Greats divided on legality of Ajmal bowling action
While former spinners like Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Maninder Singh have questioned the legality of his action, Pakistani players like Abdul Qadir and Saqlain Mushtaq and senior Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh have been supportive of the 34-year-old who bamboozled English batsmen in a three-match Test series taking 24 wickets.
Bedi feels that it is the ICC which has created this "monster". "How can you continue with this nonsense? One should put an end to this farce. It`s ICC`s prerogative to react. Saeed Ajmal`s is case of blatant chucking. If you look at the way he is bowling, he doesn`t need a run-up to bowl. He can stand and simply throw the ball just like you play darts," Bedi told PTI.
"You have allowed someone like Muttiah Muralitharan and that`s where the problem started. Can anyone with naked eye be able to conclude whether the arm is bending at less or more than 15 degrees. You need to trust the human eye and let`s be honest a chucker can be identified from a mile," Bedi fumed.
"It`s admirable that ICC is trying hard to curb the menace of match-fixing but they aren`t doing anything to curb the menace of chucking. When you try to detect whether a match is fixed or not, it`s not easy but chucking is something that`s happening right under your nose."
Prasanna too blamed it on the ICC and said the governing body should take note. "His action is certainly a problem but then the ICC has allowed him to bowl. As far as we know, bending the elbow more than 15 degrees is not permissable in the ICC rules. But this fellow himself said that he has been allowed a 23 degree bend," Prasanna said.
"Now my question is what the ICC committee which looks after the legality of the bowling action is doing? I believe, there should be stringent rules as far as the bowling action is concerned and umpires should be taken into confidence. The ICC has said there is no problem. If the parent body thinks like that, then one can hardly do anything," Prasanna said.
The ICC had tested Ajmal`s action in 2009 and it was cleared by the human movement experts at the University of Western Australia. It was found that Ajmal bowls with a bend of 23.5 degrees before releasing the ball and then flexes it to around 15.5 degrees which means the actual "jerk" is around eight degrees — within the limits of 15 degrees set by the ICC.
Maninder Singh called Ajmal a chucker and criticised the ICC for ignoring the issue. "He is an outright chucker and should not be allowed to take the field," Maninder said. "He has been allowed by ICC to bend his arm upto 23.5 degrees, but I am sure that he is bending his arm more than 30 degrees and with that action he can not only bowl a `teesra` but he can also produce a `chautha`," he said.
"ICC has never been serious about this chucking non-sense. Did they ever tried to form a committee, comprising retired umpires like Dickie Bird, to tell them what is right and what is wrong. They have been just giving away special allowances, which is utter non-sense," he added.
But Ajmal got some support from his Indian counterpart Harbhajan Singh. "From whatever little I have seen of Ajmal, he is a brilliant bowler and he has an amazing skill set. It is very difficult to pick his doosra and that makes him a lethal bowler. Also, he bowls a straighter one well and his off break is also effective," he said.
Pakistan`s top rated spin bowlers, meanwhile, jumped to his defence and rubbished doubts over Ajmal`s action. "I don`t know what this fuss is all over his bowling action. Cricket technology has today evolved so much if he arm bends beyond the ICC tolerance level of 15 degrees I don`t think he would be allowed to play cricket," Qadir one of Pakistan`s top leg-spin exponents said.
Qadir said that if one watches an off-spinner bowling on television there might be an illusion that the bowler is bending his arm particularly if has mastered the doosra delivery. "But the factual position is that I don`t think Saeed would have been playing for so long without having been reported by match officials if his action was suspect," he said.
"Let us not forget ICC uses the latest biomechanics technology and experts to clear bowlers. Saeed was cleared to play international cricket since 2009 without any issues so what is all the fuss about. Let him enjoy his success. England should not be sore losers."
Intikhab Alam — a former leg-spinner, coach and manager who now heads the National Cricket Academy — said the PCB had a biomechanics set up at the NCA and was itself particular about bowlers whose actions were suspect. "Saeed is doing fine. The English media is making a mountain out of a molehill. In the interview he gave after the third Test, Saeed mentioned the figure of 23.5 degrees but it is related to the average angle of his arm at the beginning of delivery," he said.
Intikhab also pointed out the ICC had put Ajmal under constant scrutiny after he was reported in 2009 and since than there has been no deterioration in his action or else he would have been reported again. "I think the English batsmen have just failed to pick up his deliveries because he has improved a lot since last year," Alam said. Saeed`s teammate Danish Kaneria also backed him saying having played with him he knew there was no problem with Saeed`s action.
"He is our top bowler and I don`t think even the team management would risk playing him if they thought his action was going to be reported. The fact is that he is playing without fear and tension. "He took more wickets after the issue over his bowling action was raised during the first Test and that says something about his confidence," Kaneria noted. Former left arm spinner and ex-chief selector, Iqbal Qasim said while he knew that Ajmal did have a slight bend in his arm due to a childhood accident but when he bowled it did not straighten more than about eight degrees.
"People have this belief that when Saeed bowls his doosra that is when he might be breaking the 15 degrees tolerance level of the ICC but if you watch closely his off-break and quicker ball actually lead to this illusion that he straightens his arm more by a friction than when he bowls the doosra," he explained.
"Off-spinners customarily have always faced problems with their bowling actions but in all fairness I say let the match officials decide. Until he is playing that means there is no problem with his action and it is legal and that is fine with me." Former off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq said given Ajmal`s success in recent months, he was expecting such problems for him.
"At times there was also talk about my action but it was totally fair. I think same is the case with Saeed. He should just put all this talk behind his mind and focus on taking wickets. I don`t see anything wrong with his action. It is an art to bowl the doosra with an off-spinner`s action and Saeed has mastered that. Unfortunately people who don`t understand this art are after him and his action," he said.
The ICC, on its part, maintained that Ajmal`s action had been cleared earlier. "There is a big difference between the elbow carry angle (elbow abduction) and the degree of elbow extension. There is nothing preventing a bowler bowling with a bent arm, provided he does not straighten it beyond the permitted degrees of tolerance," said an ICC spokesman.
A bowler`s action comes under review only when he is reported by the on-field umpires. The controversy over Ajmal`s action erupted after former England captain Bob Willis raised suspicion over his `doosra`, a ball which turns the other way thahn a normal off-break, following England`s defeat in the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai.