When ICC starts spreading an 'all encompassing' net in regard to highly contentious issues like chucking and corruption then I'll believe the playing field is level, writes Ian Chappell
Sydney: I don't know what prompted the ICC to suddenly get tough on dodgy bowling actions but it ranks as a classic case of better late than never.
A file photo of Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal, who was suspended with immediate effect by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on September 9 after his bowling action was found to be illegal following tests that were carried out in Brisbane, Australia in August. Pic/AFP
The situation regarding dubious actions had reached the ridiculous stage; far worse than in the late 1950's early 1960's in Australia where cricket fans could've been excused for thinking the country had already deemed baseball to be a summer game.
As an impressionable young cricketer, I watched a lot of games at the Adelaide Oval and I speak from experience in relating the effect dodgy actions can have on the game's future.
I was a schoolboy batsman/leg-spinner but having seen the passing parade of herky-jerky actions at the Adelaide Oval I changed to bowling off-spin. In reality I bowled predominately off-spin and chucked a couple of deliveries each over.
I figured if they weren't calling the guys at Adelaide Oval then, as a baseball catcher in the winter with a decent arm, I could gain an advantage by pelting a couple per over. I even opened the bowling in our club schoolboys team because we were short of quickies and I 'pelted a few' with the new ball.
I was then selected in a combined schoolboy team during the Xmas holidays. When I hadn't been called on by tea time I asked the coach; "Why aren't I getting a bowl?" The coach, Howard Mutton, a South Australian player with a dodgy off-spin action of his own, replied: "Because you're a chucker."
I immediately reverted to leg-spin and didn't have any further problems.
A few years later, Australian fast bowler Ian Meckiff was no-balled for chucking in a Test match at the Gabba. This was the culmination of a clean up campaign conducted by chairman of selectors Sir Donald Bradman, who was determined to eradicate dubious bowling actions.
How Bradman acted...
It didn't take much of a mental leap to assume Bradman had told Mutton I wasn't to bowl in that schoolboys game. Bradman had the right idea because kids are mimics and will copy the heroes of the day and a sure way to eradicate dodgy actions is stop the offenders before they reach the first-class arena.
The fact that the ICC has finally put an end to the Saeed Ajmal farce - he would've looked suspicious even in Australia in the late 50's early 60's - is an indication they might finally be serious about cleaning up bowling actions. Nevertheless, it's hard not to reach the conclusion that Pakistan is a 'soft target' when it comes to prickly issues like chucking and corruption.
When the ICC starts spreading an 'all encompassing' net in regard to these two highly contentious issues then I'll believe the playing field is level. Anyhow, back to chucking. The ICC needs to take a leaf out of Bradman's book and stop young 'doubtful' bowlers before they reach the big time.
They should've adopted this approach back in the nineties when dubious actions had again started to infiltrate the game. However, the one area of the chucking issue the ICC hasn't addressed, is the law as it applies to on-field immediacy.
How come a batsman is protected when a bowler over-steps the front line by a millimetre but he isn't when a trundler suddenly pelts one after bowling the bulk of his deliveries?
Batsmen need immediate protection in this case rather than getting a letter from the ICC six months later apologising because they've discovered the delivery that uprooted off-stump was illegal.
I'm all for cleaning up bowling actions; Graeme Swann was a perfect example of how an off-spinner can be highly successful with a 'clean' action. Nevertheless, if the ICC is going to clean up bowling actions, in the interest of fairness, they should also make the switch-hit illegal.
Not only is it important to keep the contest between bat and ball fair, it also pays to remember kids are great mimics.