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Friday, 27 December, 2002, 14:38 GMT
Cricket's enduring stigma
There are few more emotive subjects in cricket than chucking.
The stigma of being suspected of having an illegal bowling action is one which players find hard to shake off, even if they have the game's authorities on their side.
It is perhaps little wonder then that Australia closed ranks around paceman Brett Lee after a barracking from England supporters during the Melbourne Test.
The intent may have been more mischievous than malicious, but that cut little ice with batsman Justin Langer.
He branded members of the Barmy Army who shouted "no ball" at Lee as a "disgrace".
For the record, Lee's action was reported by Indian umpires Arani Jayaprakash and Srinivas Venkataraghavan following a Test series in New Zealand in March and April 2000.
In August of that year, however, his action was given the all-clear by an ICC Illegal Deliveries Panel after viewing real time and slow motion video of Lee in action.
There was no shortage of expert opinion on a panel including former fast bowlers Imran Khan, Michael Holding and Richard Hadlee, who totalled 1,042 Test wickets between them.
But even though the verdict went Lee's way, Malcolm Speed, then head of the Australian Cricket Board and now ICC chief executive, sounded a warning that the problem could occur again.
"That's something which is an occupational hazard of being the world's fastest bowler," said Speed.
After bursting onto the scene with 42 wickets in seven Tests, Lee went through a lean spell with only 47 from his next 17 matches following surgery on his elbow.
But since being recalled to the team for the third Ashes Test in Perth, he has looked like the Lee of old, reaching speeds in the upper 90s mph.
The down-side of his return to form, however, has been an outbreak of fresh murmurings about his action.
His reponse was unequivocal.
"I have no problem with my action," Lee said. "It went through an expert panel of 10 and came back 10-0 in my favour."
But the Barmy Army's vocal queries clearly touched a nerve, which is still raw.
"We've done it on many previous tours, with Muttiah Muralitharan (of Sri Lanka). It's been big news over here about Brett Lee chucking, so it's just the old English sense of humour that comes out.
"It was sung loudly, but with a smile on our faces," said Barmy Army member Dave Peacock.
Funny or not - Langer is certainly right about one thing.
The sight of Lee tearing into the crease is one of the modern game's great sights.
Larwood, Lindwall, Trueman, Lillee, Thomson, Holding and Marshall all prompted a similar sense of anticipation.
And long may fast bowlers continue to do so.
03 Aug 00 | Cricket
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