It's time we chuck the 'chuckers' from Pakistan cricket
Few weeks ago, Pakistan cricket received a severe blow when it’s most prominent bowler, Saeed Ajmal, was banned from bowling in international cricket due to suspected illegal bowling action.
This news shocked many Ajmal fans and a lot become extremely angry at this decision. Some die hard cricket fans have also termed this ban a conspiracy of the Big Three against Pakistan.
Although the ban imposed on Ajmal may put his career in jeopardy but this step may also serve as a blessing in disguise for Pakistan’s cricket and for international cricket on the whole.
The ban on Ajmal triggered a clean-up operation against all bowlers with suspected action and, so far, six bowlers, including Mohammad Hafeez, Sunil Narine and Adnan Rasool, have been reported in the Champions League T20 tournament and 29 bowlers were reported in Pakistan’s domestic T20 tournament.
The menace of chucking (illegal bowling action) raised its ugly head in international cricket when bowlers like Muttiah Muralitharan and Shoaib Akhtar were allowed to continue bowling in international cricket, even with suspected action, on medical grounds.
As a result, youngsters got their inspiration from these stalwarts and in an attempt to copy them and a few others, they spoiled their action.
Although many countries have suffered because of the ICC’s new policy, the worst affected is Pakistan where, after the ban on Ajmal, we are struggling to find an off-spinner for the upcoming series against Australia. All off-spinners called by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are turning out to be 'chuckers'.
An example of this is Atif Maqbool. He has played domestic cricket for more than a decade now, picked up heaps of wickets in the last few domestic seasons and was the highest wicket taker in the 2013 domestic tournament.
No umpire or coach could find any flaw in his bowling action. He was tipped as a replacement of Ajmal but when the time to induct him in the team came, his bowling action turned out to be a suspected one. Atif’s case, if nothing else, exposed the inefficiency of our umpires and match referees who supervise our matches at domestic levels.
Junaid Zia is another curious case of chucking. He too has been on the domestic scene for more than a decade now and has represented Pakistan in few ODIs as well. In the past, no umpire had found any illegality in his bowling action but in the recently concluded national T20 championship, a few eagle-eye umpires found his bowling action suspicious and reported him. He is currently undergoing tests.
PCB needs to seriously look into this matter and reach to a conclusion. They need to answer if these international umpires are just being overcautious or do we really have a large number of chuckers in our cricket system. If it is the latter, then they also need to find ways of curbing this issue.
PCB is usually very slow in reacting to the problems faced by the team or any of its players. A warning for PCB was served when India’s bowler R Ashwin, during the Asia Cup matches that took place a few months back, gave a statement that some bowlers wear full-sleeved shirts to get extra advantage with their bowling. The PCB or Ajmal did not take his statement seriously but, clearly, somebody somewhere was paying attention to all this. And hence we find a banned Ajmal and a disgruntled PCB.
Although the PCB has hired the pioneer of doosra, Saqlain Mushtaq, to rectify Ajmal’s action but many analyst are pessimist about Ajmal’s come back. Age is also catching up with him and even if he succeeds in rectifying his action, his shelf life on cricket grounds will be very limited.
This whole fiasco with Ajmal is an opportunity for the PCB to apply zero tolerance for suspected bowling action in all domestic and club level tournaments and clean Pakistan cricket of this problem. Any bowler found to have suspected bowling action should be discarded immediately as efforts to rectify illegal bowling actions mostly prove futile.
Biomechanic testing machines should be installed in all major cities to check if the bowling action is within or beyond the allowed limit. Sports at school and college level is dying but PCB should constitute special teams who visit schools and colleges around the country and brief them about the rules and regulations that cricket governing body’s like the ICC have on chucking and on other sports related matters.
Visits to schools and colleges may prove to be extremely helpful as through this not only will youngsters get awareness about cricketing laws at an early age but this may also be an opportunity to find hidden talents from within the wilderness.
I hope better sense prevails and the PCB, instead of continuing to beat the bush, makes a genuine effort to clean Pakistan cricket from chucking.