Ranji Trophy, 2009-10 November 23, 2009

Suspect action, suspect reaction

I'm not sure if anyone has put any thought into the repercussions of this process

Dear readers,

In the course of the current domestic season, the BCCI has decided to play cop to “illegal bowling actions”. Last year the board had begun a campaign through which six cameras around the ground monitored the standard of umpiring and the conduct of the game. Logically the same data was also used to take a closer look at bowling actions of bowlers with suspect actions. Towards the end of last season, the BCCI had issued a list of over 40 such bowlers. Apparently all were summoned to Bangalore by the National Cricket Academy for corrective measures.

This year, though, the board went a step ahead and empowered umpires to no-ball bowlers they thought chucked. The board has also directed umpires officiating in various age-group tournaments to follow the same protocol to stem the rot right at the beginning. In the first couple of rounds of this Ranji season, there have been quite a few instances of an umpire warning the bowler by no-balling him. A bowler can only be warned thrice before he is stopped from bowling. Thereafter he has got to go to the NCA to rectify or clear his action.

Straight off the BCCI's move to clean up the system has to be lauded. After all chucking gives that bowler an advantage over others who bowl with a clean action. But I'm not sure if anyone has put any thought into the repercussions of this process. Personally I definitely think it's going to end a few careers.

A spinner usually chucks while bowling a faster one or a doosra, which can easily be avoided or corrected. But if a fast bowler has a suspect action, it’s extremely difficult to rectify it while keeping the same pace and remaining as effective. A few states have already dropped players with suspect actions, and if they don’t get it right soon they will be history.

Now the question that needs to be addressed is, what happens to bowlers who are unable to rectify their actions. Where do they go? Most players have cricket as their only source of income, and if that’s taken away the consequences are devastating. For instance, once identified as chuckers they might not be allowed to play for their employers.

These guys have been playing serious cricket from the age of 13-14 and were encouraged to bowl the way they have been bowling. So the system is as much to blame. Given all this, it might be a good idea to have a scheme to rehabilitate the players who have faithfully served their states for quite a few years. The onus is on state associations, all of who have developmental funds, to stand by them and find or create opportunities that will allow them to continue their making a living from cricket, at least for a reasonable period of time.

I hope they do.

Bye for now

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here