Extensive research conducted by the International Cricket Council has revealed that 99% of bowlers in the history of cricket have been chuckers. The study was undertaken in the wake of the furore surrounding Muttiah Muralitharan, whose doosra was banned earlier this year after Chris Broad, the match referee for the Tests against Australia, reported it to the ICC.
But an article by Derek Pringle in The Daily Telegraph suggests that Murali is no different from the vast majority of his fellow players. The current law states that there should be no straightening or partial straightening of the bowling arm during delivery, and research conducted with precise instrumentation has revealed that even bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock, considered examplars of the classical action, occasionally go over the prescribed tolerance limit, bending their arms by as much as 12 degrees.
The tolerance levels had been set at five degrees for spinners, seven-and-a-half for medium-pacers, and 10 for quick bowlers, a scenario that had invited much criticism from past greats like Ian Chappell. But the study conducted by three prominent biomechanics experts suggests that the human eye can only detect a kink in the action if the straightening is more than 15 degrees.
As Angus Fraser - one of six former Test cricketers on the committee that reviewed illegal bowling actions in Dubai recently - wrote in The Independent, even the likes of Fred Trueman, Dennis Lillee, Curtly Ambrose, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, and Ian Botham were found to have exceeded the straightening-limit set by the ICC.
The biomechanics men - Dr Marc Portus, Professor Bruce Elliott and Dr Paul Hurrion - used cameras shooting at 250 frames per second – ten times the speed of a TV camera – to illustrate phenomena like adduction and hyperextension which can convince an observer watching without the aid of technology that the bowler is chucking.
Research was also undertaken during the ICC Champions Trophy in England, where it was found that 13 of the 23 bowlers filmed straightened their arms more than the current permissible levels. Ramnaresh Sarwan, he of the fairly innocuous legspin, was the only man observed who didn't straighten his arm at all.
Based on these findings, the ICC is to extend the tolerance limit to 15 degrees for all bowlers, regardless of whether they bowl at Shane Warne's pace or Shoaib Akhtar's. Match officials will still be expected to note down suspicious actions, and pass on the information to the ICC. But unlike before, remedial action will now be the sole preserve of a new body to the set up to help bowlers with the rehabiliation process.
Sounds fair enough to me. I've doubted Murali's legitimacy in the past, but these figures can't be ignored, IMO.