'Hard to enforce 15-degree rule'

'Hard to enforce 15-degree rule'

'Hard to enforce 15-degree rule'

For almost 20 years the University of Western Australia here housed the sole authorised testing centre by the ICC for illegal bowling actions, the contract for which ended last September.

Daryl Foster, the former Western Australia team coach and a specialist in the human body movements, was the man whom the bowlers approached for remedial measures after being reported for suspect actions.

From Muttiah Miralitharan to Shoiab Akhtar and from Harbhajan Singh to Jermain Lawson, Foster has dealt with several high-profile bowlers whose actions were found to be illegal. The 76-year-old retired professor at the School of Human Movement talked about his initiation into injury management that eventually led to testing bowlers with suspect actions. Excerpts:

You first meeting with Muralitharan....

I was coaching in Kent in 1995 and our overseas player was Aravinda de Silva. He rang me up and said: 'Can I bring a young off-spin bowler to Kent to train?' and that was Murali. Later on in 1995 he was called by Darrell Hair and that business at the MCG. And then he came over here for testing and that's when the testing of legality of bowlers began really. Since then, for about 20 years, we had been virtually the sole testing centre for illegal bowling actions in cricket. That's just finished about September 2014, when the ICC decided they'd go their way. When we had bowlers like Shoaib (Akhtar) and others, not only did we decide whether they were illegal or legal but we also tried to make them better bowlers because we could see in the biomechanical testing that there were areas where they could improve.

Can they be as effective after their actions are remodelled?

I don't see any reason why they can't but it depends. Some of them are major changes, a complete remodelling like evidently Ajmal has gone through. Or it could be just a little tinker with the front arm. If you're bowling with a completely remodelled action, it can be different but if it's a small thing, they can do it very easily. The best skill learning of your life is when you're about eight to 13. If you learn to ride a bike or swim, you'll never forget it. If you learn to bowl the wrong way then it becomes a heck of a problem to change it when you're 17-18.

What is your take on ICC’s crackdown on people with suspect actions, particularly off-spinners, in the last six months?

The Cricket Committee of the ICC decided that there were too many suspect bowlers playing in world cricket. Obviously they were aiming at Ajmal. In the meantime they picked up (Sachitra) Senanayake and others from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and wherever else. I think umpires feel more confident of looking at an off-spinner because they imagine they can see...whatever (kink in the arm). But what they haven't cracked down on, in my opinion, is that the front on bowling action (in fast bowlers), when you land like that it is very easy to come through and bend your arm when you want to bowl a bouncer. I think there have been bowlers in the past – and I certainly won't name them – that have made a living out of bowling a quicker bouncer. The batsman just gets it here (top edge) and puts it up. That's the next thing they have to have a look at. You can't increase your pace by say 10km an hour without doing something different.

You once said bowling in power play had had an effect on Senanayake’s action…
I think T20 cricket has had an enormous effect on off-spin bowlers, in particular, developing faults. Senanayake was opening the bowling and then he was bowling at the death… There are only four overs and I think what happens is they get to a point in their action, the batsman over there steps away to the leg-side or off-side or get down on one knee to reverse sweep, so he has got to counter that and I think he pauses a little bit in action and just develops a bit of a kink and he fires it in. So I think if you try and spin the ball too hard, if you try and bowl a little bit quicker there is a risk that you may bend your elbow a little bit more and therefore straighten up; too much extension. So I think T20 cricket has got a lot to answer for that.

Can you bowl doosra without chucking?

Of course you can… But I think probably people only from the sub-continent can do it because I think they have got different flexibility. What the Caucasian bowler does is probably does more weights and he is pretty strong through here (shoulder to wrist) and he can’t do that (flexibility). But Murali bowled it effectively, Saqlain I think bowled it. But Johan Botha couldn’t and other Caucasian bowlers can’t bowl it.
But people like Bishan Singh Bedi don’t agree with these findings…

The thing that I am most disappointed with about my involvement with this is the Bishan Bedis and an ex-umpire here, they always came out and said Murali was a chucker. We were working for the ICC and it is all hush-hush. We do the testing, send it to them and they announce the results. I think we should have been more to the forefront, explain to people why Murali is not a chucker. What having your arm bent 38 degrees and a carry angle of 17 degrees means when your arm is up there and he is bowling, he is as clean as anyone because he doesn’t alter that angle. All his spin came from his shoulder and his wrist. But we should have explained it a heap better and I don’t know if you would ever convince the Bishan Bedis or these sorts of people.

How practical is it to enforce the 15-degree rule?

It’s pretty hard, I think. If you got to a bowler before the game and tell him I want you to wear a sensor today, ‘Oh, ok, why are you putting this on me? They must think I chuck my bouncer here, I won’t bowl one today. Or if I do, I will bowl it a little bit differently.’ So the criticism of the testing was that it was in a lab, not in the middle of the ground in the heat of action. But that was the best we could do. The same criticism that people level at that could be levelled at putting the sensor on in a game situation. There has always been a misnomer in the press that the 15 degrees was brought in for Murali. It’s silly. 15 degrees was brought in because at that meeting in Dubai, the majority of the world’s bowlers fitted in under-15 degrees. There were certain percentage that didn’t and these are being picked up now but I think 15 degrees is reasonable.

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