Muralithran episode: Brief history of 'chucking' (1 February 1999)

1 February 1999

Muralithran episode: Brief history of 'chucking'

M Shoaib Ahmed

The 18th over of England's innings against Sri Lanka on Jan 22 saw Emerson, one of three umpires, publicly label Muralitharan a chucker during Sri Lanka's visit to Australia three years ago, sparked off amazing scenes at the Adelaide Oval when he adjudged from square leg that the off-spinner's 10th ball, stroked for a single by Nick Knight through mid-off, from the Cathedral End was illegal. Emerson immediately signalled to Sri Lanka's Captain Arjuna Ranatunga that it was the first ball he was unhappy with. He then left the players in no doubt about his position by pointing to his elbow. Tony McQuillan, Emerson's umpiring partner at the Gabba in 1996 when Muralitharan was no-balled seven times.

When Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka was called for throwing on Jan 22, a chapter in the history of cricket was brought into focus. Originally bowling in cricket was exactly the same as bowling in bowls, with the ball rolled under arm along the ground. This method of bowling was prevalent in the 18th century. Some time after 1744 bowlers began to pitch the ball and two new weapons, length and direction, had been added to their armoury. Before the advent of lob bowling the only variation possible had been in the degree of speed at which the ball travelled along the ground. Batsmen did not need to move their feet; they simply stood where they were, swung their long clubbed sticks and dispatched the ball like golfers. The introduction of pitching compelled the batsman to play forward or back. It was arguably the most significant technical advance in the evolution of cricket.

One historian, G B Buckley, has suggested that during the 1744 match between Kent and England, the first match for which we have the complete score, the ball was 'thrown' so that it described a low but airborne trajectory before bouncing. If so, then that match, already historically important, also marked the inception of length bowling at the highest playing level.

By 1773 length bowling had replaced true bowling. It soon led to further experiments. In the 1780s Thomas Walker of Hambledon tried out a form of round-arm delivery but was specifically warned against it. Gradually others tried to bowl it and in 1816 a law was introduced to prohibit it:

'The ball must he howled (not thrown or jerked), and be delivered underhand, with the hand below the elbow. But if the ball be jerked, or the arm extended from the body horizontally, and any part of the hand be uppermost, or the hand horizontally extended when the ball is delivered, the Umpires shall call "No Ball".'

Opponents of round-arm bowling feared that it would restrict scoring and lead to an imbalance in favour of the bowler. Statistics proved them right. The first exponent of round-arm bowling was probably John Willes of Kent. He used to practice batting against the bowling of his sister, Christina. Because of her full skirt she could only deliver the ball round-arm and Willes found it very difficult to play. When he opened the bowling round-arm for Kent against the MCC at Lord's on July 15, 1822, he became the first bowler in the game's history to be no-balled for throwing.

By 1827 many players had tried out the round-arm method and the Sussex pair, William Lillywhite and James Broadbridge, had perfected it. Three experimental matches that season between Sussex and England, in which the effect on scoring was studied, led to the MCC authorising round-arm bowling the following year. Bowlers were allowed to raise their hand level with their elbow. The change was incorporated into a revision of the laws in 1835 but with 'shoulder' replacing 'elbow'. Some were already experimenting with overarm bowling and it was frequently employed in matches when the umpires allowed, Edgar Willsher of Kent was the first to be no-balled for bowling overarm, by John Lillywhite at The Oval on August 26, 1862. Opening England's bowling against Surrey, he was called six times and the England team left the field causing play to be abandoned for the rest of the day. Lillywhite refused to change his mind and he was replaced as umpire for the final day. Thus reprieved, Willsher took 6 for 49.

Overarm bowling was legalized when an amendment to the Laws was passed on 10 June 1864. It did not lead to a wholesale overnight change in bowling actions. Most raised their arm to shoulder height. The 1878 Australians were the first team to employ a specialist overarm attack and another decade was to pass before the new style became prevalent.

The first incident of throwing of course was in 1897-98 at the MCG when Ernie 'Johnah' Jones, a fast bowler from Australia was called against England but despite the allegations he played for his country till 1902.

Former Australian Offie Bruce Yardley was never called in a Test match but he was no-balled for throwing by Douglas Sang Hue, the West Indian in a match against Jamaica at Kingston in 1977-78. The following week he played in a Test without being called by the same umpire.

In 1885 Lord Harris of Kent caused some excitement when he advised his county committee not to play the return match with Lancashire because of a dispute over the legality of the delivery of two of that county's bowlers, J Crossland and G Nash. Prior to this Middlesex in 1883 and Nottinghamshire in 1884 had also refused fixture with Lancashire because of their bowlers.

The throwing controversy flared up again during the 1950s and reached its peak in the 1960 season. In that summer in England, apart from the South African, G M Griffin being called for throwing in the l Lord's Test, seven English bowlers were also no-balled in first-class cricket. Following instructions from the MCC, the umpires began to take a firmer line against the culprits and the Imperial Cricket Conference (Now International Cricket Conference) drew up a new definition of throwing. But there was a great deal of discussion and a number of alterations before it was finally accepted as part of the Laws in 1969.

Players called for throwing in Test Cricket:

  1. Ernie Jones - Australia v England at MCG 1897-98
  2. Tony Lock - England v West Indies at Kingston 1953-54
  3. Geoff Griffin - South Africa V England at Lord's 1960
  4. Haseeb Ahsan - Pakistan v India at Bombay 1960-61
  5. Ian Meckiff - Australia v England at Brisbane 1963-64
  6. Abid Ali - India v New Zealand at Christchurch 1967-68
  7. David Gower - England v New Zealand at Nottingham 1986 (David Gower threw intentionally)
  8. Henry Olonga - Zimbabwe v Pakistan at Harare 1995-96
  9. Muttiah Muralitharan - Sri Lanka v Australia at MCG 1995-96
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan - Sri Lanka v England at Adelaide 1998-99

Source :: Dawn (