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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Calling time on chucking
Brett Lee
Brett Lee: Exonerated by the new regulations
BBC Sport Online's Thrasy Petropoulos welcomes the new rational approach to "chucking" now being adopted at cricket's top table.

Cricket has long struggled to find a way of dealing with suspected chuckers.

Indeed the issue has been a problem ever since Ian Meckiff, the Australian left-arm seam bowler, was no-balled four times in one over for throwing 36 years ago.

Meckiff's action prompted his skipper Richie Benaud to remove him from the attack after just one over of the first Test of a series against South Africa in 1963/64.

There were echoes of the Meckiff incident when Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled for throwing by Australian umpire Darrel Hair during the boxing day Test in Melbourne 22 years later.

Richie Benaud
Richie Benaud played a pivotal role in the Meckiff affair

Peter Roebuck, the former Somerset captain and now an influential voice in the media, had an instant and very firm opinion of the event he had just witnessed.

"Cricket has permitted the public humiliation of a player," he said. "It is not a performance I'd care to witness again."

Meckiff had bowled his last over in first-class cricket and many were those who wanted to hound Murali out of the game because of his suspect bowling action.

Roebuck's criticism was of "cricket" not Hair, who later made his opinion of the unorthodox off-spinner's action abundantly clear in his autobiography, describing it as "diabolical".

Well, "cricket" has at last made its mind up on how to deal with throwing.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) have drawn up, and through their recent decision on Brett Lee's action, put into practice their method.

Quite simply, there is every possibility that no bowler will ever be called for chucking again in a Test match.

Instead the following procedure operates for bowlers with "suspect actions":

  • First they are reported by the umpires to the match referee;

  • The referee informs the ICC;

  • The ICC in turn convenes an Advisory Panel for Illegal Deliveries;

  • After watching video footage of a match in question, the paneldecide whether or not the bowler is guilty;

  • If guilty, the player is then reported to his home board and recommended for corrective action.

  • It is up to the home board to ban the player from international cricket.
Of course, the route to get to that decision was not a straightforward one.

Shoaib Akhtar became the first player to be reported under the new system by - wait for it - Darrel Hair and Peter Willey.

U-turn

At the time, the ICC had powers to ban a bowler and, after surveying footage, promptly declared that Shoiab had "a problem with his action while bowling a bouncer" and the Pakistan paceman was banned from international cricket.

Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib Akhtar sparked a U-turn from the authorities

A quick U-turn followed when it was decided that Shoaib would be able to play in one-day internationals as any ball over shoulder height is in any case illegal in the one-day game.

Would you believe it, Shoaib's first ball in the next one-dayer was a bouncer and promptly called no-ball.

Now for the next U-turn.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) made a direct appeal to Jagmohan Dalmiya, then president of the ICC, against Shoaib's ban.

The appeal was upheld and the ICC decided to strip itself of its own power to ban players from international cricket. It was now up to the home boards to take the action they saw necessary.

Shoaib was simply recommended for remedial action and a series of tests have since cleared his action as legal.

Aussie controversy

But the ICC was soon asked to deal with another reported case of a suspect action - Australia's Brett Lee.

This time everything went like clockwork.

Lee was reported to the match referee, the ICC were informed and a 12-man panel including Sunil Gavascar, Doug Insole, Dayle Hadlee, Imran Khan and Michael Holding held a video conference to decide what action should be taken.

Henry Olonga
Henry Olonga overcame early career hiccups
There was no shortage of irony in Insole's presence on the panel.

It was Insole who famously remarked after being dismissed by Tony Lock, whose quicker ball was occasionally thrown, during a match for the Rest v Surrey in 1955: "Was I run out or bowled?"

Lee was ultimately cleared of throwing but the process had shown itself in operation for the first time.

If Lee had been found guilty, he would simply have been reported to the Australian Cricket Board who would have been urged to smooth out his action.

It is not that uncommon for bowlers to have been called for throwing, although the spotlight is always brightest during a Test match.

In 1995 against Pakistan, Zimbabwe's pace bowler Henry Olonga became the first man since Meckiff 32 years previously to be called during a Test.

Olonga had a problem. He went away and came back with a straight arm - but had he been a higher profile cricketer at the time he may well have been driven from the game by the ensuing media interest.

There are those who say that a no-ball for throwing is no worse than overstepping, but the words of Tom Smith, the General Secretary of the Association of Cricket Umpires back in 1960, still hold true with many people.

"Throwing is unfair," he said. "It is insidious, infectious and a menace to the game. It must be stopped."

Though the ICC still insist that it is in an umpire's remit to apply law 24.2 if he feels that a bowler is "not delivering a ball correctly", the game's governing body may just have come up with the answer - never to call a bowler again for throwing again.

The problem would instead be dealt with in the cold light of day and as far from the media spotlight as possible.

Certainly no bowler will ever be vilified for being a chucker again.

See also:

02 Aug 00 |  Cricket
Lee chucking charge lifted
11 Jul 00 |  Cricket
Chucking: Why the fuss?
31 Dec 99 |  Cricket
Shoaib shock at 'chucking' ban
Links to more Cricket stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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