Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 - the year the doosra died. End of the golden era of mystery spin

The final nail in the coffin was the banning of Sunil Narine in November, who was the last top level doosra bowler. The ICC have had a concerted campaign to eliminate the doosra, on the basis that it is 'illegal' - and they have succeeded with astonishing rapidity and completeness.

The doosra is now as extinct as the dodo. I hope the ICC secret police are happy at their success, because the game of cricket is significantly worse as a result of their activity.

This blog was begun in 2006 to celebrate and explore this exciting new set of deliveries by which an off spinner could bowl a leg-break with minimal change of action.

The delivery was popularized in the mid 1990s by Saqlain Mushtaq and reached its peak with Saeed Ajmal up until 2014 when he was banned (he had been the best spinner in the world for several years, and my personal favourite bowler - but from then his career was destroyed).

For a few glorious years the game of cricket - and especially the fifty over and T20 forms, were enlivened by what seemed like a galaxy of 'mystery spinners' of many types and varying abilities - all of them now neutered or gone altogether except for Ashwin who used the 'carrom', finger flick method; and who has now become the best spinner in the world (especially since the new spinning superstar, Yasir Shah has been suspended after a failed drug test).

Is cricket a better game now that spin has been all but deleted from front line bowling? Of course not - it is a far worse game.

Was it necessary, or 'fair' to destroy the doosra simply because it was 'illegal'? Of course not! The answer was not to destroy it, but to legalize it - as happened in the past with round-arm bowling, then over-arm bowling (indeed, the original bowling delivery of under-arm is the one that is now illegal).

What harm did the doosra do in the recent era of its success? None that I can see - it simply enhanced the game, made it more exciting, mysterious - gave bowlers back some of the ground they have lost to bat technology and (whisper it not!) the batters increasing use of undetectable human hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone) as performance enhancing drugs.

Why was it banned? Perhaps because: 1. Cricket is a batsman's game; 2. England and Australia (two out of three of the game's ruling elites) could not find any doosra bowlers of their own; 3. The cricket administrators short-termist but insatiable appetite for ever more and more runs (esepcially sixes) in the shorter forms of the game (which is why ridiculously unfair changes in bat technology and the batters ever more Hulk-like drug-induced physiques have been conveniently ignored).

Anyway, it is all finished - the kill-joys have won the day; the batters have got their way.

Reference: my doosra posts:


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The banning of Saeed Ajmal - what is the priority? Answer: to get him playing again. Method - legalize 40 degrees of elbow straightening for the weak-throw/ back-chuck


When a great bowler is banned for so-called throwing (actually, the back-chuck 'weak throw' - palm facing the bowler, used by a spinner - is not-at-all what was meant by throwing when laws were made against throwing), yet, if people are honest, there is no real problem with the 'gut-level fairness' of Ajmal's bowling method

- it is not dangerous
- it does not give the bowler an unfair advantage
- indeed Ajmal's is an extremely difficult type of delivery to master and nobody else has succeeded in mastering it...

Then the priority is to change the laws of cricket in such a way as he can play again.

If, as some leaked ICC reports suggest, Ajmal was straightening his elbow by 40 degrees in some deliveries, and given that cricket lovers have all delighted in the immaculate bowling of Ajmal for several years at the highest level - then we now know that 40 degrees of elbow straightening should be allowed for the weak-throw/ back-chuck.

40 degrees therefore needs to be set as the new standard (while retaining 15 degrees as the maximum straightening for the strong-throw - with palm facing the batter).


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.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Moeen Ali cannot bowl a doosra (or, at least, not a useful one - or so I predict)


I am delighted that Moeen Ali bowled so well in the Southampton Test against India - and I am not at all surprised.

He has a really nice classical off-spinner's action, and spins the ball almost as rapidly as Swann (and considerably more rapidly than either India's Jajeda or of Sri Lanka's Herath).

But I predict that Moeen will not be able to bowl a doosra - at least, he will not be able to bowl a useful doosra at teh test match level (i.e. that a delivery that is legal, hard to pick, reliable and effective). This is simply because he has a classic off-spinners grip and action - holding the ball between index and middle finger and delivering it from the front of the hand; and a doosra cannot be bowled with that kind of grip and action (nobody has ever done it).

The fact that Moeen has been tutored by Saeed Ajmal at Worcestershire is irrelevant; since Ajmal has a completely different method. He grips the ball between middle and ring finger, and delivers both off-spinner and doosra with the back of his hand towards the batter and a forward flick of the wrist.

But Moeen does not need a doosra - he has already shown that he can beat the bat on both sides - even with very good players.

Given his excellent batting and superb temperament, England now solved their spin problem and have a really valuable all-round cricketer in Moeen Ali.  


Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to bowl a flipper-doosra


This should work for an off-spinner (or orthodox slow left armer) who has a high action (near vertical arm at delivery) and large hands.

For an off-spinner - the usual grip is between index and middle fingers across the seam , with the ball stabilized by the thumb and ring finger, also resting on the seam.


To deliver the flipper-doosra the grip is very similar, but with index and middle fingers just spread apart and resting on top of the seam - while the ball is actually being gripped between the thumb and ring finger, which are on opposite sides of the ball, thumb and ring finger on the seam.


For the normal off-break, at the moment of delivery the seam is angled towards leg-slip.The ball is spun by rotating the wrist and forearm to move the seam in a clockwise and pointing-forward direction.


For the flipper-doosra, at the moment of delivery the little finger side of the hand is presented to the batter, and the seam is angled towards first slip; and the ball is spun by snapping the ring finger down, so the ball pivots on the thumb  - just the same motion as you could use to 'snap your fingers', using ring finger and thumb.


So, from the batter's perspective, there is only a small angular difference between the delivery angle of the off-break (stock delivery, coming in towards the right-hander) and the flipper doosra (moving away from the right-hander).

Given that the grip is so similar, I think the flipper-doosra would be hard for a batsman to 'pick'. 


The disadvantage of the flipper-doosra (assuming that it could be practised until it was controlled) is that the finger snap is tiring for the fingers, so the delivery probably could not be used very frequently - and the ring finger is neither very powerful nor easy to control.

If the fingers actually snapped together, made a snapping noise, then this would potentially alert the batter that the variation which goes the other way was coming.

Otherwise it might be worth a try. 


Note: The flipper-doosra could also be used to bowl an off-break - therefore making it a double-bluff against batters who manage to 'pick' the flipper action. This would simply be done by rotating the wrist before release, so the seam points towards leg-slip (instead of towards first slip).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What would be the maximum speed of a fast bowler if throwing was allowed? 110 mph


In the previous posting 

I suggested that the long run-up of a fast bowler generates about an extra 10 mph pace, on top of the short run-up of a slow, spin bowler.

I am assuming that the short, slow 'walk' to the crease of a typical spinner is more about achieving balance and technique than speed - and that the typical spinners 'run' up does not add to the arm speed.


In baseball, where the pitcher throws the ball after standing then a single step forward (no run up), a Major League fast ball travels at about 95-100mph).

So a fast bowler with long run-up is 90-95mph, and a fastball pitcher without run-up is about 95-100 - therefore the throwing adds about 10 mph (and we already know that the run-up adds about 10 mph).

Therefore, a combination of throwing plus run-up in the fastest bowler/thrower would probably be about 105-110 mph (fastball 95-100 plus 10).

In other words, if throwing was allowed in cricket, the fastest possible delivery that combined both throwing and a long run-up would probably be about 110 mph


Saeed Ajmal is as good or better than Shane Warne


Warne: 4.9 wickets per Test Match; average 25; economy rate 2.7.

Ajmal: 5.3 wickets per Test Match; average 27; economy rate 2.7

So Ajmal takes significantly more wickets per test than Warne, but at a slightly higher average per wicket.

However, if adjustment is made for the generally higher batting and bowling averages of modern cricket compared with Warne's era, this probably leaves Ajmal ahead. 

Ajmal is a really, really good bowler! In the same league as Warne and better than any other spinner in the modern game except of course the best of all: Murali.

This means that , from statistics, currently - now - playing each other in the same Test series - we have one of the very greatest ten or so spin bowlers of all time, and probably the greatest ever pace bowler of all time.

(I mean Dale Steyn.)

Why isn't more of a fuss made about this?


Friday, August 30, 2013

T20 six-hitting sluggers seem to be using performance-enhancing drugs


It looks to me as if the new generation of T20 batters are going the same way as baseball sluggers - in other words getting into the whole body-building culture, including performance enhancing drugs - many of which are undetectable.

When I say 'looks to me' I mean that there is a fairly characteristic body shape and coarsened facial appearance (heavy brows, prominent lower jaw) which many of these drug users develop - and I think I see some of these changes in some of the big hitting T20 batters.

If this is the case it will, no doubt, be quite well known to insiders - as was always the case in baseball where heavy drug use was endemic among the most successful batters for many years before there was any attempt to stop it - and even after testing drug usage has remained very widespread.


Why T20?

Partly the big money to be made; but also the one-dimensional and simple nature of T20 batting makes it the kind of sport where drugs can make a significant difference.

Hitting sixes is at a premium, and this requires strength and bat speed - both of which are amenable to drug improvement.

And the organizers want lots of sixes, so there is a conflict of interest with respect to detecting drug use; as also happened in baseball with their equivalent of home runs.

The increased frequency of baseball home runs was very popular with fans; for example in the Sosa v McGuire home run record breaking chase of 1998, now presumed to have been drug-fuelled, and of course the remarkable drug-revived career of Barry Bonds.


Test batting and first class cricket, by contrast, is so multidimensional and strategic that drugs would probably make it worse, by 'messing with the mind' as they do - and many of the best T20 batters are mediocre at the longer game, which fits the pattern of drug use.

Up until now, the main (detected) use of performance enhancing drugs has been the relatively-benign situation of anabolic steroids apparently being used by bowlers to speed-up their recovery from injury (this would fit the most most famous example of Shane Warne).


If it is suspected that T20 batting may be drug-fuelled, then it is unlikely to be prevented by drug testing, since the sports pharmacologists are always a step or two ahead of the testing regimes (even when testing is applied non-corruptly).

What is needed to detect drug use is the kind of police detective work which led to the exposure of Lance Armstrong - discovery of laboratories, chains of supply, evidence of corrupt coaches and patterns of usage.

Detection would be a complex and expensive business, in other words.

Given the fact that both top players and T20 organizers benefit from the six-hitting abilities which come from the culture of performance enhancing drug usage, I don't suppose it will happen.

Note added 10 Oct 2013 - This article by John Hotten independently came to similar conclusions about performance enhancing drug use in T20 as this one, but a few months earlier -