November 10, 2004

ICC study reveals that 99% chuck

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Muralitharan: unfairly singled out? © CricInfo

Extensive research conducted by the International Cricket Council has revealed that 99% of bowlers in the history of cricket have been chuckers. The study was undertaken in the wake of the furore surrounding Muttiah Muralitharan, whose doosra was banned earlier this year after Chris Broad, the match referee for the Tests against Australia, reported it to the ICC.

But an article by Derek Pringle in The Daily Telegraph suggests that Murali is no different from the vast majority of his fellow players. The current law states that there should be no straightening or partial straightening of the bowling arm during delivery, and research conducted with precise instrumentation has revealed that even bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock, considered examplars of the classical action, occasionally go over the prescribed tolerance limit, bending their arms by as much as 12 degrees.

The tolerance levels had been set at five degrees for spinners, seven-and-a-half for medium-pacers, and 10 for quick bowlers, a scenario that had invited much criticism from past greats like Ian Chappell. But the study conducted by three prominent biomechanics experts suggests that the human eye can only detect a kink in the action if the straightening is more than 15 degrees.

The trio used cameras shooting at 250 frames per second - ten times the speed of a TV camera - to illustrate phenomena like adduction and hyperextension which can convince an observer watching without the aid of technology that the bowler is chucking.

Based on these findings, the ICC is likely to extend the tolerance limit to 15 degrees for all bowlers, regardless of whether they bowl at Shane Warne's pace or Shoaib Akhtar's. Match officials will still be expected to note down suspicious actions, and pass on the information to the ICC. But unlike before, remedial action will now be the sole preserve of a new body to the set up to help bowlers with the rehabiliation process.

It will include both former Test bowlers and biomechanics experts, and they will have the authority to fail a bowler. Those exceeding the tolerance limit will be on probation for two years, rather than the current one, but subsequent offences will result in a 12-month ban. It remains to be seen, however, if such a system will be introduced at first-class level.