Fri | Aug 28, 2015

Two different kinds of spin

Published:Sunday | November 11, 2012

Tony Becca, Contributor

In the days of bowlers such as Jim Laker, Tony Lock, and Johnny Wardle of England, Vinoo Mankad, Subhash Gupte, and a host of spinners from India, Hugh Tayfield of South Africa, Sonny Ramadhin and Alfred Valentine of the West Indies, and Ian Johnson and Richie Benaud of Australia, and also one like Clarrie Grimmett before them, slow bowling and spin bowling were keys to success.

In those days, almost every team, almost by divine right, boasted two spin bowlers, they bowled most of a team's overs, and they took most of the wickets.

It was plenty spin, right-arm and left-arm spin, off-break or leg-break, the googly or the chinaman, and the flipper and the straight ball, the one which went straight ahead with the arm, or the one which came back with the left-hander's bowling arm.

Most of all, it was teasing spin, it was slower spin, or it was faster spin.

In those days, there were fast bowlers also, but on some teams some of them bowled just a few overs at the start of an innings, only enough to take the shine off the ball.

In those days also, they were a few slow bowlers who defied the rules of the game by bending the arm, the bowling arm, the elbow, and they got away with it, just like they do today.

One such was Lock. The rest of them were all skill, including Ramadhin, who was questioned long after the end of an illustrious career.

Today, however, that is not the case. Today, spin bowlers are questioned left, right and centre. Almost everywhere you go you will find one with a suspicious action, one who, because of a modern thinking, because of a fear to do what should be done, bowlers have been allowed to bend their elbows for 15.

Many bowlers, fast and slow, have been questioned, many have been sent for testing, and many have been passed using the 15 guideline.

Numbered among the slow bowlers with a 'legalised' action, and without counting the part-timers are right-handers Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka, right-handers Harbhajan Singh and Ravi Ashwin and left-hander Pragyan Ojha of India, right-hander Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan, right-hander Johan Botha of South Africa, and right-handers Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine of the West Indies.

These are the bowlers who use the 'Doosra', and its off-shoots such as the 'Carom' ball, to great effect, to win matches, deliveries which cannot be bowled with a straight arm, or without a bent elbow.

Is it fair? I do not know, what with the change of the times, and what with its addition to the bowlers' string of weapons.

I also do not know if allowing the arm to bend a little is good for the game.

When and where would you stop it, if you need to stop it, and would you allow fast bowlers to throw as they like, remembering that you simply cannot allow the spin bowlers to throw as much as they like without allowing the same latitude to the fast bowlers.

Illegal

Throwing, instead of bowling, would be illegal and would be bad for cricket. It would be too dangerous for cricket, especially for the batsmen.

This I do know, however: the 15 rule, the 'Doosra', cannot be good for one and bad for the other, it cannot be right for the International Cricket Council (ICC) and bad for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), it cannot be taught by the ICC and ignored by the ECB, and it cannot be ignored by some countries, by England and Australia, and used by some, by Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, by South Africa, and by the West Indies.

That is a case for problems, for contention, as there is already.

The Australians, such as Shane Warne, and the Englishmen, such as Graeme Swann, were and are as clean as a whistle, and they are satisfied. In the case of Warne, he bowled everything, from a a big-spinning leg-break, through a googly, a top-spinner, a flipper, a slider, to a simple straight delivery, bowled slower or faster.

The Sri Lankans, the Pakistan, etcetera, etcetera, are also satisfied. They have an additional shot to fire, to get rid of batsmen, especially at home, on their own
slow pitches.

To see some batsmen perform against some
spinners in England, and to see those same batsmen perform against
those same spinners in another country, on another pitch, is like
watching two different sets of players in action.

In
England, England beat the world, in the rest of the world, they struggle
to avoid defeat, and in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year they
played three Test matches against Pakistan, they lost all three, and
they lost three, mainly to Ajmal.

Ajmal took 24
wickets in the three Test matches.

Is that fair? No,
not at all, not even if you counted the much talked about hometown
advantage.

Common rules

In sports,
rules are, or should be, common to all competitors, home or away, home
and away, and in cricket, a bowler must be allowed to bend his elbow or
he must not be allowed to, all of them, fast or slow, or from whence
they come.

George Dobell, a correspondent of Cricinfo,
informs us recently that there are no bowlers in English cricket who
bowl the 'Doosra', and that Maurice Holmes left the English game at the
end of the 2011 season after the ECB warned him not to use that
delivery.

That is strange, but then Dr Mark King, a
senior lecturer at the Loughborough University and tester for the ECB,
believes that his tests are correct and that the ICC-approved tests,
carried out by the University of Western Australia, are
incorrect.

The two testers test two different parts of
the arm, or so it is said.

We hope that cricket gets
around the testing problem early for it is one thing to have some
bowlers bowling the 'Doosra' and some not bowling it, some not allowed
to even try it.

It is something completely different,
however, to have some batsmen from some countries playing it well and
some batsmen from other countries not playing it well at all. In fact,
they play it, when they play it, as if they just had seen a ghost, and
all because they have not been exposed to it.

Can the
ICC or the ECB do something about it? Can they do something about this
'mystery' bowling?

They can, but they run the risk of
simply marking time, according to the young generation, of stopping
progress, and of robbing the slow bowlers of a major weapon, especially
on a responsive
pitch.