Aussie cricket blast ICC's 'chucking' changes

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australian Test cricketers and former greats blasted moves by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to relax cricket's chucking laws.

An ICC committee made up of former Test players, chaired by former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, has recommended a new rule allowing bowlers to straighten their arms by up to 15 degrees.

Under the proposed new ruling, which will be put to the ICC Chief Executives' Committee of the 10 Test-playing countries at its next meeting, in Melbourne in February, almost all modern bowling actions would be legal.

If the move is adopted it would effectively end the controversy over Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and allow him to again bowl his doosra, the delivery that turns away from the normal off-break.

"It seems like they are playing around and changing these rules all the time," Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting said Thursday.

"What that says to me as well is that Murali will be able to bowl his doosra again."

The world's leading Test wicket-taker Shane Warne went to lengths to avoid saying Muralitharan would specifically benefit from the decision, but he believed it would lead to more confusion in world cricket.

"I think it might (create confusion). How does an umpire tell if it's 12 degrees, 10 degrees, nine, 13, 14, whatever it is when it happens like that?" Warne said in Melbourne.

Warne said he would not take issue with the elastic-wristed Muralitharan bowling his doosra, if the proposal was rubber-stamped by the ICC Executives Committee.

"If that's what they say... whatever they basically say we, as players, have to abide with it," he said. "You've got to look at the laws and what the laws say -- it's pretty hard to bowl a ball, given the way the law is."

Despite the committee including respected former Test bowlers Michael Holding, Tim May and Angus Fraser, the move has prompted accusations the ICC is bending the rules to accommodate Muralitharan's contentious bowling action.

Muralitharan is nine Test wickets behind Warne with 532 scalps and is out of international cricket due to injury and citing the need for rest but is set to return in the New Year.

The recommendation to go before the ICC stunned others here.

"I just think we've just opened a huge can of worms and it's something we might pay the price for later on," said Warne's coach Terry Jenner.

Test cricket's leading run-scorer Allan Border said: "I'm a bit from the old school - throwing is throwing. If you straighten your arm, it's a throw."

Professor Bruce Elliott, one of three biomechanics who conducted the research into Muralitharan's bowling action, denied the issue was specifically about the Sri Lankan.

"That is wrong and what's more (illegal throwing) is a far bigger problem than that," said the Perth-based human movements academic.

"There was no thought by anybody that Muralitharan was the issue that was being discussed. We were looking at data from possibly 80 bowlers around the world."

Cricket Australia was sanguine about the ICC proposal.

"It's a significant change from the current arrangements, but we all acknowledge perhaps they weren't correct. So we think it's a step forward," said CA general manager of cricket operations Michael Brown.

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