Just when you thought it was safe to assume technological advancements like Hawk-Eye and Hot Spot had eliminated cheating – once a respected art form in cricket – along comes the International Cricket Council (ICC) suggesting bowlers with suspicious actions might deliberately alter their degree of elbow-bendiness during closely monitored testing sessions. How devious of them. Yet in a game that has delivered us an underarm ball, under-the-table match fixing and an underwear-only clad Shane Warne, one wonders how this controversial concept ever flew under the radar.
With the governing body essentially admitting its previous methods were closer to a silly point than a fine leg-up for the credibility of the game, the question now is: will anything be different on the issue of “chucking”?
In hindsight, allowing bowlers to use an indoor facility in non-match conditions without a batsman to worry about always left the ICC open to being duped by canny operators. “Yeah this is how I always bowl, I promise. It just looks different because, er, you’re standing so close mate.”
The new “inertial sensors” (think tiny flat devices inside smartphones, except attached to players’ arms) should put a swift end to that. Rather than deliver fodder at a mysterious biomechanics lab, like the hatch from Lost but with a 22-yard strip of artificial grass matting, potentially dodgy bowlers are going to be put under the microscope during actual “match conditions”.
This may well present a concern for Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and Indian counterpart Harbhajan Singh. As the most scrutinised of the current crop of international bowlers these two tweakers can only hope that, when desperate for wickets and tiring on the fifth day of a Test, their arms aren’t as crooked as Billy Bowden‘s index finger of destruction.
One man certain to be paying attention is former umpire Darrell “No Ball” Hair (read that aloud ignoring the inverted commas for a lesson in the value of punctuation). While it is easy to imagine Hair, who put his career on the line trying to prove Muttiah Muralitharan and others were “chuckers”, might now be found mumbling the Sri Lankan spinner’s name on street corners giving away copies of both his autobiographies (talk about taking pride in your achievements), the chances are this ICC backflip will eventually crush a bowler’s career. Double-jointed or not, they’ll be out on a limb.
The final word goes to Praxis Sport Science’s Marc Portus, the man in charge of figuring out all the high-tech nitty gritty behind the development. Portus believes change is absolutely necessary because with current testing “the athlete knows they’re in a laboratory” and can adjust their technique. He’s almost certainly right, too, because it says “laboratory” on the door and there are no streakers, Mexican waves or ex-prime ministers sculling beers from plastic cups to be seen.
Forget Howzat! If there is not a movie of the week in this than it’s just not cricket.
Words by Kalon Huett
Picture by Lakruwan at Getty Images