Timid officiating has allowed a generation of ‘chuckers’ to flourish in international cricket and the current crackdown on bowlers with illegal actions has arrived two decades late, according to former test umpire Darrell Hair.
Pakistani’s Saeed Ajmal is the highest profile of a string of spinners who have been suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) recently for bending their elbows beyond the 15 degrees allowed while bowling the ball.
The forthright Hair famously called Sri Lankan off-spinning great Muttiah Muralitharan for the offence during a test at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1995 and said the ICC should have taken action back then.
“Whatever they’re doing now, they’re doing 20 years too late,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “They had a chance in 1995 to clean things up and it’s taken them 19 years to finally come back and say they want chuckers out of the game.
“I can’t believe that Saaed Ajmal has been able to bowl as long as he has, and they say he is bending his arm by 45 degrees or something. Well, every man and his dog would have known that.
“I suppose what it does show is the general weakness of the umpires over time to do anything about it.”
Muralitharan, whose action was later cleared by the ICC after biomechanical analysis, went on to become the leading test wicket taker of all time despite also being called for throwing by Hair’s compatriot Ross Emerson in Adelaide in 1999.
Hair said the way Emerson had been treated after the call during a one-day international between Sri Lanka and England – he was stood down and never officiated another international match — had made umpires reluctant to report illegal actions.
“The fact was that no other ICC umpires were willing to have a go. Ross Emerson was very adamant about his thoughts about chuckers but they soon put him into the background,” he said.
“I suppose I was lucky I had a few games under my belt so they didn’t want to target me, but they certainly got him out of the way fairly swiftly.
“It’ll be interesting to see how many umpires are brave enough to get involved in it.
“I said it in the late ’90s that if something wasn’t done about it you’d have a generation of chuckers on your hands and now you have.”
The clampdown has been welcomed by many in the game, even if some have questioned its timing so close to next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.