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Skirting around the law

Makarand Waingankar
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The laws of cricket keep changing. Everything has to be suited to the needs of time and so be it. But should integrity change too? Today, biomechanical explanations are used as an excuse for suspect actions of bowlers.

International bowlers are being cleared based on obscure ‘clearance’ certificates. Why have the rules when you are in fact mocking at them.

And what is worse, except the lone voice of Bishan Singh Bedi, no former player or umpire of repute has even tried to address this problem or put pressure on the authorities.

More than half a century ago Australia’s Ian Meckiff was called for chucking in a Test match by the square leg umpire Col Egar, his close friend till his death. The science of biomechanics was yet to be detected then.

There were no cameras. Egar deemed the second, third, fifth and the ninth ball (there used to be 8-ball over in Australia) of the over as illegitimate bowling and captain Richie Benaud simply did not let Meckiff bowl again in the match.

That was the end of Meckiff’s career, who played 18 Tests. There were neither technology tools nor deceitful jargons which could make the case for suspect action. As a friend, Meckiff continued to meet Egar but not once did he bring up the topic. The white coat was to be respected; no questions were asked nor any explanations offered. That was the way the game was played.

The level of manipulations we see now in methods of trickery is astounding. Bowlers know how to dodge the laws of the game and get away with blatant chucking with methods as ridiculous as wearing long sleeves to confuse umpires! We live in an era of clearance certificates.

All that the qualified umpires of India do is crib about the system in a mumble, ‘why bother to report a bowler when the bigwigs of the Board aren’t concerned’.

Sometime in 2010 the BCCI had a list of around 120 bowlers reported for suspect bowling action. The Suspect Action Review Committee prepared an action plan that was approved by the BCCI.

The umpires were forewarned of strict action if they showed reluctance in calling the bowlers on the field and were told that they wouldn’t be given any assignments the following season. Nothing changed.

Banned bowlers returned and no actions were taken on erring umpires. The number of such bowlers has rapidly increased. Some of them are called mystery bowlers.

The cases of mystery bowlers are mysterious indeed. And we adore them. Indian or from other countries, they present a very interesting study.

One of the foreign bowlers averages over 40 runs per wicket in Test cricket but is unplayable in IPL. He too possesses ‘clearance certificate’ from one of the biomechanical laboratories in Australia.

The action analysis of this mystery bowler on slow motion camera defies biomechanics. He is in a position of a javelin thrower while delivering the ball and when his front foot is pivoted, he is like a baseball pitcher.

Is this mystery or chucking? Or is he below the permissible limit of 15 degrees which field umpires can’t measure?

It’s nothing but simple logic. The mystery bowlers bowl the lethal deliveries sparingly in T20 matches as per the situations. Anyway, all he needs to bowl is 24 deliveries in a match. It isn’t difficult to create hype about one’s bowling.

The suspect bowling law has already been diluted by the 15 degree rule.

That players and officials have been skirting around the law is evident. One wonders what would be the reaction of Ian Meckiff.

The worst that can happen from here is the law itself may be modified further to accommodate such mystery bowlers. That will be a sad day.

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