Richards concerned by Ajmal's doosra
Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan offspinner, has had his bowling action called into question by Viv Richards. Ajmal was the Man of the Series for his 17 wickets in two Tests against West Indies, but concerns have been raised over the legality of his action.
"Let me put it as mildly and as diplomatically as it can be put," Richards told ESPNcricinfo. "When you look at bowling actions for offspinners in the world at present, the [15 degree] rule made by the ICC has bred what we've seen this series. I wouldn't be blatant as some others, but the rules have helped the freaky stuff we have at present. It accommodates doosras and things we see like that."
The decision to allow a bend in the arm up to 15 degrees was introduced after biomechanical experts found the majority of bowlers had a minor flex in their actions. It is felt, however, that some offspinners struggle to deliver the doosra within those limits. Richards is the latest to voice concern over Ajmal's action, with former fast-bowler Michael Holding and veteran West Indian journalist Tony Cozier having spoken out on the doosra during the course of the series.
Though West Indies may feel uneasy about Ajmal, they also batted woefully against Pakistan's other spinners. During the 196-run defeat at St Kitts, 15 of the 20 wickets fell to spin, with Ajmal taking three in each innings. The batsmen were not much better in the first Test in Guyana, which West Indies won, losing all but three wickets to Pakistan's trio of spinners.
"The problem is that whenever they [West Indies] are confronted by top-class spinners they freeze," Richards said. "It's creating a paranoia and someone needs to ask the batsmen what's needed. I think they need to prepare for the bowlers they are going to face better and watch them more regularly. [At the moment] they just go out and rely on guesswork."
Despite the lost opportunity to win the series, Richards backed the management of the captain Darren Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson. Both had been under intense scrutiny after a poor World Cup and the shambles over Chris Gayle's exclusion and his decision to play in the IPL.
Sammy answered many of his critics with a match haul of seven wickets to deliver victory in Guyana, and Richards felt that performance was crucial to his survival as captain. "What's been on peoples' minds is his contribution to the team as a player," Richards said. "The match in Guyana helped to eradicate some of that stuff. When he was first touted as captain I backed him because I thought he would bring a bit more thought to the role.
"He said the right things about moving the team forward and I backed him to bring camaraderie and togetherness as a leader. Recently his lack of form was concerning people but he silenced that."
His support of Gibson was more reserved but he was happy with the appointment of former opener Desmond Haynes as batting consultant for the series. "I don't doubt [Gibson's] ability as a coach but Ottis needed some help when he started. I felt he needed assistance, as they have done with Desmond Haynes leading on the batting side of things. Ottis can add something to the bowlers, who are in need of help."
Viv Richards was speaking to ESPNcricinfo to promote Fire in Babylon which was released in UK cinemas last Friday but will be out on DVD on June 6.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo