asian countries. The match turned out to be the last international match for Emerson as an umpire.
Ross Emerson admitted in 2010 that his decision to call the bowler was not entirely his own. Emerson told the The Daily Telegraph in Australia that he no-balled Muralitharan due to orders from an unnamed Cricket Australia official.