Integrity at stake over doosra - Inverarity
Nothing less than Australian cricket's integrity is at stake over the question of whether or not young spin bowlers should be taught to deliver the doosra, the national selector John Inverarity believes.
As a burgeoning flock of overseas spinners capitalise on the ICC's rules allowing 15 degrees of flex and thus the kind of flicked delivery required to bowl the offspinner's "other one", Inverarity said Cricket Australia needed to stay true to its previously stated view that the doosra would not become part of the spin coaching lexicon down under.
This trenchant position does not reflect a growing attitude among Australian players, particularly those who took part in this year's World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, that the textbook approach to spin bowling is less effective, particularly in the shorter formats on the subcontinent. The T20 captain George Bailey said as much on his return from the tournament, but Inverarity disagreed.
"The question is being asked now about 'do we develop the doosra bowlers or not'. That's a question of integrity for Cricket Australia. I don't think we do," Inverarity told an Australian Cricket Society lunch in Melbourne. "I just think it's a serious issue, and I think we've got to keep our integrity and teach our bowlers to bowl properly."
At a 2009 spin summit at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, slow bowling coaches including the late Terry Jenner and Ashley Mallett were unanimous that the doosra should not be taught because they felt it cannot be delivered legally. Inverarity said he was happy for the doosra to be bowled legally, but said its future exponents in Australia needed to be tested to ensure they fell within the 15 degrees now legislated.
"I'm all for them learning it, but it's got to be within the rules. I think the integrity of the game, the integrity of our Australian cricket heritage is important," he said. "We've had some wonderful bowlers with different grips, Max Walker bowling how he did, Jeff Thomson how he did, Jack Iverson, Johnny Gleeson. I'm all for that, but we'll always run a measure over them to make sure they're bowling legitimately. I'd love to see someone bowling differently, but we'd scrutinise them to make sure they're bowling properly."
The question of whether a bowler's action is legitimate or not when delivering the doosra was far from the front of Bailey's mind on his return home from Sri Lanka. He was quick to suggest the encouragement of unorthodox spin bowlers was a way for Australia to improve on its semi-final appearance at the World T20.
"As a nation we still talk about whether guys have legitimate actions or not and at the end of the day that's really not for us to be arguing about," Bailey said. "If that's the rules and that's how bowlers are bowling now and having success in international cricket then we've got to start developing those players and developing them at 10-11 years of age and we start to have some bowlers who do bowl like [Muttiah] Muralitharan or [Saeed] Ajmal or [Sunil] Narine.
"You're hoping that a few of our spinners were watching the tournament [World T20] and seeing the type of spinners that were having success. I think the way our coaching system is set up it's going to be tough for some spinners to get through because the way a lot of the spinners who have had success bowl in the subcontinent, you're probably not going to be playing much cricket in Australia if you bowl like that. There's a balancing act there."
How long Australia can continue to be puritanical about the development of spin bowlers is a matter for debate, particularly as CA's quest to diversify the game should encourage the emergence of a greater bevy of slow bowlers of Asian or subcontinental backgrounds.
For now, Inverarity is convinced that the orthodox path is best, holding up the example of Graeme Swann, much as Shane Warne did earlier this week.
"Swann does very well, Ashley Mallett was a terrific bowler, Bruce Yardley was a terrific bowler, Tim May was a terrific bowler, and there were never any doubts about them," he said. "They didn't bowl doosras."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here