Ian Johnston (CricketEurope)
‘Throwing the way to go!’ - a response to the question posed by Paddy O’Hara.
“You’ll never have a quick bowler until someone learns how to throw!” - those were the words of Dermot Reeve in answer to a question from then Irish captain Dermott Monteith.
I only overheard the conversation because I was squashed between the two of them in the back seat of a taxi taking us to a reception after an Ireland versus Sussex match.
“It’s simple,” said Reeve, “You throw one, someone, it could even be the umpire might think it looked strange so they watch the next one. You ‘bowl’ it and everyone looks away for another while and then you chuck in another one!”
Thirty-five years on the technology has moved on from the naked eye and the chance catching of a bent elbow in a grainy black and white image and there is no no hiding place if the powers that be decide to investigate.
Some year’s ago now at an ICC U19 qualifier a photograph, among others, was posted in the hotel lobby, showing a bowler whose action was obviously questionable at least. I asked the Tournament Referee for his thoughts - “He seems to have been caught at an ‘unfortunate moment’” was the response and when asked was he going to do anything replied, “No.”
In recent years however the sight of an ICC camera beside the sight-screen has become common place and even at the level of Senior World Cup Qualifiers players have been suspended mid-tournament.
The perceived threat historically was the fast bowler who ‘chucked’ - suddenly one arrived like a bolt from the blue and whether that was a wicket-taker of a skull-breaker mattered little, everyone agreed it was unacceptable.
Slow bowlers seemed not to pose the same threat, certainly not physically and so Tony Lock ‘bowled’ away for years and years, talked about occasionally but for the most part unhindered.
On the local scene - during an NCU Cup Final David Lloyd who was guest speaker in the hospitality tent was called outside to opine on a local player’s action - “Yes he’s chucking it, but I wouldn’t worry about it.’
Whether that was a statement of his position on ‘throwing’ or a reflection of the current state of the player’s bowling analysis was never clarified.
Paddy O’Hara in his recent article questions the advantage to be gained by a spin bowler in ‘throwing’ :- ‘But what I cannot understand is what advantage this bowler is gaining. A spin bowler is permitted to weave his spell over the batsman, by putting action on the ball with his fingers and his wrist without any restriction at all. What advantage is there for him/her in the ‘throwing’ bit?’
The thinking on this is that there is a bio-mechanical advantage, in that the straightening of the elbow adds to the chain of events and increases the effect of the wrist and fingers in spinning the ball.
The originator of the ‘mystery’ ball was Saqlain Mustaq who bowled in a voluminous long-sleeved shirt (note voluminous!) For years as an off-spinner he took wickets with a ball that went towards the slips while not appearing to alter his action. Late in his career he played for Ireland in one-day games and it seems that those who saw the ‘mystery’ ball close up couldn’t replicate it without a sharp straightening of the elbow which would not go unnoticed in the sharply cut playing shirts of today.
At this point I must declare an ‘interest’ - for me it’s personal. Ireland’s U19s were ‘thrown out’ of a World Cup Qualifier by a bowler who the opposition’s coach admitted he wouldn’t be able to take to the World Cup itself!
Perhaps that might explain why now armed with a long-lens I take a interest in the actions I see week to week.
Coaches of young players have a responsibility to ensure that actions are legal - to ignore it only stores up problems further along the line when - “That’s the way he’s always bowled” will cut no ice.
It also ignores the fact that a player with an illegal action is depriving a legitimate player of a place on the team.
PS - Glad that Paddy points out that there is a ‘procedure’ for dealing with all scenarios and that none of them require local umpires to judge 15º - which some mistakenly think they are required to do.