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October 27, 2012

Doosra: Is it really a question of integrity?

Michael Jeh
Saeed Ajmal bowls, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2nd Test, SSC, Colombo, 4th day, July 3, 2012
The doosra is arguably the most potent bowling weapon in modern cricket and many bowlers have developed variations of it  © AFP
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John Inverarity has bowled me a doosra today with his comments about the doosra and integrity. I'm genuinely not sure which way to play this one.

That he is a gentleman and a scholar there can be no doubt. His reputation as man of decency and integrity allows him the privilege of making a comment such as this with some immunity from anyone looking to take cheap shots at him. From that perspective, reading his words carefully, I can draw no hint of mischief or hypocrisy in his brave statement. Perhaps a long bow could be drawn to infer that he is pointing fingers at some bowlers but I genuinely think that to do so would be to do the gentleman an injustice. Clearly he believes that the doosra has the potential to corrupt bowling actions and he would prefer to see the Australian bowling contingent shy away from that technique. Fair enough too if that is his genuine belief.

On the other hand, I also believe that it may be a bit naïve on the part of Australian cricket, if Inverarity is speaking on behalf of the institution rather than as an individual, to encourage a policy that is clearly going to disadvantage Australia to this extent. Put simply, the doosra is arguably the most potent bowling weapon in modern cricket. Especially in limited overs cricket, it is probably the single most influential factor in giving bowling teams a sniff of hope. The fast bowlers have proved woefully inadequate in coming up with anything new to stem the flow of boundaries. In fact, their skill level has actually dropped some considerable level, evidenced by the steady diet of full tosses that are served up at least once an over when under pressure. So the doosra and the variations that followed (carrom ball) can lay claim to being the most influential game-changer. When a bowler with a good doosra comes on to bowl, I immediately sit up and take notice because there is always the chance that a game can be turned on its head. Since Shane Warne led the new spin revolution, nothing has excited me more in the bowling stakes than the perfection of the various types of doosra.

That is why I am slightly flummoxed by Inverarity's stance on it. Whilst not necessarily agreeing with his inference that it may lead to illegal actions, I respect his integrity enough to accept his point in the spirit it was intended. However, to encourage Australian spinners to not learn the art form is possibly putting principle before pragmatism. That in itself is admirable if it were applied universally but no country, least of all Australia, has ever applied this morality on a 'whole of cricket' basis so what makes the doosra so special? Is Inverarity suggesting that Australian cricket should now make decisions on the basis of integrity or is the doosra singled out as the one issue where we apply the Integrity Test? If so, is it any coincidence that we don't really have anyone who can bowl the doosra with any great proficiency and will that change on the day we discover our own Doosra Doctor?

All countries have their own inconsistencies to be ashamed of so I'm not suggesting that Australia is alone in this regard. Far from it. Living in Australia, I just get to see a lot more of the local cricketing news so I'm better qualified to make comment on Australian examples. A few examples spring to mind….let's think back to the times when we prepared turning tracks in the 1980s to beat the West Indies. A fair enough tactic too so long as there's no complaints if other teams prepare pitches to suit their strengths. Similarly, I recall a period during the late 1990s when Australian teams insisted on having their fielder's word accepted when a low catch had been taken. That theory worked OK until Andy Bichel claimed a caught and bowled off Michael Vaughan in the 2002/03 Ashes series when replays showed it had clearly bounced in front of him. I know Bich quite well and he is as honest as they come so it was genuinely a case of him thinking it had carried when in fact it hadn't. Around that same period, Justin Langer refused to walk when caught by Brian Lara at slip, despite the Australian mantra that a fielder's word was his bond. They come no more honourable than Lara in this regard so what happened to the principle? Like all matters of convenience, it is admirable but rarely works when it becomes an inconvenient truth.

And that is the source of my confusion with linking the doosra to the question of integrity. I'm not convinced that the integrity issue will stand the test of time if Australia accidentally discovers a home-grown exponent of this delivery. Likewise the issue of the switch-hit. Now that Dave Warner plays it as well as anyone, are we opposed to this too on integrity grounds? If Warner hadn't mastered the shot, would that too be something that we would not encourage because it perhaps bent the spirit of cricket?

Only time will tell whether Inverarity's wisdom and guidance will be mirrored by those in the organisation with perhaps less integrity and more pragmatism in their veins. I suspect it will take more than one decent man to stop an irresistible force. His motives may be pure indeed but I suspect that this is one issue that will turn the other way!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Keywords: Controversy

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Matt on (December 17, 2012, 2:53 GMT)

Inverarity’s comments seem fair to me.

Bowlers are required to deliver the ball without straightening their arm. This was traditionally judged with the benefit of the naked eye. Technology now shows that even with the best of intentions, bowlers will flex their elbows, presumably without intending to do so. So, some latitude has been permitted to allow deliveries which are intended to be delivered with a straight arm but involve some involuntary degree of straightening.

The difficulty with the doosra is that it seems to require deliberate straightening in order to be bowled but the bowler tries to stay within the permitted limits. Intentionally bowling with a bent arm but trying not to break the latitude which the law allows will inevitably lead to the boundaries being pushed and threatens the integrity of the game.

Posted by Aarash Amjad on (November 20, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

they are just thinking about doosra, beacuse they can`t face it with confidence. specially doosra of S. Ajmal is a mystifier , unique and Amazing. he can be more dangerous in Australia and Caribian.

Posted by John on (November 2, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

@Gibb - I used to think the underarm delivery wasn't on, but I've changed my mind because at least it forced a rethink in the rules to say it is outlawed (I think this would have happened at some point regardless of whether Chappell had done it or not). There are still plenty of areas where people respect some sort of weird honour code eg not bowling full tosses (hell it even used to be considered ungentlemanly like to hit on the leg side!), ok so these can be sometimes easier to hit for a boundary but often it is an unexpected delivery. Sometimes I think it's worthwhile testing the rules, in this case allowing spinners to use a questionable delivery (the doosra) might get it more exposure and perhaps a rule change if necessary.

Posted by Gibb on (November 1, 2012, 14:36 GMT)

Integrity ??? Does Anyone Remember when Greg Chappell Had Trevor Chappell bowl the Last ball of an innings underhand (Rolled on the Pitch Which has been illegal forever)so it would not be hit for a six, Which was needed to win the game,Think it Was Against New Zealand. Where was the Australian Integrity Then ?? Or the Incident with Andrew Symonds against India ?? Both Captains and also the teams had agreed to the Honour Code. (when you nicked it u walked).Needless to say Australia did not. in Particular Andrew Symonds did not.

Posted by bala on (November 1, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

Any body who has tried bowling off spin will know that it impossible to bowl a doosra without bending the elbow. So I can undertstand what Mr. Inverarity is trying to say here, Even if the Aussie kids try to bowl doosras their coaches will forbid them because it is not the way cricket is supposed to be played. I am sure no one will have a problem with Mendis or Narine like actons.

Posted by truthdead on (November 1, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

i think shabut and sauf (may be some others i didnt spot) are spot on here.it's a case of sour grapes. i dare also say aussies are not as rigid as they may appear in terms of allowing inventive spin bowling at domestic level. they, like all the others, will secretly want someone like narine or ajmal. But obviously they are having a hard time finding anyone close to that.they'll bash the doosra and its possessors until they find one.it was glaring how chappel called swann(who's a very good offie, without any mysteries of course!)the greatest spin bowler at present and putting an under-19 level indian next to him,without even caring to acknowledge that a bowler in the name of ajmal exist. but the way saffers played swann, and the way most of the test playing nations played ajmal says you truth is far from what Mr. Chappel likes to believe.

Posted by criclogics on (November 1, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

Australian cricket and integrity? Sorry mate. Far too many examples than you have given to prove that they are opposites. The day Australia has a good exponent of the Doosra, this talk will vanish.

Posted by Meety on (October 31, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

@cricketlover at October 31, 2012 12:34 AM -sorry mate - you are completely WRONG! In the last couple of years, Cric Oz, have had Saqlain Mushtaq out doing coaching sessions & invited Murali. By my reckoning that is TWO sub-continental spinners that have been asked! With regards reverse swing - it was never regarded as cheating, BALL TAMPERING was regarded as cheating. A man I highly admire - Imran Khan, even admitted to ball tampering! I also remember watching Geoff Lawson picking the hell out of a seam on national TV. Ball tampering got outlawed & since then reverse swing techniques are way different from the 2 Ws era! Reverse swing was around LONG before the 2 Ws! On a different note - wasn't Shaid Afridi caught eating the ball a few yrs back?

Posted by cricketlover on (October 31, 2012, 0:34 GMT)

spot on mate! as soon as CA discovers a bowler who can bowl doosra all this talk of integerity will be out the window. remember dan cullen who claimed he can bowl it and hauritz when he was in test side said he tried to bowl but couldn't ? well thats the crux of the problem really. aussie spinners can't bowl doosra and CA is too proud to ask someone from sub continent to help them learn the 'ART'. so it remains a blot on the integerity of cricket !!

btw, reverse swing was 'cheating' in the 90s when both waqar and wasim destroyed england. but later from mid to late 90s when darren gough and co started to do it the cheating became an 'ART' and it became hall of fame when eng got ashes back in 2005 on back of simon jones and freddy's reverse swing heroics.

Posted by Gizza on (October 30, 2012, 23:47 GMT)

I think the carom ball is a more legitimate delivery for off-spinners to add to their arsenal. @Tom Moody, is that actually you? It would be great if former cricketers comment on Cricinfo more often!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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