Mohammad Hafeez was reported for a dubious action by the match officials after the conclusion of the third One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka. This was not the first time Hafeez has been reported for suspect action, but the question is, should bowlers be given some liberty in contemporary cricket? Will making changes in the 15-degree law help attain equilibrium between bat and ball?

The discussion regarding the balance between bat and the ball has been around for a while now. And chucking has been one of the most discussed issues in cricket. It is no hidden fact that contemporary cricket is batsmen dominated. With bats as big as tree trunks, shorter and quicker outfields, field restrictions and two new leathers coming into play, a bowler’s life has become miserable. Even the conditions on most of the occasions are conducive for batting. The balance is heavily tilted in the favour of batsmen, but can the bowling law be altered to give bowlers some breathing space?

Bowling in cricket has undergone immense transformation since its inception. Earlier the 15-degree for bowlers didn’t exist and bowlers were expected to bowl with an absolutely straight arm, which was practically Impossible. But, as time passed by and on the basis of various studies, changes were brought and there was a limitation to which a bowler could flex his arm. As per the current law, a bowler can bend his arm to a maximum extent of 15-degree, above which, the action would be termed illegal.

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First and foremost, let’s take a clear picture of what is illegal bowling action. As per the International Cricket Council (ICC), “Illegal Bowling Action is where a player is throwing rather than bowling the ball. This is defined by the ICC as being where the player’s elbow extends by an amount of more than 15 degrees between their arm reaching the horizontal and the ball being released. Match Officials in international cricket use the naked eye and heir cricketing experience to decide whether they believe a player may be using an illegal Bowling Action and, if so, they will submit a report.”

Numerous bowlers have been reported for a suspect action in the recent times and a lot of careers have been disrupted by this law. Kane Williamson, Sachithra Senanayake, Al-Amin Hossain, Sohag Gazi, Saeed Ajmal, Shane Shillingford, Prosper Utseya and the latest one being Hafeez. One of the most high profile incidents was that of Saeed Ajmal, whose career took a massive hit by the 15-degree line. Ajmal was one of deadliest bowlers before being banned from bowling as all his delivered were deemed to be illegal.

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A batsman has the liberty to do anything at the crease. He can step down the wicket, play reverse sweeps, switch hits and any kind of stroke he is capable of. In distant future, some more mind-boggling shots might evolve, which will only add to bowler’s agony. This will always bring one thought of giving some liberty to the bowlers, but will it be just?

In my opinion, the 15-degree line is there for a reason, If chucking is allowed then the safety of a batsman will be jeopardised. But, it certainly can be altered to an extent that provides bowlers with some freedom at the same time ensures the safety of batsmen. This will also give some freedom to the bowlers and help them innovate and evolve just like batting has.

There are also some loopholes in how things are operated regarding illegal bowling action. A bowler is reported for a suspect action by the match officials. But, one of the important questions is, how precise and reliable can the match officials be in judging a bowler during a match? In saying so, there is absolutely no question being raised in the officials’ capability but, how accurate can a human being be in deciding such a complex matter?¬† After all, humans are bound to make mistakes.

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There might be cases where a bowler is usually not chucking the ball, but caught the attention of a match official while bowling a delivery, which exceeded the allowed limit. In this case, he will be reported for a suspect action and who knows, might also face a ban. While there might also be bowlers who have been exceeding the limit and still haven’t caught the officials attention, which is unjust. Is there a technology available to detect every bowler’s action during the game?

Also, the ICC were not very satisfied with the biomechanics at Perth. Were the results not accurate? The tests were also requested to be conducted in Cardiff, then what about bowlers who got banned after being adjudged illegal at Perth? And what about those who got a clean chit at Perth? Were the results 100 percent accurate? This is an indication that the technology is not 100 percent reliable and still needs development. Then why to trust such evolving technology and ban a bowler? And what is the guarantee that bio-mechanics in Cardiff are reliable? What if, tomorrow some study reveals the Cardiff tests results as inaccurate?

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It is true that ICC wants cricket to be played in good spirit and has done a commendable job over the years to ensure so. But one can’t deny the fact that the governing body has not been equally friendly towards bowlers like the way it has been to the batsmen. Bowlers don’t enjoy the kind of liberty batsmen does and if they are given some leverage, it will only enrich the game and further provide balance. Although chucking shouldn’t be legalised, but the 15-degree line can be reconsidered. Unless a bowler is evidently throwing the ball and threatens a batsman’s safety, there shouldn’t be a need to ban him.

The ICC has brought inspiring changes in the way cricket is played including the bat size, which came into effect recently. It will be interesting to see, if the bowling law undergoes any change in the time to come.


Ideas expressed in the piece are strictly writer’s opinion.

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