Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saeed Ajmal banned - by Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph

I reprint this because it refers to me in the fourth and third paragraphs before the end.


Article by Scyld Berry,, 10:19 BST 10 September 2014

"Wounded Tiger" is the title of the fine new history of Pakistan cricket by Peter Oborne. But now that Saeed Ajmal, their star spinner, has been banned from bowling, "Paralysed Tiger" might be more appropriate.

It is the latest in a series of body-blows. Pakistan can never play an international match at home. Their players are never allowed to cash in by playing in the Indian Premier League. They are the only country to labour under these two handicaps.
And now their best spinner has been banned for throwing. The world's most effective spinner as well. The one area in which Pakistan led the world game was in having the best pair of Test spinners, in Ajmal and Abdur-Rehman, but now they have been split up - and India's pair of Ravis, Ashwin and Jadeja, can nip in and take their title.
Ajmal has taken 178 Test wickets - and not a single one in Pakistan, because he has never had the chance to play at home, having debuted after the Lahore terrorist attack in 2009. It would be a form of rough justice, I suppose, if Pakistan's bowlers were allowed one extra degree of elbow flexion for every year they have to spend in exile.
But Pakistan are not being targeted for victimisation. All around the world offspinners of all nationalities have been getting it in the neck - or rather their right elbow.
The list extends almost from A to Z, from Bangladesh's Sohag Gazi, New Zealand's Kane Williamson, Sri Lanka's Sachithra Senanayake, and West Indies' Shane Shillingford to Zimbabwe's Prosper Utseya. It is not just Ajmal who has been singled out for deviating from the straight and narrow.
This story started at the last ICC cricket committee meeting earlier this summer, when its members decided to get tough on bowling actions and clamp down for the good of the sport and its future.
A bowler who has a unique action as the result of some inherited peculiarity, or genetic defect, is one thing. But when youngsters start copying such a bowler for no need, that is another ball-game. The committee decided it was time to take action before such developments spiralled out of hand.
And this is not your usual ICC committee, dominated by businessmen and politicians who have never played the game and fall asleep in meetings. It is what it says on the tin: international, and run by cricketers past and present - you could form a fine Test XI out of them - with Steve Davis acting as the umpires' representative.
What is more, national boards are listening and towing the line. Once the ICC cricket committee had embarked on their clampdown on suspected bowlers, boards around the world realised that they had to back it up.
It is partly a question of financial investment - something that national boards can understand. You identify a spinner and pick him for your country's national age-group sides, send him to the youth World Cup, promote him to your Test or limited-overs team and bingo! Or rather, no-ball! An umpire reports him for throwing, he is found to have an elbow bent more than 15', then banned, and a lot of money has gone down the drain, never mind his aspirations.
As the main centres for elbow-testing have been Cardiff, Perth and Brisbane, there may be a whiff of imperialism in the air - but one in Bangalore is expected to come on stream soon.
And if Pakistan's supporters are upset, so are Worcestershire's. Their promotion to the first division of the county championship, if they do clinch it, will not look so good. Nor will the umpires who have let Ajmal, and Williamson, bowl so much in county cricket without being fingered.
Professor Bruce Charlton has renewed a suggestion he made in 'The Cricketer' a few years back. He distinguishes between two forms of throwing. One is strong-throwing: that is, with the palm of the bowler's hand facing the batsman, which can generate quite a few extra mph.
The second form, as Charlton classifies it, is weak-throwing, which is done with the back of the bowler's hand facing the batsman. This is the way the doosra is bowled. And he argues that weak-throwing should be legalised, or the permitted amount of flexion extended above 15'.
My hope is that the intended, or unintended, consequence of this ICC clampdown is that wrist-spin will revive. Its practitioners have virtually disappeared from international cricket, out-numbered by offspinners armed with a doosra.
But when India unveiled Karn Sharma in the T20I at Edgbaston last Sunday, England's right-handers had no answer, even if Eoin Morgan did. There is the flamboyant Imran Tahir appearing occasionally for South Africa, but no regular wrist-spinner in Tests or one-day internationals, and there should be - for variety's sake, but not least because it is deemed impossible for a legspinner to throw.


Anonymous Luqman said...

It boggles my mind how an elbow bent with a forearm in pronation can possibly be throwing. The moment something new and exciting emerges in cricket it is to be stamped out with prejudice? Mr. Berry declaring a possible resurgence of leg spin is small comfort. I was shocked when Saeed Ajmal was banned, this is far too blindly conservative a direction; I cant see many off-spinners being competitive in T20 without a doosra for instance.

5:06 AM  
Anonymous Luqman said...

Sorry this has got me too mad. Sure its fun watching a couple of sixes every now and then, but I became interested in cricket when it was a bowler`s game. The ICC allows every kind of unorthodox shot by batsmen but its doing geometry for bowlers? Then there is that new ball garbage that KILLS reverse swing. I want to see toes crushed and bails fly. There already isnt much truly interesting REAL pace bowling (minus Steyn who is wonderful), now spin must suffer too? The batsman`s game is a yawnfest and the ICC is out of it.

(P.S. Not that I dont like unorthodox strokes)

5:29 AM  
Blogger Bruce Charlton said...

@L - I agree with all these sentiments. I can recall exactly how I got interested in watching cricket (I have never played it properly) - and it was when I happened to listed to test Match Special on the radio and they were talking about a 'leg-spinner' which sounded strange and interesting (it was Ian Salisbury). So I started watching the match (England v Pakistan, 1992) on TV to try and work out what it meant. This put me, for the first time, in watching from the bowlers perspective (and also looking closely at what the ball was doing in the air and after it landed) - and suddenly the whole thing clicked!

I don't think that eliminating doosra bowlers will help leg spinners - leg spin is a rare and precious gift; and there are never many of them. There haven't ever been any good English leg spinners, and they are rare even among Asians.

The doosra and other 'mystery' bowlers have been the best thing about recent cricket - but most of them need to bowl with a bent elbow at delivery, and if the elbow is bent then it is hard to avoid some straightening.

The interesting thing is that all the doosra bowlers seem to have used a different method (as you can see from browsing this blog). If there was a greater degree of permitted elbow straightening for the back-chuck/ weak throw - say 30 degrees? - then it might be possible to develop a standard way of learning how to bowl the doosra, and allow the delivery to become more common. A bit more leeway might have enabled Maurice Holmes to prosper

In a nutshell, cricket administrators need to understand *why* throwing was prohibited - and then understand the difference between throwing palm first (bad) and back of hand (potentially good).

It is hard to believe that the most elegant, thoughtful, craftsmanlike, original and effective bowler of our era has been eliminated from the game. Time for a change in the laws to get him back.

7:21 AM  

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