Botha faces stringent test on action
A meeting of the ICC's advisory panel of biomechanists last month could ensure a more difficult path for Johan Botha to clear his name from chucking allegations. Bruce Elliott, the University of Western Australia professor who last examined Botha's action in 2006, said a bowler's elbow flexion would no longer be assessed by taking an average reading over several overs, but rather on a one-strike-and-you're-out basis.
"In the early days we would take a mean reading from a number of deliveries and determine whether it was over or under the legal limit, but now the situation is that a bowler is not allowed to bowl any balls that extend beyond the 15 degrees during testing," Elliott told Cricinfo. "It wasn't clearly written but we had a meeting with the ICC three weeks ago and it was all sorted out."
The transition from average readings to a one-strike policy officially took place in July, 2006, although evidenly there had been confusion as to its application among testers prior to last month's meeting. Under the ICC's illegal action protocol, Botha would have been assessed with an average reading during his first test in January, 2006, but not in subsequent examinations carried out in August and November.
The protocol reads: "Should the Independent Assessment conclude that the Player's action exhibits a degree of elbow extension of the bowling arm higher than the said acceptable level, the action of the Player shall be deemed to be an Illegal Bowling Action. It should be noted that in order for the action to be classified as a legal action, the degree of elbow extension recorded for each and every delivery shall be within the level of acceptable elbow extension."
Cricket South Africa has yet to announce where it will send Botha for testing, but it is likely he will again work with Elliott at the UWA. Botha was twice tested at the facility in 2006 - the first resulting in his suspension from cricket, the second paving the way for a return - and must now be reassessed after umpires cited him for a suspect action after the fourth one-day international against Australia in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
Elliott said Botha, like Muttiah Muralitharan, could not entirely straighten his bowling arm, resulting in an "abduction angle" that made for an unusual action. He also noted that Botha had encountered difficulty in bowling his doosra legally during testing in early 2006, but after remedial work in South Africa, was able to bowl "the other one" with less elbow flexion than his stock off-break.
"It was clear cut illegal the first time, but he was able to bring it down by four or five degrees," Elliott said. "Because of the abduction angle, or carry angle, he is always going to have an action that catches the eye of umpires and spectators. He has some similar characteristics as Murali, but not quite so severe.
"I have not watched him bowl lately, so I don't know if there has been a quickening up or a regression. But the guys who do bowl the doosra tend to live on the edge. Most who bowl it cannot do so under about 10 degrees, so it obviously doesn't take much more for it to go over."
The South Africans yesterday continued to voice support for Botha, who is available for selection in the fifth and final one-day international against Australia in Johannesburg on Friday. Coach Mickey Arthur on Wednesday reiterated the comments of Vinnie Barnes, the South African bowling coach, in predicting that Botha would be cleared to continue his career.
"Johan has been through this process before and was cleared to continue his career and I am confident that this will happen again," Arthur said in a statement. "I don't believe anything major has changed in his action since then but we will obviously respect the process and the outcome.
"Johan is a man of tremendous self belief and character. He has shown that both in the way he dealt with the original setback in 2006 and again by the manner in which he led the ODI squad when Graeme Smith was injured. And, with the support of his team-mates and management, I am sure he will put this latest setback behind him as well."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo