May 10, 2004
Yes, I know. Long time no post. Last weekend, on Saturday in fact, Murali went past Walsh as the highest wicket-taker in Tests. As usual, there've been several conflicting views on whether he deserves the record or not. Peter Roebuck and David Hopps, both Englishmen, think Murali has been villified too much and that he must be allowed to go on and that he does deserve the record. Barry Jarman, the former Australian player & the first match-referee who reported Murali as far back as 1994/5 felt sick when he realized that Murali was the record holder.
I think the problem is that the ICC's match-referees, umpires and officials have not been strict enough with the rules in a lot of cases. Hence Murali is being seen as a victim of the ICC's inconsistencies. Excuses in the form of physical deformities & hyperextension are mentioned in the case of just about everyone who has been called/reported for chucking. So a medical report seems to be a quick way of ensuring that the bowler isn't called any more. The ICC, in my opinion, put its foot in the mouth (and that requires some bending too, of the leg admittedly, not the arm), when it fixed degrees of bending and had 10 degrees for fast bowlers and 5 degrees for spinners.
If you dont have the patience to wade through the jargon, just directly go to the last page. It mentions the prescribed bending limits for various types of bowlers. Its quite strange that the ICC categorizes speeds above 80 mph as fast. I'm sure the likes of Balaji, Astle, Steve Waugh, Pollock, Madan Lal etc. will be thrilled to bits that they're actually fast bowlers, not the medium pacers/trundlers that they're made out to be. The central issue I, and quite a few others, including the Univ of WA, have is on what basis were these limits fixed. A spinner chucking at 60 mph is far less likely to cause any real physical damage to batsmen than a fast bowler chucking at 90 mph. The fast bowlers (and I mean someone who bowls consistently quicker than say 140 kph) like Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Shabbir Ahmed, Jermaine Lawson etc. really can cause some serious damage to batsmen throguh shattered bones, egos and helmets. Murali, or indeed any other spinner called up who allegedly chucks, is never going to do that.
The news that Zimbabwe's Blessing Mahwire has been reported confirms the farcical nature of the current rules. Mahwire bowls at around 75 mph and I really cant see batsmen quaking in their boots at the sight of him running in to bowl and wondering how they're going to handle his chucked deliveries. Its very likely that they'll in fact talk to the ICC on changing the rules to let him bowl at least 20 overs in a one-day international. Even when he bowled in the VB Series earlier this year in Australia, I was convinced he chucked. But I, and batsmen all around the world, will never agree that he shouldn't be allowed to bowl.
The solution is really to do away with these mathematical quantities like degrees of arm bending etc. and hand this issue over to the umpires. If the umpires feel that a bowler's action is illegal, he must report it immediately to the match referee and both the teams. The bowler's action must be analyzed by an ICC committee which comprises of a mixture of fast bowlers, medium pacers and spinners. The process needs to be speeded up so that the bowler doesn't face a situation where he twiddles his thumb waiting for a month on the final report. The bowler must be allowed to bowl until the committee decides his fate. Even if he is reported again, the committee sits in and judges based on the evidence provided so that past history isn't taken into account.
While I agree that chucking, as per the current rules, has no place in cricket, I am also not convinced that the medical analysis done by various institutes to clear bowlers on the basis of physical deformities/complications should be taken at face value. Perhaps one solution is to allow each team to have at most one bowler who chucks ... or do they all do that now anyway?