'Sometimes Griffith throws, sometimes he doesn't'
In 1963 Alf Gover was the principal of the leading cricket school in the country. The Cricketer asked him to contribute this technical analysis of the controversial action of Charlie Griffith, the West Indian fast bowler
In my opinion, he was very lucky not to be called for throwing when the West Indies toured England in 1963. The following winter, Griffith was a member of my Commonwealth team which toured Pakistan, and I had the opportunity of studying his action really closely.
The umpires in Pakistan were most sceptical when he delivered either his bouncer or his yorker. It was only the fact that the Test matches we played were unofficial that stopped the umpires from calling him.
Griffith's bouncer and yorker are yards faster than his normal delivery, but he does not change the pace of his run-up to get this extra speed. Normally, a fast bowler has to accelerate more than usual in his run-up if he wants an extra bit of devil. But not Griffith. His amble up to the crease does not alter, but on arrival he bowls from the end of the crease so that he can bowl into the batsman. The ball slants across the wicket towards middle and leg.
So far, so good, but this is where it starts to go wrong - and the key to the unfair delivery is in his footwork, his body action and his balance at the moment of release.
In pressing for extra speed, his right foot points up the wicket. He lands on the outside of his left heel, and the whole of his left foot points towards second slip. The placing of the feet forces the hips to open so that Griffith's body faces the batsman square on. The shoulders have to do the same and just before the moment of release, he is chest-on - not towards the batsman, but even as far across as first slip.
The whole of his body balance simply collapses to the left - it can do nothing else - so that there is no possibility of the normal bowler's follow-through with the body weight properly distributed.
This is the point where he throws. His arm goes away from his body in a bent position with his right elbow pointing in the direction of mid-on and his hand holding the ball close to his face. From that position, he cannot bowl the ball. He must throw.
Now what is the cure? What would I suggest Griffith should do if he came to my school as a young hopeful, asking to be coached? The answer is simple. I would make him take up a position in his delivery stride where it would just be physically impossible for him to throw.
Then I would make him do more or less the same with his left foot. This foot would not be quite square to the wicket, but it would point towards backward short leg, rather than first slip. Now he is sideways on. He has to be.
When his left foot hits the ground, his bowling arm will have gone halfway through its swing and it will be going past his right hip before coming back and up to the point of actually delivering the ball. Being sideways on with the right side away from the batsman, his bowling arm will naturally go behind him in a straight position. It would have to be a conscious and forced effort on Griffith's part to make his right arm go away from his body.
This is the critical moment. Griffith must keep his left side towards the batsman for as long as possible. As his bowling arm starts its upwards swing, his left side will go towards the batsman as the full weight of his body goes on to his left leg. At the same time, his trunk will twist laterally to bring his right side round. His left arm will straighten and swing towards leg slip before going on and past his left side. This left arm movement will help to keep his left side towards the batsman.
His bowling arm must now swing up straight and it will maintain its straightness until the ball has been delivered, following through round the left side of the body to complete a rhythmic, unbroken circle. Cure complete !
You might say wouldn't it be simpler for Griffith to give up his bouncer and yorker. Certainly, but they are the weapons that make him such a dangerous bowler. Griffith would lose some pace from his quicker ball, but with a consistently straight arm, I am sure that he would move the ball more and still be a world-class bowler.