Chucking, Sehwag, Biomechanics and Sociology

Written by: Vineesh Krishnan
Published: Saturday, December 4, 2004, 11:09 [IST]
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I am not familiar with Sociology. But, I am curious to know which theory in that subject will explain the chucking controversy in cricket.

To understand chucking controversy, one will have to go to the early periods of the game. Cricket, undoubtedly, is a batsman's game. Its rules favour the batsman more than the bowler. This was not accidental. In the beginning, batsmen and bowlers were of different social classes. Batsmen were gentlemen, and the bowlers were workers.

At first, only under-arm bowling was allowed. When over-arm bowling came into being, fears were raised about it being advantageous to bowlers than the batsmen.

Naturally, batsmen being gentlemen and bowlers being workers, this tilt in balance in favour of the lower class was not acceptable. For a while, a controversy similar to chucking, but more intense, arose and as a settlement certain restrictions were imposed on over-arm bowling. That was how the rule against straightening the arm while delivering the ball came into existence.

May be these restrictions were a necessity because in those days not much protection was available for the batsmen (even helmets came during a comparatively recent period). Gentlemen, nevertheless, maintained a slight advantage, which over the years set cricket apart from games like tennis where brute force began to rule (Later the terms gentlemen and workers were changed to amateurs and professionals respectively).

This bowling law which emerged as a bye-product of a class-conflict formed the basis for the way the game was taught and played across the world for another century.

Considering this fact, the proposals on bowling by an International Cricket Council (ICC) committee, which allows for a 15 degree straightening of the arm, may entirely change the way the game is played when they are approved. Because, these proposals take away from the umpire completely, the power to no ball any delivery which he perceives as a throw (In effect, this has already happened. Most umpires would not dare to no ball a throw). This will give the bowler impunity to chuck any ball he desires and even if he is caught, he will be only warned and he can always 'correct' his action. Of course, 15 degrees have room for almost all bowlers who have been suspected throwers in international cricket.

The most profound effects will be on Batting. Batting techniques are based on anticipating how the next ball is going to be bowled. A chucker can easily disguise the releasing point of the ball and make the batsman play a late shot resulting in disaster for him. A most recent example being the Shoaib Akhtar delivery which clean bowled VVS Laxman during India's tour of Pakistan early this year. Laxman was a set batsman. But he failed to read the delivery which came as a full toss, which in turn, was the result of a sudden shift in the release point, which can only be achieved by assimilating the ICC degrees of flexion for fast bowling.

May be the result of the ICC bowling proposals, once approved, will be the emergence of more batsmen like Sehwag, who do not believe much in coaching manuals and technique and 'hit a ball when there is one to be hit'. His breed of batsmen does not care for the pitch, or the bowler. Sehwag plays the same way on the ploughed patches in New Zealand or the dust bowls of Mumbai. He will hit Shoaib Akhtar or Daniel Vettori with the same ease.

I would not say batsmen like Sehwag are bad. My point is only batsmen like him or those who follow his religion of batting (keeping in mind the fact that everybody cannot be a Sehwag) will survive in the era of chuckers. There is the danger that the Sultans of style like VVS Laxman, Yousuf Youhana and even the great Sachin Tendulkar may become an extinct species in the chuckers' era.

Count the number of times Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar have been clean bowled in recent times. Nobody may be saying that openly, even the batsmen themselves. But, can't we establish a connection between the flexibility in chucking laws and these dismissals? These three batsmen have performed most effectively against the Australians, who are considered the bowlers with the most acceptable action.

A reason for England to suffer in international cricket was the obsession of the counties with seaming wickets. As a result, even mediocre medium pacers became unplayable demons and batsmen's aim became hitting out to make maximum runs because the unplayable ball may come at any moment and he will be out. A similar situation may arise when chucking is legalised and more batsmen may follow Sehwag's style of batting.

But everyone cannot be a Sehwag and over a time there is a chance for cricket to be reduced to a 'small' brother of baseball.

I would not say Sehwag is bad for the game. But for the game to be alive we need the Laxmans, Dravids, Youhanas and Langers. And demons and demoniacal spinners would sap the game of the little things that make bowling an art rather than a display of brute force and cunning.

International Cricket Council (ICC) has dragged a simple cricket law into the realms of a complex branch of science, called Biomechanics, in a 'clothed' attempt to legalise chucking to benefit a few people interested only in money and supported by a bunch of fools blinded by 'racism'. If the trend continues, I am sure, some sociologist in the not so far future will focus his or her research on the effects of commercialism on sports, in the light of cricket, a game still played by the elderly during weekends.

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