It is a bright sunny morning and you pick up your newspaper to read about the bowler who was banned yesterday, you want to follow the story further when suddenly you read another news of a ban on another bowler, different from the one you wanted to read about.
Yes, the ICC these days is on a banning spree and the bowlers who were till now escaping the eye of this eagle are now being caught by the neck. We might as well call it ICCs Swachh Cricket Abhiyan.
Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Narine, Sachitra Senanayeke, Kane Williamson, Sohag Gazi and Prosper Utseya have all been handed bans from bowling after their bowling actions were found violating the 15 degrees tolerance level for the straightening of the elbow joint. Even Pakistan T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez was reported for a suspect action during the recently concluded CLT20. This ban is going to have a huge impact on World cricket considering the fact that Ajmal and Narine were amongst the best bowlers in the World, probably the top 2 spinners right now.
Narine’s ban is not an official ICC ban, he was reported for a suspect action during the CLT20 and was not given the permission to bowl in the finals. The WICB, in order to protect Narine from any other harm, pulled him out of the India tour. Sachitra Senanayeke is a very bright prospect in the spin bowling fraternity and his ban is going to impact his promising career more than the world of spin bowling. Kane Williamson can now focus on his batting more with the ban.
Let us get into the technicalities of this rule now and try to figure out what exactly makes these bowlers to jerk their elbows while bowling.
The ICC allows a bowler to bend his/her arm till 15 degrees in order to bowl a legal delivery. Any bend in the arm beyond that might be reported by the match officials and that can lead to a ban from bowling. The peculiar thing about these bowlers being banned is that all of these bowlers are off-spinners and it is not that the action for their stock deliveries have been reported but their action while bowling their variety ball. In this case the ever so famous ‘doosra’ which has always been the partner in crime for bowlers who are caught chucking. The next question that arises after this is can a ‘doosra’ ever be bowled without violating the existing rule?
The answer is no. This delivery requires an off-spinner to turn his palm towards the batsman (Different from the regular off spin, where the front of the hand faces the batsman) very cleverly so that the ball pitches and moves away from a right handed batsman. If this type of a delivery is bowled with a straight elbow, the ball will have no pace and can be easily detected. Thus, this encourages the chuck which is resulting in these bans.
Though there is another school of cricketing thought which sees this ban as ICCs discrimination towards bowlers. 2 new balls in ODIs, no more than 4 fielders outside the circle even during non-powerplay overs and other such rules already makes it difficult for the bowlers to survive especially spinners. Creating a batsman friendly wicket on top of that is any bowler’s worst nightmare.
To escape these nightmares the bowlers have found these variations like doosra, carom ball etc. The argument that finds the rightful place here is that when a batsman is allowed to move before a ball is bowled, he is allowed to switch his batting guard while the ball is being bowled and hit, then why are bowlers being told to follow a set of norms. This leads to another question, should ICC ban something like a switch hit to empathize with the already fettered bowlers or if not, then increase the tolerance level from 15 degrees to 20 degrees?
Still the ICC is doing the right thing by taking strict action against these offenders because violating the rule and still being permitted to bowl was giving an undue advantage to them over other bowlers who complied with the rules. This Swachh Cricket Abhiyan or Clean Cricket Mission by the ICC is a very brave and bold step taken by them, which is coming a little late, but as they say it is better late than never. I wish good luck to any bowler who Chucks. Good Luck Chuck.