Panel of cricketers voice their opinion June 8, 2004

Let on-field umpires rule on chucking

Wisden Cricinfo staff

It needed technology to spot Shoaib Akhtar's hyperextension. Should more technology be used to resolve the chucking issue? © AFP

The issue of chucking divides opinions, but a clear verdict emerged from a panel of former cricketers instituted by Wisden Asia Cricket: five out of seven members came out in favour of handing the matter back to the umpires. To the question whether a throw should be called by an umpire, there was only one categorical no and a conditional one.

Eleven questions covering a range of issues relating to chucking were put to a panel comprising Greg Chappell, Peter Roebuck, Bob Woolmer, Sidath Wettimuny, Rameez Raja, Sanjay Manjrekar and a current international batsman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The answers, published in the June issue of the magazine, are a mixture of the radical and the expected.

Chappell, Manjrekar, and the current player were clear that if the transgression was obvious, the umpire should call, whereas Wettimuny, while agreeing that "the umpire should be able to call a bowler who is clearly and purposefully breaking the law by throwing", said that the umpire should have access to technology to determine a throw.

Woolmer was categorically against the umpire calling. "The umpire has too much else to do," he said and went on to suggest: "The bowler should be taken through a testing protocol [after being reported by the umpires] using a digital camera in the middle without his knowledge."

Chappell felt that there was a need to have a broader definition of what constituted a throw. Using an inverted argument Chappell said, "It may be best to define what constitutes a fair delivery rather than what is a throw, and move forward from there." While Woolmer agreed with Chappell, Roebuck and Wettimuny felt that the law was fine at the moment. "Unless there is any scientific evidence to the contrary," said Wettimuny, "there is no need for a change."

All barring Chappell were happy with the current reporting structure but many felt that the rehabilitation process needed to be tightened. According to Woolmer, "Rehab of older bowlers is tough and time-consuming, and often it falls down when the bowler resorts to his old action in the effort to get a wicket." The current batsman was against the matter being reported to the home board and said, "Home boards have a vested interest. It should go to a central authority."

The question regarding whether the umpire must call the throw also evoked mixed reactions. Rameez was the only one who felt that it was unfair to report the bowlers based on naked-eye judgement. "Technology is there to be used. The technology saved Shoaib Akhtar because it spotted his hyperextension. It showed that there was a problem with Shabbir Ahmed's action." But Manjrekar felt that a good umpire would be able to spot a bowler taking unfair advantage.

The panel was also asked what its take was on the number of bowlers shielded by medical alibis. The current batsman said that having a physical deformity was no excuse. "If a batsman has defective eyesight, you don't make a special rule for him." But Woolmer and Rameez were willing to make an exception for the cases that involved hyperextension. "I have no problem as the arm bends back past the vertical. In the case of a thrower it is clearly different, where the arm is jerked through."

Notwithstanding all the differing opinions, there were a few common threads that spanned the survey. All recognised the limitations of the current technology for testing and were also critical of the law which allowed different tolerance limits for different types of bowlers. Chappell commented: "I would expect that the forces on the bowling arm are not dissimilar for most bowlers so the tolerances should be the same."

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