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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Doosra Cannot be Bowled Legally" : Michael Holding

Pakistan's spinners have been a major force in the ongoing one day series in the Caribbean, with Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi weaving their magic over the rather flat footed and confused West Indian batsmen in the first two one day internationals.

In a total of sixty completed overs, the Pakistani spin trio have impressive combined figures of eight wickets for only 202 runs, with Hafeez and Ajmal's doosra's being virtually unplayable, allowing Pakistan to wrap up comfortable 8 wicket and 7 wicket wins respectively.

However the legality of one of Ajmal and Hafeez's main weapons, the doosra has been questioned by former West Indies fast bowling legend turned commentator Michael Holding. The Jamaican commentator was heard during the second one day international in St Lucia, questioning the legality of the doosra and clarifying his comments to, Holding stated that "My belief regarding the doosra is very clear, I don't think it can be bowled legally."

Holding's main gripe with the doosra is that he feels that it cannot be bowled from the wrist alone and that the elbow is used unfairly during the course of bowling the delivery.

"I find it difficult to believe any human being can bowl that delivery with his wrist alone, the elbow has to be used for the power. It's a matter of how much elbow power the bowler uses and the ICC obviously believe some bowlers use less than the 15 degrees and others don't, as only some bowlers actions are questioned and reported."

The current guidelines state that during the bowling action the elbow may be held at any angle and may bend further, but may not straighten out. If the elbow straightens illegally then the square-leg umpire may call a no-ball. The current laws allow a bowler to straighten his arm 15 degrees or less.

The doosra came into prominence with world class off spinners such as Saqlain Mushtaq, Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh utilising the doosra as a surprise delivery. Off spinners the world over perfected the art of the delivery that moved away from the right handed batsmen and the delivery produced great results for them. However controversy has never been far away from the doosra and pundits over the years have continued to question its legality, with several high profile off spinners being “called” for throwing.

The most famous such instance occurred at the 1995 Boxing day test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where controversial umpire Darell Hair called spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing. 'Murali' was no-balled seven times in three overs by Hair, who believed the then-23-year-old was bending his arm and straightening it in the process of delivery; an illegal action in cricket.

Hafeez and Ajmal as well as Shoaib Malik and Harbhajan Singh are amongst a group of bowlers who over the years have been reported to the ICC because of official concerns about their bowling actions but were never called in a match. They were cleared to continue bowling without sanction.

Two other off spinners who have come under the ICC scanner for illegal actions are South Africa's Johan Botha and Bangladesh off spinner Abdur Razzak.

In February 2006 Botha was suspended from bowling following an analysis by bowling expert Bruce Elliott. After an examination by the ICC in August 2006 he was found still to be straightening his arm more than the acceptable 15 degrees. On November 21, 2006, Johan Botha's action was passed by the International Cricket Council and he was again eligible for selection by the South African national team.

On 14 April 2009, Botha was again reported for a suspected illegal action. The match officials cited concern over two components of Botha's repertoire, his quicker ball and his doosra, after the completion of fourth ODI against Australia at Port Elizabeth. On May 12, 2009 the ICC announced that Botha's doosra ball had been deemed 'illegal' by an independent test and that he would not be allowed to bowl the delivery in international cricket. The same test found his off-break and arm-ball deliveries to be bowled within the permitted tolerance level of 15 degrees of elbow extension.

The test was carried out on April 30 by Prof. Bruce Elliott, member of the ICC Panel of Human Movement Specialists, at the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia, Perth. The doosra delivery was found to have an extension of 26.7 degrees and no single delivery tested was within the legal limit. Botha was told that he could re-apply for the delivery to be tested again once he had modified it, or appeal the decision within 14 days. However his action was then deemed within the legal limits.

Following New Zealand's tour of Bangladesh in October 2008, Razzak was reported by umpires Daryl Harper and Asoka de Silva for having a "suspect bowling action". This was the second time in his career that he had been reported for his bowling action. Tests showed that Razzak was bending his arm by 22–28 degrees, usually averaging 25 degrees although his quicker ball was delivered at an average of 24 degrees. As a result, Razzak was suspended from international cricket. In March 2009, the ICC lifted Razzak's suspension after he changed his bowling action.
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