The chucking controversy April 30, 2004

Murali's doosra should be allowed, says report

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Muttiah Muralitharan: all a matter of a few degrees © Getty Images

The tests conducted on Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action revealed that he was straightening his arm by 14 degrees while bowling the "doosra", which is nine degrees more than is permissible for spinners under the guidelines of the International Cricket Council.

The Hindu has managed to get hold of the report submitted by Daryl Foster, the former Western Australia and Kent coach who was part of the team of experts which analysed Murali's action at the University of WA recently. The Hindu has published snippets of the report, which claim that though his doosra is technically illegal, he should be allowed to bowl it "until a valid database is collected on the various spin bowling disciplines. The relatively minor level of elbow extension following remediation over the period from arm horizontal to release is not believed to give Mr Muralitharan an unfair advantage over batsmen or other bowlers."

Murali's action came back into the spotlight after Chris Broad - the match referee when Sri Lanka played Australia - suggested all was not right with his doosra after the third Test in Colombo. Even after undergoing a period of "technique remediation" under Foster, the report says that Muralitharan still straightens his arm by 10.2 degrees (the limit previously imposed by the ICC for spinners was five degrees).

The report also suggests that further research is necessary, including an analysis of the doosra as bowled by others. "Other offspin bowlers, in particular Harbhajan Singh, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shoaib Malik, all bowl the 'doosra' delivery, which suggests for comparison purposes that their 'other one' should also be analysed."

The ICC regulation which details that spinners can only bend their elbow five degrees - as opposed to ten for pace bowlers - has also come under the spotlight. "Murali, who has been tested more than any other bowler in the history of the game - 1995, 1999 and now - possesses different physical characteristics which make him a unique bowler," says the report. "A straightening of ten degrees when he [Murali] bowls his 'doosra' is not excessive and that should not therefore be deemed advantageous.

"We contend that because the speed of his upper-arm rotation is as fast, and in some cases quicker than, fast bowlers', his level of acceptability for elbow extension should also be set at the ten-degree mark.

"A case can certainly be made for some spin bowlers such as Muralitharan to have the same range of acceptability in elbow angle to that of fast bowlers. With no spin-bowling database to make a comparison, this would seem both a wise and prudent recommendation."

If Foster's report does indeed come down on Murali's side, the laws of cricket could be in line for yet another rewrite.