Former Australian captain Ian Chappell says there will soon be an epidemic of illegal actions in international cricket.
And, he adds, the game’s administrators are the ones to blame because they allowed the situation to get out of hand in the first place.
“The officials got themselves in a bind when they misguidedly bent over backwards to accommodate Muttiah Muralitharan’s unorthodox action. This shortsighted approach has resulted in all kinds of bends and flexes being allowed†in bowling actions. This will lead to an escalation in the epidemic that will eventually force the administrators to either take drastic action or declare the game an elongated form of baseball,” Chappell said.
Chappell, now one of cricket’s highly respected commentators, said that instead of looking to simplify the law regarding bowling actions, administrators have complicated the process.
“It has reached the point where it’s a barrister’s dream and it doesn’t take a Rumpole of the Bailey to keep serial offenders playing the game. Even worse, the current drawn-out process surrounding dubious actions doesn’t give the batsmen the appropriate protection in the middle. It’s a nightmare for a batsman when someone chucks the odd delivery. That makes it difficult to adjust, and often a batsman becomes so aware of the dubious delivery, he’s fooled by a legal one. No batsman wants a bowler thrown out of the game but he is entitled to be protected by a call from square leg when a bowler transgresses. Under the current law, with all the piffle about 15 degrees of flex and a long drawn-out notification process, this isn’t possible,” he said.
‘Denial of basic rights’
He noted that a bowler was no-balled when he overstepped the front line by a fraction, which made absolutely no difference down the other end. But, he added, a batsman wasn’t protected when a dubious delivery that gave a bowler a huge advantage abbreviated his innings. Chapple described it as a denial of a batsman’s basic rights.
“The law needs to be modified to something really simple so the legal people can’t get their teeth into it in a court. This way the umpire at square leg will feel comfortable calling a no-ball on the field, knowing he won’t finish up in court defending his judgement against a barrister who doesn’t know the difference between a no-ball and no man’s land.
“Any modification of the law will require a 12-month lead-in time so the current crop of bowlers can iron out any kinks in order to comply with the new regulations. In the meantime, officials need to be vigilant and strict in youth tournaments, and any bowler with a doubtful action should be told to fix his delivery or find another profession,” he said
Chappell suggested that if these remedies weren’t adopted soon, the copycat syndrome would ensure the market was flooded and then it would be difficult to tell the difference between the delivery of a bowler and that of a baseball pitcher.†Several international players have been allowed to continue their international careers after being cited for chucking and subsequently adjusting their actions to fall within an allowable flex, including retired Pakistani pacer Shoaib Akhtar, South Africa’s off-spinner Johan Botha, India’s off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and West Indies part-time off-spinner Marlon Samuels.††