Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Menace of the Bendy Arm Brigade

LeggieLefty (Ajesh) is a natural right hander taught to bat left handed with disastrous results in his amateur cricket career. He is an unabashed fan of the art of legspin. It is easy to see why his blog LeggieLefty has a the tagline "From Right to Left". Ajesh blogs about cricket at LeggieLefty.wordpress.com

In this post Ajesh looks at the history and the menace of chucking and the ICC's latest crackdown on the suspect actions.
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Way back in time, at the turn of the last century, Jim Phillips single handedly started the first crusade against the Bendy Arm Brigade. This group of bowlers was breaking the rules by bending their arms at the elbow when bowling. Phillips, himself a medium-pacer with 355 First Class wickets at an average of 20, definitely knew a thing or two about bowling. As a fearless umpire, though, he is credited with stamping out a rash of chuckers at the time. He called Ernie Jones in a Test Match in 1897/8, thus earning for Ernie the dubious distinction of being the first bowler to be called in a Test (Remember this the next time you’re in a cricket quiz, folks!).

Chucking, thus, has always existed in cricket. There are bowlers who have been called for throwing from almost every country. It would be interesting to study this, I thought, to work out what types of bowlers are more likely to throw and is there an area of the cricket world that is more conducive to throwing than others. 

First, what is throwing? Law 24, Clause 3 defines a fair delivery with respect to the arm:
A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing. 

Further studies and extensive lab testing ended up with the result that all bowlers extend their elbows to some extent and a 15 degree limit is currently the rule. Of course, as with everything the ICC does, it is impossible for umpires on the field to check this and so life goes on as do many of the world’s chuckers. I will admit to not being one of Mutthiah Muralitharan’s fans and there is a voice inside me that insists that the 15 degree rule came about primarily to protect his record.

Recently, the ICC decided to crack down on suspect actions and a number of bowlers, some of them very crucial to their teams, are now sitting out the World Cup. Will the tournament be poorer for them? I think not. I hate watching bowlers with awkward and suspect actions. Aesthetically and from a purely cricket standpoint they are an abomination. I won’t even talk about the cheating aspect of it. 

Now what kind of bowlers are most likely to chuck? I did some research and found two basic varieties of chuckers. Fast bowlers and finger spinners. Fast bowlers are easy enough to understand. They’re trying to bowl it quick and they’re bending their body and  it is easy to figure out that the arm would snap out much more easily.

I believe that off break bowlers are the most boring type of bowlers. In the modern game they became run-rate stoppers, not wicket takers and it is no surprise then that they feature heavily amongst the chuckers. Even they want to take a wicket or two sometimes. I include left arm orthodox spinners in this category, for in essence they do exactly the same thing but with the other arm. Strangely, Jim Higgs was once called for chucking, it appears but he is the only wrist spinner in the list. Clearly something of an aberration. 

Where in the world do they come from? In a recent list of 12 to be officially sanctioned here is the breakdown by country

Pakistan: 3 ( But Shoaib Akhtar’s sanction was overturned)
Bangladesh: 2
West Indies: 2 ( Not counting Sunil Narine, and counting 2 episodes of Shillingford as 1)
England: 1
South Africa: 1
New Zealand: 1
Zimbabwe: 1
Sri Lanka: 1

Of the spinners still in the tournament, I have my doubts about the bowling of one or two of them. Suleiman Benn, for instance, seems to have a bend (and a pause) as his arm comes over and I’d like to have that measured in a lab. Marlon Samuels has been cleared, but I’d watch him closely. Senanayake, is another I’d peer at through a microscope, as indeed I would Prosper Utseya. Actually, I’m not sure how he is in the squad, for I thought he was banned.

The other aspect of this, which is tied to the bendy arms is the pause before delivery. This was invented, again, by finger spinners and perfected by Saeed Ajmal. Not cricket, I’m afraid, and the ICC needs to look at this soon.

These so called offspinners need to learn from Nathan Lyon and Graeme Swann that it is not necessary to have a doosra and a dodgy action to take wickets. 

Yes, even in today’s environment.

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