Straight From the Shoulder February 2, 2008

No moralising, only problem-solving

Ian Peebles' classic analysis of flawed bowling actions treats chucking as a problem, not a political headache



Subtitled Throwing - Its History and Cure, this classic study written about four decades ago is still the finest on the subject. Written by a man of whom it was said, "For a short time he was one of the most formidable bowlers in the world and one of the few who could make Bradman look fallible," it bears the twin virtues of clarity and empathy. Born in the same year as Bradman, Peebles played 13 Test matches for England.

The virtue of the book is that it treats chucking as a genuine problem, and not as the political headache it later became. So instead of today's moralising, you get the technical and human aspects of the problem, and an elegant solution, described long before television replays became the norm.

As far back as 1897, the "Demon", Fred Spofforth, had made a case for legalising throwing, concluding, "If nothing is to be done in the matter, the best way is to legalise throwing, and in one season it would bring about its own cure." Peebles discusses this in his book, but suggests his own "Horizontal Law" would be the most effective way of dealing with chuckers. It would read thus: "When the arm reaches the horizontal on the final swing it will be fully extended until the ball is released." Peebles then explains, "To ask a bowler to keep his arm straight is not to inflict any hardship upon him, and quite the contrary is the case in the training of the young." Peebles, who began his career as Aubrey Faulkner's secretary in his coaching school knew the importance of getting it right when young.

As a keen observer with a wonderful feel for words, Peebles was unsurpassed. His autobiography, Spinner's Yarn must rank with Arthur Mailey's as among the best written by a cricketer. In Jack Fingleton's fantasy cricket league, with the best-ever teams from England, Australia, West Indies and South Africa taking part, he nominates two umpires, Frank Chester and George Hele. And to report the games? "Three writers - [Neville] Cardus, Peebles and Robertson-Glasgow - and the rest of the world's press to run their messages and bring them sandwiches."

Extract:
(On Ian Meckiff's action): "His action resembled a coach throwing the ball to a young pupil in the net...When one saw him from directly behind, the result was disturbing."

(On Jim Burke): "The chopping bent-arm motion of a constable laying his truncheon on a very short offender's head."

Straight from the Shoulder
by Ian Peebles

Hutchinson & Co Ltd, 1968

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore