The chucking controversy January 2, 2006

Woolmer reiterates call for ICC to address chucking

Cricinfo staff

Bob Woolmer believes that umpires and scientists cannot agree on the chucking issue © Getty Images
Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, has called upon the International Cricket Council (ICC) to once again pool its resources of coaches, scientists and umpires into a panel that will reevaluate the issue of bowlers with suspect actions.

Writing on his personal website, Woolmer has urged the ICC to focus on the issue as well as the existing regulations for such bowlers. "It's a tragedy that we've fudged the issue for so long. We cannot fudge the issue any more, players livelihoods are at stake," he said. "I believe that a working party of coaches, scientists and umpires should re-look at cricket's most thorny issue. Are we seeing the next major change in the game? Will we allow bowlers to throw and confine run ups? Will we lengthen the pitch dimensions to cater for the extra pace? Or do we define the difference between a throw and a bowl or insist on the arm being straight from hip to delivery 180 degrees of movement with a straight arm? This is the question that cricket faces now."

Woolmer also noted that a bowler's action, once fixed, has a 2 % chance of change. "How do I get to that figure? It's a guess I could say 5 per cent or 10 per cent what I do know is that there is only one person who can make a change an action and that's the bowler himself, it is his desire, his work ethic, his understanding of his body that'll eventually change or not change an action," he said.

Defending Shabbir Ahmed, the fast bowler who, after being reported twice in 2005 for an illegal action was then banned for a year, Woolmer said that the margin of change in his action was minimal. "I do not believe that he throws but I do believe that his action is flawed by pure standards. Just as a batsman might have a flaw in technique but is still successful," he said."The effect that massive changes of pace have on a batsman when a bowler suddenly throws the ball can be mind blowing. Yet in reviewing the case of Shabbir there is no such massive change of pace; in fact he averages 127-134 kph. His action does not resemble a baseball player but he does straighten his arm. Studying him and working with him, I believe that he actually never throws the ball...and I believe that like many players he is a victim of a poor grounding and a muddled law."

Woolmer recounted that in 18 months with the Pakistan cricket team, one of the many issues he has been confronted with is the throwing question. "Pakistan has had five bowlers reported and associated with throwing and in addition it is suspected that 29 more domestic first class players have suspect actions," he noted. "This has prompted the Pakistan Cricket Board to set up a bio-mechanics laboratory with the latest high speed cameras in order to test these bowlers and save them from the chop. The fact that there are so many in Pakistan and possibly other areas of the sub-continent is cause for concern, the reasons are simple - no formalised coaching at a young age and copying the superstars on television."

Woolmer also said that there remained an element of criminal ignorance of the understanding between a bowling action and a throwing action. "Some will have studied the problem more than others, and let me be frank here when trying to put `chuckers' right - there is little if any methodology to do so," he said. "Trust me, I have experience. When working with Shabbir for six weeks before he was sent to Australia to be cleared, within weeks he is out of the game because the umpires cannot agree with the scientists."