No. 36 December 18, 2010

The bouncer rule

West Indies' intimidatory tactics and painfully slow over-rates prompted the lawmakers to take away the fast bowler's most lethal weapon

Mike Gatting's broken nose courtesy Malcolm Marshall © PA Photos


Somewhere along the way - between Paul Terry's broken arm and Mike Gatting's pulped nose - the West Indies pace quartet of the 1980s picked up a reputation for intimidatory bowling. Other teams, when they weren't complaining about the blows inflicted on their bodies and psyche, started to point at West Indies' over-rate, which sometimes crawled along at just 70 a day.

Something had to give, and when it did it tilted the balance completely the other way. In 1991, the ICC introduced the "one bouncer per batsman per over" rule in an attempt to end the intimidation, and buck up the over-rates. Flat-track bullies rejoiced but fast bowlers, already condemned to bowling on shirtfronts in most parts of the world, weren't amused, and vociferous protests saw the law amended in 1994 to incorporate two bouncers per over. One-day cricket took much longer to listen to the bowlers' pleas, and it was only in 2001 that once bouncer per over was allowed.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo.This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tyryll on December 20, 2010, 18:13 GMT

    91' marked the decline of Windies cricket....thanks for letting us know why this happened. That is also the reason we are still struggling to find two front line seamers. Its time to get our pitches back to top standards like the one at Centurion.

  • Charu on December 20, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    kirksland on (December 19 2010, 13:33 PM GMT) and kirksland on (December 19 2010, 13:23 PM GMT)

    "Lets give the bowlers a chance, bring back the fans and the fast bowlers may come back." ... " All one has to do is to watch the first innings of India in SA to illustrate this point."

    Give the bowlers a chance ... right plant grass on the on a water sodden pitch!! Smith was a very relieved man when he won the toss and didn't have to bat first. It's a sorry state of affairs where the toss decides the outcome of the match. Maybe Kirkland should have waited to watch India's second innings before commenting. Anyway, there are two more Tests and ODIs - and we'll see how many bandages Steyn's going to tie on his elbow and swallow painkillers before the end of the tour. Bouncers are overrated and are not wicket-taking deliveries. Moreover, specialist batsmen always treat them with the contempt they rightfully deserve - witness the abusive behaviour of pace bowlers.

  • Sim on December 19, 2010, 19:09 GMT

    @Kirksland: The pitch and conditions played a major role on the first day of the Test between Indian and SA. So, hold off on your judgment about the Indian batsmen until the series is over. Better look at the Aussies and how their top order capitulated on the same day on a far less hostile pitch and more docile bowling in Perth. The pitch (on the first day in SA) was not exactly an advertisement for test cricket. Flat pitches are helping everybody not just subcontinental batsmen. An average of 50 was the gold standard for a quality batsman between 1970 & 1995. The equivalent today is 55. The reason - we need more people like Dale Steyn (121 wickets in 21 matches outside S). Quality fast bowlers still have a big role. Pitches are a problem, but don't cite the pitches to denigrate the quality of batsmen like Sehwag. He has scored aplentyl in England, Aus and SA too and would have done well against all the bowlers you mentioned. Your opinion appears more like wishful thinking, at best.

  • Harley on December 19, 2010, 18:36 GMT

    O what short memories people have. everyone now berates Windies cricket and call for them to be relegated to playing with lesser nations when ICC deliberately strangled the life out of Windies by tailoring the rules to ensure 'blackwashes' never happen again. Didn't see them rush for the rule books with the same alacrity to stifle Aussies though!

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 18:30 GMT

    gavaskar was the only player played always without helmet even against those deadly westindian and Aussie bowlers.not even Richards he never faced westindian bowlers

  • Kannan on December 19, 2010, 17:57 GMT

    Watch Sachin STRUGGLE in the second innings! He is the greatest since Bradman! Any PITCH! Not a problem!

  • Kannan on December 19, 2010, 17:53 GMT

    @Extra Cover: Pakistan produced quality FAST BOWLERS! No offense mate but Imran, Wasim & Waqar bowled on flat subcontinent pitches where the weapon of choice was reverse swing (& hence ball tampering)! They weren't as reliant on bouncers as WI! Windies bowling not scary in '91/92 for you? If AMBROSE, Walsh and Bishop were not scary then Waqar and Wasim were nothing at all!

    @Kirksland:Your Aussies got 2-0 , a brownwash! What is the point of playing in uniform conditions? it is DIVERSITY that makes the game tick! Spinning trackrs are a challenge YOU guys can't FACE! So, let's not take about "Worse Cricket" here!

  • George on December 19, 2010, 17:27 GMT

    This article hasn't mentioned a major cause of the bouncer rule: that the previous law on intimidatory bowling (law 42.3) was never enforced, least of all by umpires in the West Indies.

    Example: at Antigua in 1990, the West Indies bowled 13 (yes thirteen!) bouncers in a row at Robin Smith & Alan Lamb (incidentally, those 13 deliveries took over 10 minutes to bowl, possibly the slowest passage of play in terms of over rate ever seen in test matches?) Neither umpire intervened, even after Robin Smith was struck on the chin.

    So some sort of change to the laws was necessary because what was in place simply never worked. I often wonder whether neutral umpires employed by the ICC rather than compliant local officials would have enforced law 42.3 more even handedly...

  • anurag on December 19, 2010, 17:23 GMT

    (kirksland)---- if u really like test cricket, then u have to see full match , u see india's 2 nd inning ,still lot of cricket is left in the series dont predict anything,india got no match practice match ,we shows how mutch capable of betting in 2 nd inning . india won the match in perth , india is first team who give challenge to aus in their home, when they are on top. and give me the name of teams how win the series in indai? dud play cricket is not meaning just play fast bowling ,u also know how to play spin bowling, which we know very well then any other cricketing team, even shan warn cant do any thing better in indian spin conditions .

  • Len on December 19, 2010, 16:42 GMT

    Everybody knows (even those who do not want to openly admit it) that the bouncer rule was brought in to stop WIndies winning. The highpoint of cricket, as far as England and Australia were concerned, was supposed to be the Ashes, contested by two white teams. Now we have an absurd situation where India and Sth Africa are number 1 and 2 in the ratings, yet both DON'T HAVE AN ATTACK WORTHY OF THE NAME. The WIndies authorities should ignore the ICC clamour about making Tests "last 5 days", and develop quick pitches of their own to bring back quick bowlers in their game. No matter how many chances they give to spinners, they will never win Test matches for them because it is only quick bowling that has carried to them to the top of the tree in the past. In finishing, why is there a paucity on articles relating to WIndian when I look on the WIndian cricket site?

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