I was lucky enough to be brought up in an era where the umpire made the on field calls and that was that. Apart from BCCI President Sunny Gavaskar leading his team off the ground after he reckons he got a bad LBW, the cricketing world generally accepted that the man in white was always right
Until December 1995. Remember Murali and Darrel Hair?
Hair had mates. That same tour, both umpires Emerson and McQuillan made the judgement that Murali was chucking. Emerson even came back for another go in 1999.
The rules at that time regarding throwing the ball were very clear. Straighten your arm and you have thrown it. You could, and still can, bowl with a bent arm legally, as long as you didn’t straighten it.
Murali claimed that’s what he did.
Independent labs said otherwise.
So, with the power of the Asian bloc countries, the rule was changed to allow up to 15 degrees of bend. The umpire was also to report a player to the match referee rather than call a no ball if he doubted that the action was legal.
If you are still confused as to what a chuck is, watch this video from the 1960’s with Sir Alec Bedser explaining the concept.
Since the “Murali Law” was introduced, 8 players have been reported to the ICC for throwing (Shillingford twice) and only one called in a match (Grant Flower 2000).
However, the onslaught of the carrum ball, doosra or whatever you choose to call it, combined with players taking liberty with the 15 degree rule, has created an unprecedented situation in the game. We are now seeing deliveries bowled that where physically unable to be bowled prior to this law.
In a recent interview I did with South African spinning great Paul Harris here, he claims that Ajmal must be throwing his “other one”.
In another interview, Australian Test Player of the Year 2000/01 Colin Funky Miller, believes that all spinners should be made to wear short sleeves. “They are hiding their arms to cheat”
Miller went on to say that no matter how hard he practiced the doosra, he couldn’t get enough power with a straight arm to land it more than half way down the pitch.
You can listen to that interview here.
It can therefore be logically concluded that the 15 degree law has created a new breed of bowler. Some will label them cheats.
However, there is another side to the argument.
In fixing the symptom rather than the problem, the ICC has landed up with an unintended consequence. It has created a “bowler” who now has variety that is unparalleled in cricket history. This in turn brings new skills to the game (both batting and bowling) which some argue, can only be a good thing.
The days of the arm ball are dead. Now, with your arm bravely hidden behind a baggy sleeve, turn it both ways prodigiously or you don’t get a game.
There are some players who can do it legally when applying the old rules, but they are a lucky few. Narine comes to mind. However, pictures like this one must make purists cringe:
The opportunity to fix the root of the problem by calling throwers under the old rule, or provide a better coaching regime over those with dodgy actions coming through the ranks are long gone.
We must accept that throwing the ball is now a deep rooted part of the game. In fact, its is almost tradition.
So, the logical question becomes “Is the game better off since the 15 degree rule came into effect?”
I’m torn on this one.
One side of me hates the fact the cricket has become a place where pitchers can throw strikeouts. It also hates that umpires are not trusted arbiters anymore.
The other side of me enjoys watching spin “bowling” as a craft jump to a new level. However, there is a risk that traditional bowlers like Nathan Lyon will be left behind for not pushing the rules .
Perhaps those that do push the rules are in breach of the “Spirit of Cricket”?
So what do you think? Leave me a comment below and I will ensure I reply with a straight arm.
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