ICC crackdown on chucking: Proper testing or witch-hunt sponsored by Big 3?

After Pakistan’s bowling spearhead Saeed Ajmal became the latest bowler to be banned after undergoing biomechanical tests at one of the new ‘ICC preferred’ labs, it is clear now ICC is cracking down on ‘bent arms’ and means business.

Up to date five international bowlers have been called for suspect action: Shillingford(WI), Williamson(NZ), Senanayake(SL) , Gazi(BAN), Utseya(ZIM) and Ajmal(PAK), (in an interesting coincidence a certain match official was part of reporting of 4 of those bowlers).

None of the above bowlers can be termed as new comers in the cricket scene, as they’ve been playing cricket at international level for some time now, some even were reported earlier in their careers and cleared. So what changed? The Big 3 happened. It’s obvious now, that after the shift of powers at ICC, they have taken firm decisions on ‘bent arms’. While England and Australia were never fans of ‘doosras’ or mystery spin, India did allow some liberty. So did India get ‘out-voted’ within the power group; 2 to 1? Or did India agree to it as long as their ‘best interests’ kept untouched?

And ‘best interests’ are not confined to monetary assets, but extends right up to their ‘contractual obligations’ in other words ‘cricketers’.

While acknowledging the fact that all six recently reported bowlers do have jerks in their elbows; curiously ICC’s ‘detecting mechanism’ has failed to get its scope adjusted on two star bowlers namely; Sunil Narine (WI) and Ravi Ashwin (IND). Both are new-breed bowlers who rely on mystery to get their scalps and both are highly successful at top level as well. What’s more I fail to see any aspect in their bowling actions different from their reported counterparts; Shillingford, Williamson, Senanayake, Gazi

Ashwin bowling in Asia Cup 2014

In fact Ravi Ashwin was even brave enough to acknowledge and go on record saying that he is actually trying to gain advantage by making full use of ‘allowance of flex’ by ICC:

“…..I’d never bowled in full-sleeves before. So I wanted to see how it would feel. And I just wanted to see if you can get more revs on the ball, if you can do a little bit with your elbow, as much as, that is. That’s what it was all about. You can get a lot of advantage with these things. So why should I lag behind if someone else is getting a competitive edge?……"  – espncricinfo:

So what’s stopping ICC’s watchdog from making a move on these two top level ‘mystery bowlers’? This brings us back to India’s ‘best interests’. Both Ashwin and Narine are considered as highly integral parts of respective IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders. In other words ‘IPL darlings’ So does a lucrative IPL deal now guarantee ‘chucking immunity’ among many other perks? mkaking a bowler feel so safe, that he comes out openly saying that he s going to push the limits?

University of Western Australia

Another interesting fact that got lost in the recent ‘suspect action’ saga is the curious case of University of Western Australia. Once the centre for biomechanical testing for suspect action bowlers, now being methodically shunned by ICC completely. Another change of heart after the power shift of Big 3? University of Western Australia was involved in testing and clearing both Muralitharan and Ajmal(when he was first reported). Now ICC prefers or ‘recommends’ the labs at Cardiff and Brisbane, and the latest one will be located in India. So what made ICC move on from University of WA? Were they not satisfied with their testing methods? Were they too lenient?

Interestingly Professor Jacqueline Alderson of University of Western Australia had this to say about current testing methods used by labs at Cardiff and Brisbane:

“………Any scientific procedure that can impact on the ability of a player to play the game has to be an independent process and the procedures by which those decisions are made must be open to peer review, and must be available to bowlers and their boards to ensure that process is open and fair. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of cricket……..”

According to Prof. Alderson, the current testing procedures are not as transparent as it used to be in University of WA. As smaller the differences may be(according to ICC) between testing methods of new ICC labs and University of WA, we as fans and outsiders are left with questions like: What of the bowlers who were tested and cleared at University of WA? And crusaders against chucking such as Martin Crowe believing and insisting that likes of Murali was ‘lucky’ to avoid the new ICC testing labs….. Or is this all part of a freak-child as a result of an illegitimate power-grab?

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