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Cricket Basics
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In the sport of cricket, throwing (commonly referred to as chucking) occurs when a bowler delivers a ball with an illegal straightening of the elbow. If the umpire deems that the ball has been delivered illegally, he will call a no ball. Current ICC regulations set a legal limit of 15 degrees of permissible straightening of the elbow for all bowlers
Overview and History
A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.[1]
Before the advent of superior technology, this law was implemented by the on-field umpires who judged a delivery as illegal or "thrown" on with visual judgement alone. In the early days of cricket, when underarm bowling was the norm, this was not an issue. However, at the turn of the century, overarm bowling had become the norm, and the rule was formulated to stop bowlers from getting an unfair advantage.
Recent Controversy
Muttiah Muralitharan, one of the world's most celebrated exponents of spin bowling in the modern era, has been dogged by controversy over his bowling action for much of his international career. Since his debut, he has been under scrutiny from umpires due to an unusual hyperextension of his arm during delivery. The first occasion when this problem became a real issue was when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called him for chucking during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, 1995. Subsequent biomechanical trials exonerated him in the eyes of the ICC, but some players, umpires and spectators remain unconvinced. Hair has publicly stated that he would call Murali for chucking again, given the opportunity, and considered his bowling action "diabolical".
The issue has arisen on two further occasions, with further tests and analysis ensuing. This has led to increasing calls for the ICC to clarify the position.
After biomechanical tests conducted in the nineties, it was discovered that it is virtually impossible for the human arm to legally "bowl" the ball without any flex of the elbow. Thus according to the old laws, "legal" bowling would be practically impossible and something had to be done. The ICC decided to set an elbow extension limit. This was 10 degrees fast bowlers, 7.5 degrees for medium pacers , and 5 degrees for spin bowlers.
After the Muralitharan issue, the ICC carried out a test on all bowlers through video footage during the 2004 Champions Trophy in England. The test brought up some startling results: ninety-nine percent of all bowlers tested were found to flex their elbow to some degree, which was often much greater than the limit set at the time. After a review by an expert panel, the ICC decided to raise the limit to 15 degrees for all bowlers. This limit was chosen as the ICC believed that any flexing of the elbow above 15 degrees would be visibly noticeable. Though this did cause some initial controversy, it was widely acknowledged as a sensible move.
Process Once a Bowler is Reported
If an umpire or match official deems that a bowler is contravening law 23.4, he details this in the match report which is passed on the match referee. Within 24 hours of the conclusion of the match, the match referee provides the team manager and the ICC with a copy of the match report. A media statement is also issued that the player has
been reported.
The first step in this process is an independent review of the player's bowling action which is carried out by a member of the ICC panel of human movement specialists, who will furnish the ICC with their report. If this report concludes that the player does have an illegal action, he is immediately suspended from all international cricket until he has
remedied his action. If however, only a particular delivery is illegal, he can continue to bowl in international cricket provided he does not use the delivery in question until it has been remedied. Throughout the period of this independent assessment, the player can continue to bowl in international cricket.
If the player does not agree with the report, he can seek a hearing from a bowling review group made up of experts appointed by the ICC. This group will review evidence and decide, by a simple majority vote, on the legality of the player's action. If the player is cleared the suspension will be lifted immediately. A player who has been suspended
from international cricket can continue to play domestic cricket under the supervision of his cricket Board. A player who has been suspended can at any time apply for a reassessment of his action. This usually happens after the player has completed a period of remedial work on his action. This reassessment is carried out in the same manner as the independent review. If the review concludes that the player has remedied his action his suspension will be lifted with immediate effect and he can start bowling in international cricket.
If the player is reported and suspended a second time within two years of his last report, he is automatically suspended for a period of one year before he can apply for a reassessment of his action. This event usually ends up effectively terminating a player's international career.
In a recent report made by the former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, it was shown that Pakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar and Indian bowler Rudra Pratap Singh were seen to extend their elbow joints by a negative angle with respect to the upper arm. This phenomenon, also known as hyperextension, can give the illusion of throwing. However, in the report it was seen that RP Singh maintained this negative angle throughout his delivery stride, while Akhtar sometimes bowled a quicker delivery by flexing this hyperextension.
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