The history of the 'doosra': Spinning cricket the other way
Two decades ago, when Pakistan was playing Australia in the deserts of Sharjah, the young spin wizard, Saqlain Mushtaq, broke the traditions and started spinning the ball the other way from the conventional off-spin to deceive the batsmen. The wicket-keeper, Moin Khan, would often shout from behind the stumps,
“Saqi Bhai, doosra abhi karna hai.”
(Bowl the other one now, Saqi Bhai)
Tony Grieg picked it up from a stump microphone and eventually likened the word to the delivery after confirming it with Saqlain in a post-match interview. Thus, the term became a part of cricketing culture.
Over the years, the same unconventional delivery from the off-spinners has become one of their strongest weapons which has allowed the off-spinners to dominate the batsmen but with the invention of the ‘doosra’, the cricketing world engulfed into a new debate and controversy about the legitimacy of this delivery under the rules of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
What is a doosra?
A doosra is a delivery in which an off-spinner delivers the ball with the same finger action as normal off-break delivery but cocks the wrist so that the back of the hand faces the batsman. This gives the ball a spin in the opposite direction to that from an off-break, causing it to spin the other way.
The recent controversy has again challenged the delivery, Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal has been reported for a suspect action, cited by match officials after the first Test ended during Pakistan’s on-going Test series in Sri Lanka.
Ajmal’s bowling action will now be scrutinised under the ICC process relating to suspect bowling action. He will have to undergo this test within 21 days. Ajmal was once again the highest wicket taker for Pakistan in their defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle.
However, this is not the first time that the mystery spinner has been reported for a suspect action, he was previously reported in 2009 but was clear to play after testing.
Ajmal is one of the best exponents of doosra, especially when it comes to matches with limited overs and, like him, all top off-spinners in the world cricket, including Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka and Harbhajan Singh of India, have used it with great success.
In 2004, Harbhajan Singh was reported for a suspect bowling action while deceiving Bangladesh batsmen with his doosras and he was cleared by ICC in 2005. In the following year, Pakistan spinner Shoaib Malik was also reported for the same.
In 2009, South African off-spinner Johan Botha was reported for a suspect bowling action and in May, in the same year, the ICC labelled his doosra as illegal. However, after a few tests and modification of his arm, his doosra was termed well within ICC’s rules.
One of the worst controversies came unearthed earlier this year, when Sri Lankan offie Sachittra Sennanayeke was banned from all forms of cricket after a suspected bowling action, his arm bend way beyond the permissible limits while bowling doosra.
To tackle the situation in 2004, the ICC came up with the regulation of allowing the bowlers to flex their elbow of the bowling arm up to 15 degrees. But still this hasn’t convinced the on-field umpires, who rely on naked-eye tactics to call bowlers for throwing and, of course, the Australian coaches who want the teaching of the doosra banned, at least in their country, as it is considered an act of cheating.
While the debate is still on, many off-breaks have used the doosra and others coming in to the ranks are also learning this not-so-secret art but still deceiving the batsmen. However, the ICC still maintains a vigil of the exponents of the doosra, just in case players don’t let loose and break their arms in the process.
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