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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 10:08 GMT
Chucking a lasting stigma
By Martin Gough

Shabbir Ahmed must have believed allegations about his bowling action were a thing of the past.

Shabbir Ahmed
Shabbir Ahmed endured three years out of the Pakistan side
It is four years since the Pakistan bowler's burgeoning career was brought to a resounding halt after just three one-day internationals because he was found to be throwing.

Hailed as a pace rival to Shoaib Akhtar, he took 3-52 against West Indies on his one-day international debut in Toronto before a report sent him back into the ranks.

But work with Caribbean legend Michael Holding saw him return a more mature bowler, which an eight-wicket match haul on Test debut against Bangladesh in August proved.

Now the 27-year-old has been told he must again work to avoid suspicions that he bends his elbow during delivery.

However, for former Australia pace man Dennis Lillee the news that a suspected chucker has been cast back into doubt will be no surprise.

Dennis Lillee
If If they want to do the work it's easy for them to fix it but remedial work slows them right down for a long time
Dennis Lillee
Speaking to BBC Sport before Ahmed was reported, Lillee said the temptation to go back to old ways will always remain for reformed bowlers when the pressure is on.

"I have a theory - and this is where the authorities have got to take note - that anyone who is suspect, even if they're cleared, they're cleared for one ball," he said.

"They've still got to be closely monitored. They're still on notice that they're suspect."

Furore inevitably surrounds a chucking charge, with patriotism and allegations of bias coming to the fore - witness the cases of Shoaib and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan.

Ever conscious of this, the International Cricket Council is constantly tinkering with its process for weeding out dubious bowlers, trying to make it obvious and fair.

The current process involves two stages, and a review group made up of eminent former bowlers from around the world.

Despite the heightened profile of the issue Lillee, now a specialist fast bowling coach, does not believe chucking is any more of a problem now than it has even been.

Player works at home with bowling advisors and human movement specialist
Home board has six weeks to analyse and report
Bowler may continue playing in those six weeks - and may be called by umpires - but will not be reported
After a second report, the ICC's Bowling Review Group determines the action's legality
If illegal, the player will receive a 12-month ban from bowling in international cricket
After 90 days the Bowling Review Group may rescind the ban immediately
"Technology has got so good that everything is broken down to the Nth degree whereas once if you were going to analyse an action you just had a still camera," he said.

"Guys you are unsure about can also look a lot worse because technology slows things down so much that we can read things into it."

Hyperextension in the elbow - an over-flexibility which has been blamed for in the cases Akhtar and James Kirtley of England - is one example.

And a bowler may look like he is extending his elbow when turning his wrist in a leg-cutter action.

"We've got to be careful we don't jump at shadows," Lillee warned.

"[But] we've got to analyse it correctly and make sure we do nail the ones who are assisting their bowling by bending the elbow.

Lillee runs coaching clinics for aspiring youngsters worldwide and regularly comes across bowlers with dubious actions but says there is little incentive for them to change.

"If they want to do the work it's easy for them to fix it but remedial work slows them right down for a long time or for a spinner it cuts their effectiveness," he explained.

"So they tend to do the remedial work for a bit, get themselves cleared and then when it really counts you can sometimes see it again."

Dennis Lillee
"It's very difficult to spot with the naked eye"

Dennis a menace no more
27 May 03  |  Cricket
ICC to research chucking
18 Dec 03  |  Cricket

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