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In the sport of cricket, throwing, commonly referred to as chucking, is an illegal bowling action which occurs when a bowler straightens their arm by more than 15 degrees when delivering the ball. The Laws of Cricket specify that a bowler's arm must be fully extended and rotated about the shoulder to impart velocity to the ball. Throws are not allowed. If the umpire deems that the ball has been thrown, he will call a no ball which means the batsman cannot be given out from that delivery. Current regulations of the International Cricket Council (ICC) set the legal limit of 15 degrees of permissible straightening of the elbow joint for all bowlers in international cricket. This law applies between the point at which the bowling arm passes above shoulder height and the point at which the ball is released.

The charge of 'throwing' against a bowler is one of the most serious and controversial that can be made in cricket, as a bowler with an illegal action cannot dismiss a batsman. This means the player cannot effectively participate in the game, and may not be selected again without significant change to the way they bowl.

Overview and history

Law 24, Clause 3 defines a fair delivery with respect to the arm:

A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.


Before the advent of developed biomechanical and audiovisual technology, this law was implemented by the on-field umpires, who judged a delivery as illegal or "thrown" on visual judgement alone. The law against throwing has not changed in its essence since overarm bowling was legalised in 1864.

In the early 1880s there were a number of bowlers who were widely considered to have unfair actions, with the Lancashire pair of Jack Crossland and George Nash coming in for particular criticism. After playing for Kent against Lancashire in 1885, when he faced the bowling of Crossland and Nash, Lord Harris decided to take action. He persuaded the Kent committee to cancel the return fixture. Later that season, Crossland was found to have broken his residential qualification for Lancashire by living in Nottinghamshire, and Nash dropped out of the side. Thus the two counties resumed playing each other the following season. Harris's Wisden obituarist wrote: "...there can be no doubt the action of Lord Harris, even if it did not entirely remove the throwing evil, had a very healthy effect on the game."

Sydney Pardon, the editor of Wisden, accused quick bowler Ernest Jones of throwing during Australia's tour of England in 1896 but it was left to an Australian umpire, Jim Phillips, to "call" Jones for throwing in the Melbourne Test in 1897. The same umpire ended the great C.B. Fry's bowling career by calling him for throwing. Pardon considered the end of the famous Corinthian's bowling career "a case of long-delayed justice".

Phillips went on to call Lancashire and England fast bowler Arthur Mold in 1900 and 1901, so effectively ending his productive career. Mold took 1,673 wickets in first-class cricket at only 15.54 apiece, bowling at high pace with a sharp 'break back' from just a four pace run up, but his bowling had always attracted as much controversy as praise. He took 192 wickets in 1895 and was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1892 but he left the first class scene after the 1901 season after Phillips' intervention.

The aboriginal fast bowler Eddie Gilbert was another fast bowler who generated extreme pace from a remarkably short run. Just 5 feet 7 inches tall and nine stone in weight he took wickets at a prodigious rate in the late nineteen twenties in Queensland club cricket. He was chosen for Queensland against New South Wales Colts in 1930 and took 6 wickets, but the Brisbane Courier's correspondent "Long On" was moved to describe his whipped catapult action as "almost a throw". He was picked for Queensland's Sheffield Shield side and bowled with great success. Queensland selectors responded to complaints from New South Wales by filming his arm action in slow motion but took no action against him. His most famous spell came against Don Bradman on 6 November 1931. He dismissed the NSW opener with his first ball, a vicious bouncer, then knocked Bradman's bat out of his hands with the next. The next delivery knocked Bradman over and the third had him caught behind. A month later, playing against Victoria, he was repeatedly called for throwing. He played on for Queensland, bowling at a reduced pace, and in 1934-35 headed the Queensland averages. He was a victim of legislation outlawing intimidatory bowling, in the wake of the Bodyline affair, and retired in 1936, having taken 87 first class wickets at 29.21. He later suffered from mental illness.

An epidemic of throwing plagued cricket in the 1950s. Umpire Frank Chester wanted to no-ball the South African Cuan McCarthy for throwing in 1951, but was blocked by the authorities at Lords, Plum Warner commenting diplomatically "These people are our guests".

Surrey and England left-arm spinner Tony Lock was generally thought to throw his dangerous faster ball, on one occasion Doug Insole inquiring if he'd been 'bowled or run out' after Lock had shattered his stumps.

Left-arm paceman Ian Meckiff helped Australia to regain the Ashes in 1958-59 but feelings ran high in the England team and press that Meckiff, and others, bowled outside the laws and spirit of the game. Elder statemen on both sides, including Gubby Allen and Don Bradman, resolved to clear the air before Australia's tour of England in 1961. 21 year old South African Geoff Griffen, who'd already been called when playing for Natal, was called in May 1960 while playing against MCC at Lords and his test career was ended by umpire Frank Lee who called him four times during the Second Test. Remarkably he claimed a hat trick during the test, but South Africa lost by an innings, prompting an exhibition match to be staged as the Queen was due to visit the ground. Griffin was called by umpire Syd Buller, ending an over bowling underarm when he was no balled again for not informing the umpire of a change of action.

West Indian fast bowler Charlie Griffith, perhaps the most feared fast bowler of his generation, was often suspected of throwing his faster ball although he was not called in Test matches and the promising career of Derbyshire's Harold Rhodes was stunted by constant speculation about the legality of his action. He was 'called' while playing against the South African tourists in 1960 by Paul Gibb but through he was eventually cleared and played on with great success for Derbyshire though the decade, he played just twice for England.

In more recent times bowlers such as England's James Kirtley, Australia's Brett Lee and Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar and Shabbir Ahmed have fallen under the microscope to varying degrees.

Recent controversy

Muttiah Muralitharan, one of the modern era's most celebrated exponents of spin bowling has been dogged by controversy over his bowling action for much of his international career. Since his debut, he has been under scrutiny from umpires due to an unusual hyperextension of his normally bent arm during delivery. The first occasion when this problem became a real issue was when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called him for throwing during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, 1995. Subsequent biomechanical trials exonerated him in the eyes of the ICC, but some players, umpires and spectators remain unconvinced. Hair has publicly stated that he would call Murali for throwing again, given the opportunity, and considered his bowling action "diabolical". The inability of cricket's officals to agree on the legality of Muralitharan's action, and the reluctance of other umpires to call him for throwing meant Hair was isolated and was later excluded from officiating in matches involving Sri Lanka. Subsequent biomechanical tests exonerated Muralitharan's action, showing that he did not extend his arm any more than many other bowlers with legal actions. Unfortunately this testing has not cleared his action in the eyes of many observers, who still find his action suspicious as the extension of the arm can differ between bowling in testing and in game situations, and also when he bowls particular deliveries.

Modifications

After biomechanical tests conducted in the nineties, it was discovered that it is virtually impossible for the human arm to legally bowl the ball without any flex of the elbow, meaning according to the old laws, "legal" bowling is practically impossible and visual assessment of seemingly orthodox actions were actually illegal. The ICC decided to set a realistic elbow extension limit. This was 10 degrees for fast bowlers, 7.5 degrees for medium pacer, and 5 degrees for spin bowlers.

The ICC carried out a test on all bowlers through video footage during the 2004 Champions Trophy in England. The test brought up some startling results: ninety-nine percent of all bowlers tested were found to flex their elbow to some degree, and often flexed it much greater than the limit set at the time. After a review by an expert panel, the ICC decided to raise the limit to 15 degrees for all bowlers. This limit was chosen as the ICC believed that any flexing of the elbow above 15 degrees would be visibly noticeable.

Process once a bowler is reported

If an umpire or match official deems that a bowler is contravening law 23.4, he details this in the match report which is passed on the match referee. Within 24 hours of the conclusion of the match, the match referee provides the team manager and the ICC with a copy of the match report. A media statement is also issued that the player has been reported.

The first step in this process is an independent review of the player's bowling action which is carried out by a member of the ICC panel ofhuman movement specialists, who will furnish the ICC with their report. If this report concludes that the player does have an illegal action, he is immediately suspended from all international cricket until he has remedied his action. If however, only a particular delivery is illegal, he can continue to bowl in international cricket provided he does not use the delivery in question until it has been remedied. Throughout the period of this independent assessment, the player can continue to bowl in international cricket.

If the player does not agree with the report, he can seek a hearing from a bowling review group made up of experts appointed by the ICC. This group will review evidence and decide, by a simple majority vote, on the legality of the player's action. If the player is cleared the suspension will be lifted immediately. A player who has been suspended from international cricket can continue to play domestic cricket under the supervision of his cricket Board. A player who has been suspended can at any time apply for a reassessment of his action. This usually happens after the player has completed a period of remedial work on his action. This reassessment is carried out in the same manner as the independent review. If the review concludes that the player has remedied his action his suspension will be lifted with immediate effect and he can start bowling in international cricket.

If the player is reported and suspended a second time within two years of his last report, he is automatically suspended for a period of one year before he can apply for a reassessment of his action. This event usually ends up effectively terminating a player's international career.

In general, although players with suspect actions now tend to be reported for investigations rather than suffering a public trial in front of spectators by being no-balled, umpires still have the right to call bowlers on the field if necessary. Such a case might occur when a bowler decides to deliberately and obviously throw the odd ball in a manner akin to a javelin throw as a surprise. Such cases have occurred throughout history of a bowler whose general action is not of concern but for whatever reason has appeared to deliberately throw a ball with a vastly different action. The Australian Test bowler Laurie Nash was once no-balled in such circumstances in the 1930s, with the journalists present opining that he had deliberately thrown the ball.

Hyperextension

In a recent report by scientists commissioned by the ICC under the watch of the former West Indiesmarker fast bowler Michael Holding, it was shown that Pakistanimarker bowler Shoaib Akhtar and Indianmarker bowler R. P. Singh were seen to extend their elbow joints by a negative angle with respect to the upper arm. This phenomenon, also known as hyperextension, can give the illusion of throwing. However, in the report it was seen that R. P. Singh maintained this negative angle throughout his delivery stride, while Akhtar sometimes bowled a quicker delivery by flexing this hyperextension. These however are not considered technically as chucking but as a congenital condition. As long as the hyperextension does not exceed 15 degrees it is permitted.

See also



References

  1. Laws of cricket
  2. Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, 1966 edition, "Dates in Cricket History", p152.
  3. Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, 1933 edition.
  4. ICC Illegal Deliveries Process: Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Procedure for review of suspect actions



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