Although the original beautiful game called football did not have players who faked falls, who deliberately injured opponents, who claimed fake penalties, the football played today includes all of the above. Many games have internalized cheating-within the rules, which is an oxymoron (Formula 1 is another example).
Cricket, unlike many other sports does not involve legal cheating. Match fixing in cricket was due to certain disloyal players. It had nothing to do with cricket’s true philosophy. However, one aspect of cricket has troubled me ever since I started following cricket. I have been following the game for the best part of last two decades and nothing has made me angrier than watching an illegal bowling action allowed in cricket.
Bowling a cricket ball is called bowling in cricket, because it is not throwing. Throwing (chucking) can generate more pace, more zip, more turn and more bounce than bowling. To throw a cricket ball one need not run 20 yards to deliver it.
Some of the best contemporary classical and legal bowling actions I have watched over the years include those of Shane Bond (New Zealand), Jacques Kallis (South Africa), Shaun Pollock (South Africa), Mathew Hoggard (England), Courtney Walsh (West Indies), Javagal Srinath (India), Waqar Younis (Pakistan), Glenn McGrath (Australia) and many others. Many spinners also did have beautiful bowling actions. Many bowlers from the cricketing past are credited to have had clean bowling actions.
However, there were many more (they are still there) who did bowl with unusual bowling actions. In the name of variation they would try many things that in cricketing terms is blatant throwing. Bending of a bowler’s arm or elbow while delivering a cricket ball is classified as throwing. Although what constitutes a legal bowling action cannot be put down in words and numbers, ironically it is cricketing knowledge that tells us what is illegal. Like many other aspects of cricket, it is judged on visual evidence. Yes, it involves personal inclinations that are not objective. That is the way cricket is. Decision on an LBW or a caught behind the wicket is left to human judgement in cricket. Similarly, one can easily judge when a bowler chucks and when he does not. At least in that way, cricket is special.
New ridiculous rules were brought in some years ago that involved arm bending angle measurement to test the legality of a bowling action. As Ian Chappell (Former Australian Skipper, Batsman) explains in the following audio clip, one can easily differentiate between a throw and a legal delivery by watching the action through naked human eye. No technology assistance is necessary for that purpose. However, I strongly disagree with him when he says he has no problem with people who consistently throw the ball. He thinks one can treat a consistent chucker as a baseball bowler and play him like any other bowler. I am not sure about that.
click here to listen to Ian Chappell talking about chuckers in cricket
Cricket as a game has a character. It does not involve a cutthroat approach to winning. It has a sense of fairness, which no other game on this planet has. Even if one does get away with a dubious act, the game will come back and bite him for sure. That is cricket. It is true that the recent Australian teams have made it a philosophy to win at any cost. They are not an exception. No team in world cricket today is a bunch of saints. I don’t know how far they could justify some of their acts on the field. We don’t expect and want them to be saints. All we expect is to see them adhere to the spirit of cricket. E.g., No rule prohibits fast bowlers from bowling helmet-crashing bouncers at a number ten or eleven however they are not expected to do that. They could certainly bowl toe-crushing yorkers to uproot the stumps. There are many such unwritten rules in cricket, which have a strong sense of fairness and not allowing oneself to chuck (self-recognition and regulation) is one of them.
The so called ‘arm ball’ from a spinner (with exceptions), the mysterious ‘wrong one’ (with exceptions) when delivered with a super bent elbow, blaming genetics and finding an excuse in the way one’s body is naturally built ………you name it. All of these are euphemisms for chucking.
Retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, the Srilankan off-spinner has ended an era in test cricket. He was a fantastic human being. It was unfortunate that the cricketing authorities singled him out and unfairly targeted him for his unusual bowling action. It is equally unfortunate that cricket commentators, regulatory authorities, and enthusiasts have changed their goal posts to accommodate many suspicious actions around the world.