First off, to clear the barrels let's look at what modern day "chucking" is. Most are under the impression that chucking is bowling with a 'bent' arm, which is only a half-truth. Chucking does involve bending of arm at elbow, but in order to conclude that a bowler is 'chucking', he/she HAS to "straighten" the (once bent) arm at the point of release. The degree of angle between this bent arm and the straightened arm is called the flex. According to contemporary rules this flex needs to be within 15 degrees. So technically a bowler CAN bowl with a bent arm and not straighten it at the point of release, and he/she IS STILL bowling within the rules of the game. Muttiah Muralitharan's case is similar to this scenario as his arm is deformed at birth and does not straighten fully at any point.
Mystery within the closed doors of ICC labs
According to the ICC recent crackdown on chucking is taking place under supervision of two on-field umpires and the 3rd umpire and match referee. The mechanism they are using to conclude and report bowlers as acknowledged by the ICC is 2D imagery and video, and of course the naked eye for obvious cases. This is fine on field, but the disturbing fact is that in the recent fall out of ICC with University of Western Australia(the place that used to be the Mecca for testing suspect actions), it has come to light in the new ICC labs at Cardiff and Brisbane they are using same ‘layman’s techniques to test the bowlers according to Prof. Jacqueline Alderson of University of Western Australia there are some serious concerns about the new methods adopted by the new ICC labs:
- The method of judging the moment of ball release – and whether this could disadvantage spin bowlers
- The repercussions of placing markers in different places
- The influence of both elbow 'flexion' and 'extension'
- The continued use of 2D imagery in testing
One of most essential points Prof. Alderson stresses is that new and inexperienced researchers have changed video frame that they consider as the release point of the ball. As aforementioned in the first paragraph, the ‘release point’ decides whether the bowler chucks or not, as opposed to just the ‘bent arm’. If the frame they consider as the 'release point' changes then it can heavily influence the conclusion of the degree of flex, hence influence the verdict of the test.
The questions remains why did ICC want to have their own labs to test the bowlers? Why did they steal the research of UWA in order to start their own labs? Why they were not satisfied with the previous work UWA?
ICC's reluctance to publish the actual procedure they follow behind the close doors of their labs gives huge credibility to all the above questions. As former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja recently questioned: why wouldn't the ICC want to make the process transparent? After-all isn't the sole purpose of this recent crackdown(according to ICC itself) to 'clean up' cricket?
An interesting under current that is making waves is the school of thought that ICC wanted to re-route the UWA’s income of testing bowlers to their own ICC accounts. The labs under the ICC do not provide services for free just like the UWA did in the past. Judging by the recent re-structuring of ICC, it will be foolish to think that the ‘mission control’ of ICC would pass on an opportunity to increase their revenue. Would the cricket boards around the world send all their suspect action bowlers to be cleared by ICC labs? Would it go down as far as private academies sending their players to be cleared? Only the time will tell.
Mystery of reporting
It’s very obvious that Australia and England are no fans of mystery spin, and to be fair to them majority of mystery spinners at present comes with the done package of the ‘bent arm’. So they decided to have a level playing field and call everyone without ‘discrimination’ ( or so they claim).
May be it is true(the without discrimination part) as it is, India decided to rest a bowler who didn’t even play in all of their Test matches this season for the now defunct West Indies ODIs. So what was the reason behind the ‘resting’ a bowler who didn’t even bear the brunt as a spearhead of his bowling attack. Could it be as simple as follows:
(for the "photoshopped" fans; you can find the video of the above frames in here)
As the 2D frames above indicate (the way ICC now use to test the bowlers) R. Ashwin clearly BENDS his arm in the delivery stride and STRAIGHTENS it at the point of release. Now the mystery is why the ICC umpires fail to see it if they manage to spot the ‘bend’ even in a bowler such as Mohammed Hafeez whose ‘bent arm’ is barely visible to the naked eye.
Was it really the ‘rest’ Ashwin needed during the ODIs or was it ‘protection’ he needed with a major ICC tournament around the corner?
It seems the “mystery” is no longer a feature limited to spinners but also a feature of newly structured ICC’s “modus operandi” ……