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October 30, 2009
The trouble with having a charge laid against you is that, whether you're cleared or not and even if you pay your penance, you'll always be regarded with some suspicion. Just ask Jacob Zuma, Chris Brown or even Johan Botha. After being cited for a suspect action for the third time, Botha must feel like a wanted criminal every time he steps out to play.
Despite being cleared by Cricket South Africa (CSA), Vincent Barnes, South Africa's bowling coach says the suspicion over Botha's action "will always be there", but it is something the bowler has learned to deal with. According to Barnes, Botha always had a mature attitude to his problem and recognised that the question marks over his action were unlikely to disappear.
Before being called in the match between the Warriors and the Lions in East London, Botha had already planned to undergo testing at the Sports Science Institute this week. "It was just a coincidence that he was called, and he had to have the tests done for more serious reasons," said Barnes. "We know that his bowling has to be monitored on a regular basis and this was part of that process."
Botha was last tested in May, when he was banned from bowling the doosra, and although there were more tests lined up in the future, Barnes said they had not conducted one because of Botha's playing schedule. Since that test, he played a few IPL matches, the World Twenty20, the Champions Trophy and three first-class games.
It was in the last of those games when "a few deliveries were thought to be suspect," said Barnes, who was confident that the offspinner would be cleared even before the testing took place. "We were asked to focus on a particular delivery, which was the quicker one," said Barnes. "Ironically, in the previous testing, the quicker delivery was the one with the lowest degrees."
Even though he thought Botha would come through the testing with no problem, Barnes said it was imperative to have a back-up plan in place. "We don't want him to banned from bowling another delivery, so if we found something irregular than we would definitely work on it. The reality is that he is always going to have an awkward action because he can't straighten his arm. He has a natural bend at the elbow.
"The solution is that he has to bowl as naturally as he can. He is aware that he has to be careful and we will be monitoring him on a weekly basis.
"The first time he was called [on his Test debut in January 2006], it took him 18 months to get back into the national side, so every time this happens it could determine where his career goes from now."
Botha has had to accept that ongoing testing would be part of his career, but it certainly becomes stressful every time he has to go under the microscope. During the May test, Barnes said: "I asked him which is more pressure: bowling now in the test or if this was the last ball of the World Cup final and you could win or lose the match with it? He said the test was more stressful."
It is for this reason that Barnes thinks testing bowlers in an indoor facility is not a fair way of determining if their action is legal or not. "In my opinion, they must be tested in the environment they are playing in," Barnes said. "The testing is all done in an artificial environment where the surfaces and the conditions are different. For example, there is no wind, they don't use boots, and there's no batsman. The fatigue factor is completely taken out of it, because they only bowl 10 deliveries of a particular ball. But in a match, they could get called after 24 overs, when the bowler is feeling completely different."
Barnes admits that with the various camera angles required to conduct the testing, it's unlikely that it can take place in a match situation, but he is hopeful that there is another way.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in JohannesburgFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala