For years now, Pakistan’s bowling mainstay, Saeed Ajmal, has been bamboozling batsmen with his doosras or wrong ’uns. Now, it is his turn to be bowled out. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has declared his action illegal and suspended him from competitive cricket. At 37, Ajmal, the most successful bowler in the world in the past five years when wickets taken in all forms of cricket are counted, has to go back to the drawing board and get his action corrected. According to ICC experts, Ajmal’s elbow bends more than the legal permissible limit (15 degrees) when he bowls. So, how did on-field umpires and coaches let him bowl with his dubious action all these years? As Bishan Singh Bedi, the iconic spin bowler, asks, what happens to all the wickets Ajmal took? And he took many — Ajmal was a match-winner.
Chucking has a long history. The first official record of chucking dates back to 1872 and the shamed bowler was Tom Wills, a star of Australian cricket at the time. The most controversial case involved the Sri Lankan spin wizard, Mutthiah Muralitharan. Murali, who now holds the world record for the highest number of wickets in Test cricket, was called for chucking in the 1990s. The Sri Lankans accused the Australian umpire of racism. With the neutrality of umpires coming under a cloud, the ICC stepped in and devised the present system, wherein an umpire can no longer call a bowler for throwing on field but only report him to the ICC. Thereafter, ICC experts examine the bowler and if found to be chucking during examination, he is asked to undergo remedial action. In order to make the process objective, the ICC also decreed that a bowler could bend his arm up to a prescribed limit.
With the fear of being no-balled on the field disappearing, bowlers have been pushing the envelope. The ICC must rethink the present system, end the degrees-of-bend rule and bring umpires back into play. Let umpires warn or bar a bowler if he bowls an illegal delivery during the match itself.