Do it fair and square

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Sep 21 2014, 07:35am hrs
Erapalli Prasanna reacted sharply when this correspondent contacted him following the International Cricket Councils (ICCs) decision to ban Pakistani off-spinner Saeed Ajmal from bowling in international cricket due to illegal action. Tell me, how many Tests and one-day internationals (ODIs) has Ajmal played till date he asked. When informed that the 36-year-old has featured in 33 Tests and 110 ODIs, the legendary Indian offie put forward a simple question: What was the ICC doing all these years Its not that he has become a chucker overnight.

Fair point made, but Javed Miandad had a different view to it. Maybe he (Ajmal) has changed his action recently or tried something different for which he was reported, said the Pakistani great. When I was with the Pakistan team, I never saw anything wrong with Ajmals action. But now that he has been hauled up for transgressing, Ajmal must accept the ICC decision with humility and try to rectify his action. This is not the end of the world, but he has to make his action legal if he wants to continue, he added.

An independent analysis at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane found all Ajmal deliveries exceeded the 15-degrees level of tolerance permitted under the ICC regulations. But the whole process of detection, testing and the final verdict was tricky enough to raise curiosity.

Ajmal will soon begin remedial work under Saqlain Mushtaq and is still confident of playing in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Ajmal was previously reported for illegal action in 2009 and underwent rigorous testing at the biomechanics lab of the University of Western Australia. Interestingly, back then, the test had found all his deliveriesoff-break, quicker ball and doosrawithin the legal 15-degrees limit. Its also surprising that in these days of specialised support staff, no one in the Pakistan team spotted the bend in Ajmals bowling arm.

The ICC has suddenly become very proactive to clean up the game from the chucking menace. Six players, including Ajmal, have so far fallen prey to operation crackdown. The others are Shane Shillingford from West Indies, Sri Lankas Sachithra Senanayake, New Zealands Kane Williamson, Zimbabwes Prosper Utseya and Sohag Gazi from Bangladesh. None of these bowlers are new to international cricket and it might be pure coincidence that none of them play in the IPL.

Yes, it might be preposterous to draw an inference, for we would like to believe the ICC is completely unbiased. But are they judging every player on the same scale

Take the case of Sunil Narine, who apparently has a very suspect action, especially when he bowls his doosras. Then again, Narine plays for a high-profile IPL franchise (Kolkata Knight Riders), while the bowlers whove been banned for illegal actions never had the administrative support to stonewall their technical shortcomings. Indias Ravichandran Ashwin is one of the very few off-spinners in world cricket at the moment with a very clean action. Notably, Ashwin doesnt have a doosra and makes up for it with a carrom ball. But Ashwin, too, once tried to make full use of the 15-degrees allowance, just to see if he was getting any extra advantage.

It was an Asia Cup fixture against Bangladesh at Fatullah earlier this year. For the first time in his career, Ashwin wore full sleeves and tried to imitate Narines action. After that, this was what he had to say: I had never bowled in full sleeves before. So I wanted to see how it would feel. And I just wanted to see if you can get more revolutions on the ball, if you can do a little bit with your elbow...You can get a lot of advantage with these things. So why should I lag behind if someone else is getting a competitive edge Thankfully, Ashwin had reverted to his normal action in the next game and never tried to be adventurous again. But the likes of Narine continue to gain an unfair advantage. A T20 specialist, Narine loses his mojo in the longer format, which is a reason why hes not an automatic pick for the West Indies Test team.

See, everything is loaded in the favour of batsmen these days. So theres no harm in increasing the level of tolerance to 17-18 degrees. Also, I must say, not every bowler is being judged equally, for I still see some spinners (read Narine) bowling with very suspect actions, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif told this paper.

Miandad begged to differ. We still like to consider cricket a gentlemans game. So the ICC must be appreciated for cracking the whip on illegal action.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann concurred. They (ICC) have had a real crackdown on four-five players of late, so what that tells coaches, players, everyone coming through the game and the young guys is that you wont be able to do any of that moving forward, he told Cricinfo. Sounds logical, but the ICC should always be above board and do it fair and square.