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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Beware an epidemic of chucking

Lax laws and a complicated reporting process mean the threat is all too real

Ian Chappell

May 5, 2013

Comments: 77 | Text size: A | A

Ian Meckiff bowls, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 2nd day, January 1, 1959
Ian Meckiff: a victim of the movement against dubious actions in Australia © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ian Meckiff | Peter Trethewey
Teams: Australia

This week I had an entertaining lunch with former South Australian fast bowler Peter Trethewey. Known to his mates as "The Claw", Trethewey had his Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame in the late 1950s when English cricket writers depicted him and his opening partner Alan Hitchcox as "Trethrowey and Pitchcox".

It was a period when doubtful actions were rife in Australian cricket, and the Fleet Street press was convinced bowlers of this ilk were responsible for Richie Benaud's team cruising to a 4-0 Ashes victory. To be fair to England's fourth estate, Sir Donald Bradman, then a selector and an Australian Cricket Board member, started a purge to eradicate dubious actions from Australian cricket. This resulted in Australian fast bowler Ian Meckiff being made the scapegoat when he was no-balled from square leg at the Gabba Test in 1963-64. He never played Test cricket again.

That cut-throat approach is a far cry from the modern stance. The officials got themselves in a bind when they misguidedly bent over backwards to accommodate Muttiah Muralitharan's unorthodox action. This shortsighted approach has resulted in all kinds of bends and flexes being allowed in bowling actions. This will lead to an escalation in the epidemic that will eventually force the administrators to either take drastic action or declare the game an elongated form of baseball.

Instead of looking to simplify the law regarding bowling actions, administrators have complicated the process. It has reached the point where it's a barrister's dream and it doesn't take a Rumpole of the Bailey to keep serial offenders playing the game. Even worse, the current drawn-out process surrounding dubious actions doesn't give the batsmen the appropriate protection in the middle.

It's a nightmare for a batsman when someone chucks the odd delivery. That makes it difficult to adjust, and often a batsman becomes so aware of the dubious delivery, he's fooled by a legal one. No batsman wants a bowler thrown out of the game but he is entitled to be protected by a call from square leg when a bowler transgresses. Under the current law, with all the piffle about 15 degrees of flex and a long drawn-out notification process, this isn't possible.

A bowler is no-balled when he oversteps the front line by a fraction, which makes absolutely no difference down the other end. Yet a batsman isn't protected when a dubious delivery (that gives a bowler a huge advantage) abbreviates his innings. This is a denial of a batsman's basic rights.

The law needs to be modified to something really simple so the legal people can't get their teeth into it in a court. This way the umpire at square leg will feel comfortable calling a no-ball on the field, knowing he won't finish up in court defending his judgement against a barrister who doesn't know the difference between a no-ball and no man's land.

Any modification of the law will require a 12-month lead-in time so the current crop of bowlers can iron out any kinks in order to comply with the new regulations. In the meantime, officials need to be vigilant and strict in youth tournaments, and any bowler with a doubtful action should be told to fix his delivery or find another profession.

If these remedies aren't adopted soon, the copycat syndrome will ensure the market is flooded and then it'll be difficult to tell the difference between the delivery of a bowler and that of a baseball pitcher. If that occurs, the stormy late '50s-early '60s period will be looked back on as one of relatively pure bowling actions.

These days the mild-mannered Trethewey is a successful businessman, living in California with his charming American wife, Peggy. That means he's mostly quarantined from modern quirky bowling actions, but ironically his wife's name conjures up thoughts of the baseball term "pegged out", meaning to throw out a base runner. Wouldn't today's English media have a ball with that: "Trethrowey pegged out at home"?

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

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Posted by McGorium on (May 8, 2013, 6:32 GMT)

@irishwolfhound: A few things: The "doosra" was never mentioned, only long sleeves. That list has non-offspinners in it. Graeme Swann has played with half sleeves; google image search is your friend. Check out the INdia vs England at Nagpur game, or photos. He did so in many other India-England games. Finally, even if you were right about Swann (which you aren't), one swallow (or swann, in this case) does not a summer make. Now, coming to the doosra: I'm hard pressed to think of one bowler who bowls the doosra without flexing their elbow more over their standard offspinner. I don't care whether it can be bowled without flexing, it probably can. But it isn't, likely because you get a little more turn and bounce if you do chuck. In another age, Murali, Ajmal, Saqlain, Harbajan would all be banned. Luckily for them, the ICC chose an arbitrary 15 deg flex (impossible to enforce on field under current technology), and now umps have no way of being sure if it was 13.5 or 17 degs.

Posted by jay57870 on (May 8, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

Even former PM John Howard - the "cricket tragic" - got into the fray by calling Murali a "chucker"! The Aussie crowds heckled him with "No Ball" jeers! Still Murali - arguably the best spinner ever - stood his ground. He passed the biomechanical tests & ICC was forced to issue the 15-degree rule in 2004. Cricket has moved with the times. Bowling has evolved, progressing from under-arm to round arm to over arm. And now the 15-degree system is working under the constant scrutiny of umpires. Their post-match reports are useful: many have improved their actions while some have dropped a dubious delivery. A high-profile case: John Botha dropped the doosra. Is that why John Inverarity disses the legal doosra? But where's the "epidemic of chucking"? Ian's paranoid about chucking as if it's like pitching in baseball! Flip-flopping is a lot like Switch-hitting: It's "patently unfair" to bowlers. Wouldn't today's media have a ball with "Chappelli shouldn't Switch-hit, or he'll be called out"?

Posted by jay57870 on (May 8, 2013, 4:16 GMT)

Ian - Flip-Flopping? In a 2004 column on simplifying the 'crooked' law, Ian asserted: "I also don't believe it's right to penalise Muralitharan (or any other player) because he's physically able to do things others aren't capable of achieving"! He felt it was OK as it did not give Murali "any unfair advantage" over "any other finger spinner"! And, importantly, if Murali's arm going "bent to straight" is questionable, then "virtually every bowler is in some doubt" (like Shane Warne)! So why is Ian now turning Murali into his punching bag for this "epidemic of chucking"? Epidemic? Really? It's simply fear-mongering speculation by Chappelli. Or maybe it's this Aussie paranoia about dubious throwing actions. The late Peter Roebuck pointed out these questionable calls are "often publicly and mostly by a particular brand of Australian umpire" (eg Darrell Hair & Ross Emerson)! Gideon Haigh also confirmed "the vast majority of complainants about the tolerance limits have been Australian"! TBC

Posted by dave_mar on (May 7, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

While Murali's bowling action, and no-balling by Hair in the 90s may have instigated the studies into bowling actions, there is no way that 15 degree policy was designed to accommodate Murali's action. They studied lots of different bowlers, including many with very traditional straight-arm actions and many got very close to the 15 degree limit. Murali was found to be within it, and no more bent than anyone else.

A lot of people are ignorant of the law (both the modern version and original) where there is nothing that states you must bowl with a straight arm. What you mustn't do is straighten a bent arm. Bowling with a fixed bent arm is fine and always has been. Sadly many people (even some umpires) aren't aware of this. Murali's problem was that he's got a deformed arm with a natural kink, so it can appear to flex as his arm comes over. He's also very flexible wrists which can also give the impression of chucking.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 20:55 GMT)

Sonny Ramadhin has admitted that he 'threw', he said that's why he always kept his sleeves buttoned up.

Posted by landl47 on (May 6, 2013, 19:20 GMT)

Just a small point: Greatest_Game, although Bradman knew cricket, at the time Murali was no-balled by Darrell Hair, The Don was 87 years old. I'm not sure by that time he was the most reliable authority on who Murali was, let alone the legality of his bowling action. If you want support for your position, I think you need to call on an Australian captain with more recent experience- perhaps someone like, say, Ian Chappell?

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 17:39 GMT)

I thought the biometric tests showed that bowlers with actions which looked like they were completely clean, were actually bending it a bit. So what is Ian Chappell on about. If everyone bends a bit, then most likely those remodelled actions in the 1950s were also bending it a bit; its just that they didn't have that bio metric analysis available to them at that time. Then what is the point of this article ? All bowlers bend. Thats the end point.

Posted by S.Jagernath on (May 6, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

I really can't see how the ICC could possibly prevent this becoming an epidemic.Kevon Cooper regularly has a bent arms at the time of delivery & the ICC hasn't done anything really.The ICC will find it difficult after the Muralitharan situation,they can't exactly go back & scrutinise each of the 800 wickets or the wickets of any other bowler.There was a story just after Muralitharan retired that many umpires,umpired in fear of calling him for chucking & they just let him retire & avoid a situation.

Posted by ThyrSaadam on (May 6, 2013, 14:41 GMT)

A a layman, it would seem that use of technology in this case has only been a deterrent to the policy. Unless there is a real time sensing device which can count for the 15 degrees allowed this theory is going to be flawed, as a bowler in international cricket, one would have enough experience to alter their action during the tests. I don't know the specifics of the test and so cant comment on the legitimacy of the test, but if you think you don't see something correct about the action then chances are there is something wrong. The whole theory that about 70 % of the bowlers bend their arm over 12 degrees in an ICC analysis is blown out of proportion. How many of those bowlers had doubtful actions? I think Arjuna Ranatunga some time back came out seeing "he may have created a monster".ICC has to simply empower the umpires with the responsibility of calling something as they see it. Captians should not be given the option of walking-off and should be charged if they threaten to walk off

Posted by Jonathan_E on (May 6, 2013, 14:31 GMT)

The question isn't whether Murali could bowl a legal doosra with a straight arm, as I'm satisfied he can: the question is whether he could bowl an *unpickable* one. Or whether the rather obvious jerking motion that he makes when bowling -- and evidently did NOT make in the test with his arm in a splint, because it could not have been made - is what is necessary to disguise his doosra from his conventional offbreak.

Another note: Legal doosras have been done with an action that clearly passes muster. Saqlain Mushtaq, for starters (although he should have been no-balled for overstepping more often than he was.) There is an argument that Sonny Ramadhin - also an offbreak finger-spinner who could make the ball go the other way - also bowled what we now call a doosra, before it was given that name: and again there were no complaints about his action.

Posted by applethief on (May 6, 2013, 14:19 GMT)

@McGorium always one bowler that people like to leave of that list. When was the last time you saw Graham Swann bowl without long sleeves, even in intense heat? Is length of sleeve evidence of guilt? Everyone seems to be buying into the mass delusion that it's not possible to bowl the doosra without throwing, wilfully misunderstanding how it is delivered - there's a reason the doosra doesn't turn much, it's because the spin is imparted by the this and forth fingers under the ball, not rolling the index finger over the ball with the arm at a bent angle. Its not fair to intentionally lower your levels of analysis to help sustain a pejorative diatribe

Posted by Clan_McLachlan on (May 6, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

I disagree with Mr Chappell.

The new 15 degree rule as written is clearer, fairer and more consistent to all bowlers. It has brought innovations to the game and gone some way to leveling a playing field that keeps tilting towards batsmen.

The old 5/10/15 degree rule was confusing and relied on the classification of bowlers into different categories. How would one classify a Marlon Samuels (non-spinning medium pace off a two step run up), Anil Kumble (sharp wrist spin off a medium pacers run), or other mixed bowlers (Chandila, Mendis, etc). Furthermore it's been shown that spinners have as fast an arm action as fast bowlers - the better to impart revs on the ball. So the old rule was disadvantaging them.

What's missing is ease and consistency of application for the new law. Bowlers in England are too heavily policed, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan they aren't policed enough, etc. Until there's some cheap and easy "litmus" test of young bowlers, the system will always fail to be consistent

Posted by Mumbai2NY on (May 6, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

It's true that every bowler bends his elbow to some extent. A literal 0% bend is an impossibility. So how does one go about coming up with a "fair" threshold? In my view, the threshold needs to be such, that a certain % of the outliers are disqualified. If one sampled the degrees of bent across bowlers, one is likely to find a distribution with huge concentration around a particular number (e.g. 5% or 6% or some other number) and then perceive the instances taper off at higher percentages. e.g. only 7% fall greater than 10% bend and 3% over 12% bend etc. So one determines the threshold based on what % of the outliers are to be disqualified. The numbers above are made up, so focus more on the approach.

Posted by Thomas_Ratnam on (May 6, 2013, 12:21 GMT)

I note that many observations made here refer to the 'Flexion' of the elbow. The Laws of Cricket prohibit 'Extension' which is the exact opposite. I take it that fans mean extension when they talk of ilegal deliveries. The point I wish to make is that this is a highly technical issue requiring the expertise of biomechanics, statistics and cricket technicians and the understanding of proper nomenclature. It is impossible to keep it simple and in fact by doing so you wil usher in the epidemic that Iam Chappelll fears.

Posted by trav29 on (May 6, 2013, 11:48 GMT)

the 15 degree rule has really just confused the issue and people are ignoring the most important aspect of what the difference is between a legitimate delivery and a "chuck"

the 15 degree rule came in because it was shown that most bowlers had some degree of flex in their arm due to the stress imparted during the delivery action

that is a natural and involuntary consequence of bowling

that is nowhere near the same thing as bowlers consciously flexing their arm in order to bowl certain deliveries, spinners don't have a 15 degree flex due to natural pressures , they have it because they want to deliver a ball they cant do without cheating

Posted by PFEL on (May 6, 2013, 10:56 GMT)

A few points: - The scientific research on the matter has so many obvious serious limitations, you can't really make a clinically significant decision from it - many bowlers throw only certain deliveries - It is physically impossible to bowl a doosra legally (or what should be legally) - All the bowlers that look like they chuck, I GUARANTEE you are using way over 15 degrees regardless - If you actually think that all the "mystery spinners" and new-style off spinners coming out of the sub continent these days are bowling legal deliveries, you are SERIOUSLY delusional

Posted by moaningmike on (May 6, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

Well said Ian. I agree with every word. Let the onfield umpires do their job. I maintain that everyone who has ever played cricket knows when he is bowling fairly or chucking; it feels different. Similarly, I am convinced that every fielder knows when he has caught the ball fairly or when he has caught it on the half-volley. Ex-Test players can say what they like in the commentary box to stick up for their former colleague, but the fielder knows when he is cheating.

Posted by jackthelad on (May 6, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

The point is one of pragmatics. As anyone who has bowled spin knows, it is anatomically impossible to get any degree of turn on a finger-spun ball without at some stage bending the arm a little. 'Throwing' only becomes a problem when it is done by a quick, aiming at the batsman. Get a slow bowler 'chucking' them and he will be hit all over the park, as he has sacrificed all his variation.

Posted by srikanths on (May 6, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

No disagreement with Greatest Game and a few others who have mentioned that "no elbow bend " is a physical immpossibility and that what we see with our naked eyes can not be conclusive enough .Umpires also obviously can not come to any kind of conclusion .This however does not explain as to how the Umpire would be able to do a better job when the same is made 15 degrees. Umpires don"t have precision systems built in to find out whether the flex is or less or more. Umpiring is done based on what they see. Either we should have bowlers attached to some instrument to continuousl feed information to a system or change the rules of the sport to make it possible for all of us to enjoy based on waht we see on field of play. Better make throw legal but change some other rules which counter this to make the bat ball contest an equal one. One merit definiyely I see in what Chappell says is that , when something can't be monitored , it can't be controlled.Real danger of proliferation of thrw

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

A slew of Australian bowlers got purged for throwing. Tony Lock had to remodel his action when he got called for throwing. Geoff Cope had the same, twice. No suggestion that we ought to look at biometrics or argue over some arbitrary number of degrees then.

And in recent history, Steve Finn's annoying habit of clattering the stumps resulting in dead-balls led to the powers that be deciding in almost indecent haste that we needed a new codicil to the No Ball law, almost by definition to punish one bowler or teach him to mend his ways.

If anyone thinks that unfair attention is paid to subcontinental bowlers, perhaps they ought to consider what the bowlers mentioned above had in common.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (May 6, 2013, 8:25 GMT)

The 15 degree rule should be kicked out immediately. It is such a shame that things have come to this !

Posted by Johnxyz on (May 6, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

Shocked and disappointed to see Ian comment on Murali. Shocked because Chappell actually defended Murali quite often during the height of the controversy and thereafter. Disappointed because he too has now embraced the false claim that the law was changed to accommodate Murali. Not sure why the turn-around now.

Posted by Meety on (May 6, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

Most of this COULD become moot in the not too distant future, as there is technology (eithar about to be or has been trialled), which involve non-intrusive data extracted live from the bowler. IC is 100% correct when he says the legislative changes have muddied the waters. In Oz there have been several FC bowlers who have had to undergo remedial work on their actions, however in some cases, the reporting process has taken all season & we had a bowler in our Shield Final who has since been suspended. Until they fast track the technology that can deliver instant diagnostics, we are going to see more dubious actions. My only gripe with the testing done on Murali was that it was not in a game-scenario & that would be easy to just go thru the motions during testing (not saying that Murali would deliberately do that).

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 7:59 GMT)

Completely agree .. Throw out these chuckers .. no bending of rules for arm bend ..

Posted by pauln2 on (May 6, 2013, 7:44 GMT)

The laws have never been applied properly which is why, about every 60 years or so, the same old argument flares up again. It's not questioning the player's sportsmanship, only their technique. Imagine a footballer who made every tackle with the studs high, or a rugby player who only tackled around the neck. They'd be out of the game because their technique doesn't conform to the laws. Why is bowling different?

The ICC has to take a hit on this, as everything they've done to (supposedly) combat throwing has been wishy-washy and never had a chance of succeeding. The umps won't call a guy. Selectors won't act by leaving him out. Coaches won't rectify a faulty action if the bloke gets wickets and gets away with it. Committees huff and puff and achieve nowt. And we've got a mess that will take a lot of sorting out as a result.

I don't agree with all Ian says in this article, but I certainly agree throwing is a serious threat to our game right now.

Posted by criteek on (May 6, 2013, 5:04 GMT)

Why not have the action checked for being legal for all bowlers before the start of the series? That ways the problem is sorted out before it gets out of hand on the field. If there is a problem with the action of the bowler in the match then leave it upto the opposition team to raise the point and not the umpire. The support staff of the teams can check and raise it to the match refree and make it similar to an appeal for a wicket. Is too much asking the umpire to judge the legality of the delivery on the field. How do you judge 13 v 17 degree bowler's flex on the field manually?

Posted by Kays789 on (May 6, 2013, 4:55 GMT)

The only thing misguided about the Muralitharan situation Mr. Chappell is that you are blatantly wrong in your tunnel-visioned analysis of it. Murali certainly brought the issue to everyone's attention only to realize that everybody was chucking including your very own countrymen. The laws were changed not to accommodate one man, but to accommodate reality which is that the issue of chucking is not as simple as you think. No one stern regulation would make sense. Sometimes complications are necessary. But I understand why someone like you would prefer a simpleton's solution.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 4:25 GMT)

Chappell has mostly missed the point; as many have stated in the comments he completely misunderstands (or misrepresents) what happened in regards to Murali's action being tested and the subsequent changes to the law. It is clear that the law as it was became unworkable once it was found that all bowlers in fact 'chuck' to some degree once you can objectively measure the amount of extension of the elbow. The old law turned out to be rooted in fantasy.

However, this remains a valid point "it's a nightmare for a batsman when someone chucks the odd delivery". The current law and enforcement regime is just as rooted in fantasy as the old, in this case the idea that a bowlers action is consistent from ball to ball. Take someone like Marlon Samuels. His action has been cleared a number of times, yet his occasional 'fast ball' look extremely dubious and he could easily be bowling that in way he does not do when being tested in sterile conditions. How should we deal with this?

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 6, 2013, 3:38 GMT)

Old pro's like Ian and other on here are out of their depth when they speak of chucking. They really dont know much about what chucking is, read through the whole article and you wont find anything where IC gives a concise definition of whats chucking and whats not. The laws weren't altered for Murali, the Murali-Hair saga only started this process of enactment of the laws for the first time. ICC being an international body and when they have to ban someone for chucking, must provide proof and only proof is the human biomechanics. They surely would have banned Murali if he alone was found to have few degrees of flexion. They found that fast bowlers flex their elbows even more than the spinners like Murali, e.g. McGrath. I respect the old pro's in the game and value their opinion but this one is simply not their forte. Better leave it to the people who know a thing or two about it. Besides, there's talk of mini devices that could monitor bowlers in live matches. Epidemic? Seriously?

Posted by Greatest_Game on (May 6, 2013, 2:52 GMT)

@ Guthers007 says bowling laws "were altered specifically to accommodate Murali. Any one who thinks any different has no idea about what they are talking about."

Sir Don Bradman knew what he was talking about. As Chappel wrote, The Don got rid of the chuckers in Aus cricket! Right?

Bradman wrote "Murali, for me, shows perhaps the highest discipline of any spin bowler since the war... It is with this in mind, and with the game's need to engage as a world sport, that I found umpire Darrel Hare's [sic] calling of Murali so distasteful. It was technically impossible of umpire Hare to call Murali from the bowler's end, even once ... Why was his eye not on the foot-fall and crease? ... For me, this was the worst example of umpiring that I have witnessed, and against everything the game stands for ... clearly Murali does not throw the ball."

Why change the laws for a bowler who doesn't throw? Are you saying that Bradman had no idea what he was talking about, but you do, Guthers? Really?

Posted by jmcilhinney on (May 6, 2013, 2:45 GMT)

I object to Chappelli's suggestion that the law was changed for Murali. We all know that that is not the case. Certainly, it was issues with Murali's action that brought the issue to the fore and caused all bowlers' actions to be examined and many to be found to be illegal under the laws at the time. Yes, Murali's action looks dodgy, as do the actions of various unorthodox spinners including Ajmal. The fact that they look odd to the eye but are no less legal than many other actions that look OK, such as Brett Lee, is exactly why you cannot leave it to the on-field umpires to decide whether or not a bowler is bending their elbow within legal limits.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 2:40 GMT)

The rules were changed because it was FOUND by SCIENCE that ALL bowlers CHUCK according to the existing rules - there is no such thing as a pure action. Therefore a THRESHOLD becomes necessary. Many people commenting here including so-called cricket legends are too dump to get it. It is like saying "In my times, earth was considered flat. All sorts of trouble will come because you consider it round. I can SEE its flat.". No, the earth is not flat, NEVER has been. No bowler has a pure action, NEVER did. Hence the new rules. Get a life.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2013, 2:28 GMT)

Yes Ian is perfectly right and the misguided bending over backwards by the Cricket officials to accommodate all kinds of bends and flexes being allowed in bowling actions is indeed bringing over a 'plague of chuckers ' . The disease is more prevalent in the sub continent where bowlers strive to bowl fast on "sleepy tracks' . Even spinners are resorting to the 'bends and flexes' to deliver the 'carrom ball' & 'doosra'. Harbhajan was doing the doosra and reaping a rich haul of wickets till ICC pointed out the flaw ( surprising how they did it after accommodating Murali)and since then he has become more of a very mundane spinner . However we do not get to see very many ''bends and flexes'' overseas in england , australia or new zealand though we had Nantie hayward doing it in south africa.

Posted by leighsydneychina on (May 6, 2013, 0:56 GMT)

I don't often agree with Ian Chappell, but in this occassion I DO have to agree. Fast and slow bowlers now have actions that are just throwing....Muralitharan's action was called by Darrell Hare... BUT, the definition of a throw was changed AFTER he was called, to allow him to bowl. SO Hare was correct in calling him at the time. But too much venom and bile had been directed his way to allow him to continue.

I see McGorium has detailed quite a list.... Lee should also to added to that list, not on all occassions, but the effort ball was always susptect.

Unfortunately, by kowtowning to the ICB and the money.. plus the pressure from the rest of sub-contiinental cricket, the rules seem to be in flux. I see now in the IPL, players remonstrating with umpires. What a great example.

Posted by NIPPY_89 on (May 6, 2013, 0:45 GMT)

I find it hard to believe that ICC bent over backwards to change the rules to accommodate muralidaran. Specially because Sri Lanka isn't a huge country and doesn't have the influence that countries like India, England and Australia have on the ICC. I remember reading an article on Cricinfo that a study found that nearly 90% of bowlers were over 10 degrees before the rule change including players like McGrath. I also think that this article exaggerate things. I don't think spinners have a massive advantage over the batsmen as a direct consequence of the 15 degree law. If anything it makes for good viewing. Of all the spinners in the world now I've only seen Marlon Samuels that has a questionable action and a direct advantage from it.

Posted by Mark00 on (May 6, 2013, 0:20 GMT)

Over-arm bowling revolutionized cricket and made it the spectacle that turned cricket into a public spectacle not seen since the arenas of ancient Rome. From Bodyline to the West Indian pace quartet, the thrill and passion of fast bowling sustained the game but, unable to counter the West Indies on the field, the mediocrities accomplished via the ICC by debilitating fast bowlers. 100 years of cricket thrown away. The game meandered and changed. The game is at an ebb, not only where it began, but in the power houses of the past, Australia and the West Indian. T20 is just a booster shot. If nothing changes Test Cricket will die. If it is to survive. It must be a spectacle again. It must send shivers up the spine. It must be the visceral experience that created Bradman and Larwood, Lillee and Richards and all the magic between. The ICC has one last chance to save cricket. They must legalize throwing.

Posted by Guthers007 on (May 5, 2013, 23:20 GMT)

Ian Chappell is spot on. The playing conditions relating to the legal delivery of a ball were altered specifically to accommodate Murali. Any one who thinks any different has no idea about what they are talking about.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 22:42 GMT)

Why is it that Chappell/Gilchrist/Benaud choose to avoid addressing the reasons for the 15 degrule? Of the 130 bowlers who were tested by the ICC panel that studied the issue, just one, Ramnaresh Sarwan, did not flex his arm when bowling. The findings of the expert panel that reported to the ICC committee was that the average degree of elbow extension was 8-10 deg. and that a typical illegal delivery was in excess of 20 deg. If the committee "bent over backwards to accommodate Muttiah Muralitharan's unorthodox action" they were also accommodating 128 others, including McGrath, Warne and every Australian bowler tested. In Muralitharan's case he cannot completely straighten his arm due to a congenital condition, creating an illusion that he flexes his arm, rather like a boomerang appearing to straighten because its plane is swiveling. It is disingenuous to be for DRS but not other forms of technology. It appears that Chappell is incapable of being impartial on this issue.

Posted by JohnnyRook on (May 5, 2013, 22:15 GMT)

Ian Chappell has raised a very pertinent question though I am afraid he hasn't done as much research as his usual pieces. ICC bent over backwards to accomodate all bowlers and not just Murali. All tested other than Sarwan were found chucking according to laws at that time.

I think all bowlers chuck occasionally. When they are tired or if team needs a little extra, it is easy to oveshoot the limit no matter how high it is, especially when there is not much of punishment. It is not about 10 degrees or 15. We can make it 25 and bowlers soon will try to reach as close as 25 as possible and then occasionally overshoot it. No point having an umpire decide it live because there is no way he can tell if bowler's flex was 14 or 16 degree especially from square leg. No point in seeing whether bowler can bowl legally or not either since whether he can and whether he does are different things.

So I think only solution is to do random live testing and then punish the habitual chucker.

Posted by SLSup on (May 5, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

Ian Chappell sometimes writes reasonable stuff but, then, once in a while Ian Chuckle comes out. Did he say ICC was merely trying to accommodate Muralitharan when they came up with the 15 degree rule? Haha. Wonder what Michael Holding and Sunil Gavaskar (who sat on the ICC committee making the 15 degree determination) thinks of that. If my memory doesn't fail me I think Holding was chuckling at the idea that even he was "chucking" on occasions. Brett Lee used to chuck a few balls every over! McGrath was found chucking. Was 15 degree rule decided on because Murali straightens his elbow at 15 degrees or were there other bowlers who straightened the elbow more than Murali?

Chuckles was having dinner and was out of ideas to write his next article and there he was salivating at the thought of having a jab at Murali again. Talk of straightening the topic degrees more than journalism allows!

Posted by Headbandenator on (May 5, 2013, 19:58 GMT)

"3. Definition of fair delivery - the arm

A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing."

The above is the standard for ALL cricket unless varied by special regulations for a particular competition.

So, at club level, with few exceptions, no one has "15 degrees leeway", and if it looks like a chuck, it is a chuck, and should be called as such.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (May 5, 2013, 19:29 GMT)

@ Clyde. A batsman dismissed by a thrown ball is unfair. Also unfair is a bowler no-balled for a legal delivery. However, no-balling for delivery creates the stigma of "chucking," or cheating, & intensive testing to disprove. Is that fair for a bowler wrongly called, or even DELIBERATELY called.

The Age.com, on line version of The Age newspaper, makes available Greg Baum's report on 10/8/1999 that Ross Emerson, (1 of only 2 umps who called Murali,) when "Speaking on channel 7" claimed that "The Australian Cricket Board had encouraged (him) to back his judgment to call Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing..." Whether Emerson deliberately & without cause called Murali, for a 2nd time, cannot be verified, but Murali was again forced into testing, his life disrupted, & his sportsmanship questioned.

Yes, it really matters if an ump is wrong when no-balling for delivery. The consequences can be huge, & career ending. A lost wicket does not result in years of stigmatisation & abuse!

Posted by lukiboy on (May 5, 2013, 18:54 GMT)

It is clear that Chappell hasn't done enough research in to this topic, it is impossible for someone to deliver a ball without bending the elbow somewhat. The idea of a straight elbow is merely an illusion, even Shuan Pollock and Glen Mcgrath, who have the most orthodow actions, bend their arm and actually by more then you would think. the ICC had to decide on a limit and they decided on 15%. Nothing wrong with that. They could consider lowering it to 10%, but really that would just mean that all bowlers in international and first class cricket would need to get thier actions reviewed, adjusted and then re-reviewed, which seems like a fruitless porject

Posted by KK47 on (May 5, 2013, 18:30 GMT)

I think 15deg rule is probably one of the most courageous and informed decisions ICC has ever taken. It was based on tests conducted in presence of experts not just in lab but also on video footages of various clean-on-naked-eye past and present bowlers. The same Ian Chappell who clamours for technology like DRS everyday wants umpires to decide on spot about 'chucking' which has been proved to be very difficult to judge by the naked eye. Double standards. It's a disgrace to bring Murali into this article. He has cleared all tests possible and even voluntarily subjected himself to live scrutiny in front of camera. His bowling action is probably cleaner than bowlers whose names ICC did not publish. Just asking a wannabe bowler to "find another profession" because he was born with a bent arm is unfair and discriminating. No wonder almost all new innovations like reverse swing, doorsa, carrom ball have emerged from the sub continent and never from Aus.

Posted by McGorium on (May 5, 2013, 18:10 GMT)

The interesting thing about chuckers is that the group is, in many ways, self-selecting; bowlers wearing full-sleeves, or ridiculous 3/4th sleeves are invariably people whose actions are called into question, and who rely on their bent elbow. And they know it. (e.g.: Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Ajmal, Muralidharan, Harbhajan, Pragyan Ojha, Shoaib Malik, to name a few). How about a simple rule that bans bowlers from hiding their elbows? Cricket has always had a dress-code, and this can be a simple addition to that. If it's a blatant chuck, the umpire may no-ball the player. If it's not clear, refer it to the match referee, who then goes through the whole process of remodeling actions, etc. And, there's no blanket "clearing" of action. The mistake that occurred with Murali and Shoaib was that once their actions were cleared, they were never referred again. I suggest dealing with it on a case-by-case basis. It's harassment, but it just might make chucking not worth it.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 14:12 GMT)

Ian, you were a damn good cricketer and captain and now an iinformed and competent sports journalist. But bio mechanics and statisitcs and the defintion of what's normal should be left to the experts. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the square leg umpire should be allowed to call a noball if he judges that there is significant straightnening. He also has the thrid umpire to consult. Arjuna Ranatunge's onfield protests supporting Muralitharan were wrong in my opinion. Where ICC got it wrong was when they 'fixed' an arbitary figure of 15 degrees instead calculating the normal based on statisitical techniques. In this age we will not be able to keep it simple when there is so much of technology and information and sharing thereof. What can be made simple is to make the umpire's call correct until proved otherwise by all the means available. There is case, as was mentioned, to hold the board accountable for allowing a dubious action to come through the ranks. That would work as well

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 13:59 GMT)

You can bowl the Doosra legally. I have done it and I have seen other players manage it too. It isnt going to turn as much as a Doosra bowled with some degree of elbow bending but it really only has to spin half the width of a bat.

Posted by KarachiKid on (May 5, 2013, 13:41 GMT)

Yes make it difficult for bowlers. Make it truly batsmen's game. And while doing that, take out anything that might be helping India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies.

Posted by nilb on (May 5, 2013, 13:21 GMT)

I think there are many people who will disagree with Ian of course. Many cricket fans are pundits will like allowing to bowl deliveries like doosra makes cricket more interesting. And who says the rule was changed to allow Murali to continue bowling? Didn't they find out by testing every bowler that most of them (fast and spin) in every team bend the arm within that angle set by the rule? So what is Ian saying here? Should the angle be 0 degrees? Or maybe 1? I know, I think we should go back to dark ages with a time machine and just ask 10 people "does that guy looks like chucking?" that's a very good accurate and fair measure of course. Even some cricket fans don't realize that what their minds tell them about a bowler chucking or not-chucking is not the same as what bio-mechanics tells.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 5, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

The modern law on throwing allowing for 15 degrees of flexion probably allows for too much bowling which appears dodgey. There is a world of difference between what appears dodgey and what is, it would seem. There are one or two bowlers who when watched from the sofa seem to take outrageous liberties but who, we are assured, are legitimate, freaks of nature or the results of childhood accidents. Sideways on one would get a better sighting. Someone like Murali has so many moving parts in his arm and shoulder that one might think him triple jointed There have been more dubious actions though Murali's excited the most comment. The doosra seems the main culprit. It seems only right arm offies have this problem as lefties have largely stayed orthodox. It used to be thought that dodgey actions gave spinners such an advantage that no0 orthodox straight arm bowler would ever succeed again but that has been laid to rest by Swann at least. Ashwin's solution is maybe the best-the karrom ball.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 12:03 GMT)

On the one hand, as mentioned in in other comments, everyone chucks. Without using a brace it's pretty much impossible to keep your arm at a fixed angle. At the other end of the scale, if your arm is permanently bent and rotates in your action (as Murali's did) then it'll look like you're chucking no matter how fixed the angle is. On the other hand, the laws do need to be sorted. There are two very different situations to deal with. In some cases a bowler chucks, or appears to chuck, every time they deliver the ball. In this case appropriate biomechanical testing is required and remedial action should be implemented, ideally before they get anywhere near international level. Where there delivery is fine, any umpires standing in their matches should be provided with videos of what it looks like side on so they know when the bowler deviates from this. In others a bowler will chuck the odd ball. This should be called at the time when the square leg umpire sees a deviation in action.

Posted by riverlime on (May 5, 2013, 10:30 GMT)

I've banged on about this for the longest while. It is clear that if a bowler is chucking, then his National board knows this and, importantly, HAS ALLOWED IT TO CONTINUE. I think that the National cricket boards should also be penalised therefore, as well as the bowler, when his action is deemed to be illegal. Do that and chucking will stop.

Posted by Clyde on (May 5, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

I don't see why biometrics should rule out an umpire's calling a bowler occasionally. And it does not matter if the umpire is wrong any more often than they are wrong about other things. It just means that the batsman is not out and the 'bowler' will have to try again. If the 'bowler' is on trial biometrically, why should the umpire not also be? A distinction needs to be made between the slow burn of biometrics and lawyers and the game under way, between trends and immediate answers. Otherwise batsmen are going to out to blatant chucks, when actually it could be avoided by umpires' calling whats look like too many degrees of latitude.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (May 5, 2013, 9:09 GMT)

I am in two minds: I love that bowlers have the Doosra and it really has revolutionised off spin bowling but I have rarely seen an off spinner that does not throw the Doosra.

Posted by Barnbarroch on (May 5, 2013, 9:05 GMT)

Seen from my sofa on TV, many "off-spinners", especially those with variations like the doosra, seem to be throwing uninhibitedly. I wonder whether it's even possible to deliver a doosra without throwing. And quick bowlers? It's the same. It is, as IC says, an epidemic and getting worse.

How can an umpire judge 15 degrees? It's absurd. At least when no straightening was permitted, one had some chance of making a clear judgment about what was legal and what wasn't.

Posted by sharidas on (May 5, 2013, 9:03 GMT)

Though chucking should never be allowed in the game, I also feel that many a genuinely fair bowler is called for throwing when Umpires at the lower rungs are not able to distingish between a round arm action and chucking. While we generally talk about chucking when it comes to fast bowling, the fact remains that there are more soinners who chuck than fast bowlers.

Posted by Exfactor44 on (May 5, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

Hi Ian, I read your opinions regularly and respect you as a fairly moderate and objective commentator. However in this instance I think you have the facts incorrect. Extensive research has been carried out by centres of sporting excellence on bowling actions - your home country is actually the leader in this field! The old rules were discovered to be flawed and were adjusted - this sort of evolution is only normal when a greater weight of factual evidence comes to light. Also, I don't think chucking is a mass scale problem - you don't see individuals being rescinded for chucking every week. In fact it's the opposite, it's quite an occasion when someone is formally reported. As I said, usually I respect your opinions but in this situe I think there are probably better things to focus on. Cheers E

Posted by avas on (May 5, 2013, 8:19 GMT)

I agree with getsetsopk.. Who chucks and who does not should be decided on hard quantifiable data as in current ICC rules, rather then some individual's visual observations.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 7:54 GMT)

Agree with Ian. Get rid of 15 degrees because to my mind it is not applied consistently. Having just watched the series between SA and Pakistan I was tempted to draw a comparison between the bowling of the doosra of Saeed Ajmal and Johan Botha. Botha had his doosra banned which liited his effectiveness but I could not see the difference between his and Ajmal's. The definition should be, if you straighten your arm during delivery, at all, you are throwing not bowling. Bowling is delivered with a straight arm or at least with an arm that does not straighten, at all.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

What happens when a bowler deliberately throws the ball at the batsman's head? This is unlikely to happen in Test or first-class cricket, but I have seen it happen in lower grades, when the bowler lost his temper. That was not a matter of 15 degrees of bend at the elbow, but a deliberate, and dangerous, throw. That act was immediately no-balled by the square leg umpire, and the bowler was reported, and later banned from all competitions. It happened some years ago, but does the same rule apply today?

Posted by tpjpower on (May 5, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

Nuwan_R is bang on the money. On the other hand, Chappelli is right that really obvious chucks should be no-balled. I suggest that where an umpire considers the bowler has thrown the ball and ALTERED his usual action in order to do so, a no-ball should be called. If the umpire doubts the legality of a bowler's usual action, it should be reported, scrutinised and revised, sticking to the current testing and rehabilitation mechanisms.

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 5, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

He's right in principle but the devil is always in the detail. The writer says "Keep it simple". Ok! great idea, lets keep it simple but how can you keep it simple when you can not define the word "CHUCK" in simple terms. And another FACT is that the human eye can be misleading, now again it seems a ploy to over complicate things as the author suggests but it is FACT and so how does one get around? Take in a bowler thats 'pleasing to the eye' but is chucking in fact over someone who is not chucking it but doesn't look good on the eye. Another thing is that its impossible to bowl a delivery with not a pinch of chuck involved. Every bowler chucks, its the degree that varies of course.

If we can live with Hawkeye, slomo and Hotspot, we can trust the ICC's biomechanics for the time being. Sooner or later, the technology will evolve and we'll be able to see every bowlers each delivery in live matches so that no one gets away with the occasional odd chuck.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

Ian Chappel l doesn't look nice while crying out loud over a perfectly normal law. Remember the under-arm ball Ian?

The law is perfect and there is no need to review it. The human body is a complex machine and there is no size that can fit all. Every person has his/her own biomechanics. Nobody(barring McGrath) had a perfect action. Sports are there to express the strength of human abilities, let's not turn it into something mechanical and impure.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (May 5, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

@ PFEL. Logic is an easy word to use. Logic, however, is not necessarily valid.

Logic's most basic form is two premises & a conclusion. E.g. Premise 1: All men are mortal. Premise 2: Socrates is a man. Conclusion: Socrates is mortal. A logical argument.

But, if all men are immortal, & Socrates is a man, then Socrates is immortal. The logic is the same, but a premise is invalid: all men are not immortal & thus the argument is invalid, or of no value.

"Can't really fault his logic" you wrote. Can fault his premises. In essence, his argument is, exactly as written, "all the piffle about 15 degrees of flex ... that gives a bowler a huge advantage ... is a denial of a batsman's basic rights."

Without piffle, with no allowed degree of flex, batsmen would have basic rights but no cricket! No one could bowl to them as all bowlers have some degree of flex.

The "piffle" is about bowler's rights. About what they can do, and can not do. The "problem" is getting batsmen to understand that.

Posted by wakaPAK on (May 5, 2013, 5:48 GMT)

Batting is getting better and better each and everyday. There are a lot of runs scored these days than in the past. If the new laws has done any damage, we's have seen it in terms of decline in batting performance. The new rules saved the art of offspin. Now teams have more diversity which has made it even more interesting. The recent research has made us realize that the old laws were silly because almost every fast bowler bend his arm just below 15.

Posted by Harvey on (May 5, 2013, 5:44 GMT)

I agree that a change is needed. As Nuwan_R points out, modern science showed the existing Law to be obsolete. The 15 degree rule is fine in principle, but as Ian correctly points out, it's unenforceable in a match situation. The only practical solution I can see is to legalise throwing. Would this turn cricket into "elongated baseball?" Certainly I'm sure that radical new techniques for delivering the ball would be tried, but is that really such a terrible thing? Just as underarm was superceded by roundarm and roundarm was superceded by overarm it's time to take the next step.

Posted by vladtepes on (May 5, 2013, 5:40 GMT)

ian chappell is right that this has to stop before it becomes too entrenched to be painlessly removed. i've been following and watching cricket since the 70s, and, before murali came along i can't say that i was aware of any bowlers delivering legal deliveries with bent arms. now i see it all the time, and it looks like they're trying to disguise the fact that they are pelting the ball. the epidemic is already nigh; i would venture that most test teams now have at least one bent-arm bowler. if the testing showed that all bowlers do it, so make a rule that the arm can't straighten any further once it begins its upward rotation in the delivery action.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 5:37 GMT)

@Nuwan_R... So, by your logic, because most people break the law, the solution is to change the law. Heaven forbid this attitude should spill over into other walks of life. However, as far as I'm aware, Law 24 still applies and the revised conditions regarding straightening of the arm is an ICC Playing Regulation. So once again, the ICC has in effect changed a Law which has stood the test of time for years. If a player cannot play within the Laws, then he shouldn't be playing.

Posted by David_Boon on (May 5, 2013, 5:21 GMT)

@Nuwan_R There are also peer-reviewed articles that say smoking is safe. You can construct a study to prove anything you want. Anyone who can't see that there are a lot more 'chuckers' today than there were, say, 20 years ago is delusional. Also, as Ian points out, some bowlers only 'chuck' when they bowl certain deliveries.

Posted by aus_trad on (May 5, 2013, 4:59 GMT)

@Nuwan_R - yes, every bowler in the sample broke the original rule (no extension at all permitted), and I don't think anyone would like to see a return to that unrealistic requirement. What I object to is: 1) the blatant politicisation of the process, whereby the rules are changed to suit one bowler (Why was 15 degrees settled on? Why not 14? I'll give you three guesses...), and 2) the effective removal of the umpires from the decision making process, when they are, after all, the ones with the best view, and able to take into consideration all factors involved in a bowler's performance on a given day. This is part of a bigger picture which will see (on-field) umpires increasingly marginalised (by DRS), which is at odds with the way cricket has traditionally been played. It's one of those cases where we will probably not realise what we have lost until it's too late. Once again, no prizes for guessing what's really behind the recent obsession with eliminating human error from umpiring.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 4:47 GMT)

Well as Nuwan_R mentioned all the bowlers of past and present were chuckers according to the old rules. You need to have a standardized set of rules, and everything should be quantifiable as we have now to govern these issues. It should not be up to the whim of some cricket experts like Mr Chappel to decide whose action is fair and whose action is unfair

Posted by Nuwan_R on (May 5, 2013, 4:13 GMT)

The changing of the law was necessary. According to in-game testing done by Cricket Australia every single bowler broke the old rules, fast bowlers being the most extreme delinquents.

The reports are published in peer-reviewed biomechanics journals. For example, look up the article "Fast bowling arm actions and the illegal delivery law in men's high performance cricket matches" by Portus MR, Rosemond CD, Rath DA in the July 2006 issue of 'Sports Biomechanics'.

So I don't see your justification for branding the current laws as 'lax' or your warning that they are going to lead to an 'epidemic of chucking'.

Posted by Nightbat on (May 5, 2013, 3:33 GMT)

Couldn't agree with you more, Ian. Laws should be made as simple as possible in order to prevent their misuse. The present chucking law is open to interpretation in a thousand different ways and actually disempowers the on-field umpires.

The root cause of this is the muddled thinking right at the top in the ICC. What the ICC needs is dynamic, clear-thinking decision-makers.

Something also has to be done about the BCCI which is perverting the game for the sake of its short-term gains.

Kudos for writing a great article as always, Ian. Looking forward to hearing from you again.

Posted by PFEL on (May 5, 2013, 3:27 GMT)

Can't really fault his logic. Good article.

Posted by   on (May 5, 2013, 3:22 GMT)

Ian was a excellent cricket captain, player and now the best amongst all commentators the other being boycs(Geoff Boycott) . A cricketer of his stature who has seen the game from very close quarters has aptly summarized the degradation of the global cricketing administration which have totally turned a blind eye in differentiating between a legal delivery and that of a 'chuckers'- thrower among which are many notable "legendary" bowlers of the present decade. Its 100% true that present day cricketing world is flooded with "baseball pitchers" . In fact the IPL has also showcased many such baseball 'pichers' .

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Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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