NEW DELHI: Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, a die-hard critic of Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action, Thursday praised the Sri Lankan off-spinner for his wonderful qualities as a human being.

Murali, who quit Test cricket at the end of the first Test against India in Galle Thursday with a staggering 800-wicket haul in a 18-year span, came in for some ascetic criticism from Bedi over the years.

"I may not agree with Murali's action or may have called all Murali wickets as run-outs, but I have highest respect for him as a human being, a kind-hearted man," Bedi told IANS.

Bedi still maintains that not only Murali but quite a few other reputed bowlers, including a couple of Indian bowlers, have no place in international cricket as their bowling action is not clean. But he does not hold it against Murali as it was the politics of international cricket that allowed him and some others to get away.

"Murali got away because officials of the subcontinental boards ganged up to seize power at the International Cricket Council and Murali was used as a pawn by allowing his action pass the muster."

Bedi was also critical of some influential captains and cricket administrators for looking the other way instead of taking a stand on unfair bowling action. He was unhappy that some of these former cricketers blindly supported their country bowlers knowing fully well in their heart of hearts that they were doing a great disservice to the game.

"Some of the captains told me that they had no choice but to support the bowlers from their country," said Bedi recalling how Sir Donald Bradman banished Australians - off-spinner Jim Burke and fast bowlers Ian Meckiff and Gordon Rorke - from bowling because their action violated the spirit of the game.

"I consider a five-wicket haul is equivalent to scoring a hundred. Imagine, Sachin Tendulkar scored 45 Test hundreds and Murali took five wickets or more 67 times. How can we co-relate the two? When I think of great bowlers like Richard Hadlee, who had the smoothest action, I feel sad to see lesser mortals getting mentioned in the same breath."

Bedi said ICC fiddling with the hyper-extension of the elbow rule was worse and it has already taken joy of out bowling as bowlers are taking undue advantage of it.

He complimented his former India teammate Srinivasan Venkataraghavan, who is part of a three-member panel to review suspect actions, for banning over a hundred bowlers with suspect action at all levels of domestic cricket in India.