“The doosra’s emergence was something of a partial redress to the way batsmen have been advantaged. It is a pity, therefore, that the delivery has not been able to exist within the confines of the game; a pity the doosra now has a place in cricket’s graveyard”.
The doosra is gone. It is dead and was laid to rest in cricket’s final resting place, never to be viewed again. The delivery that almost every finger spinner strived to bowl — and felt inferior if they could not – has all but disappeared from the game. And those who traded in the delivery found, after it departed from their repertoire, that they were not quite the force they were.
Experts like Bishan Bedi and Michael Holding had long held that it’s extremely difficult, impossible even, to bowl the delivery with an authentic action. Their argument seems to have a measure of truth, and so when the authorities decided to place bowling actions under scrutiny it was not all that surprising when the doosra practitioners were found to be in contravention of the law governing legal bowling actions. At the current time, it is difficult to think of a single bowler who has the delivery in his arsenal.
It should be noted here that the deliveries from Ravichandran Ashwin, Sunil Narine and a few others offspinners that turn from leg are not Doosras in the original sense, utilizing the wrist to impart anti-clockwise spin. Rather, they are Carrom balls in some cases and what are being labelled “knuckle” balls in others.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Doosra came into vogue. Saqlain Mushtaq is always listed as its inventor, though there are those who say it was in use much earlier. At the very least, Saqlain was the bowler who popularized the delivery, the first to bowl it consistently. The seed he planted grew to the point where it was felt in many circles that off spinners had to have a bit of mystery about them to be effective at the highest level.
In his autobiography, Playing With Fire, former England captain Nasser Hussain, in discussing the diminishing lack of effectiveness of spinner Phil Tufnell gave this opinion: “The reason (for Tufnell’s lack of potency) was that spin bowling had moved on. Mystery spinners like Muralitharan and Saqlain were spinning it both ways, and orthodox spinners were under pressure as rarely before.”
Saqlain first played for Pakistan in 1995. That means the Doosra was brought into cricket’s mainstream over two decades ago. Some of its main practitioners over the years, Muralitharan, Harbhajan Singh and Saeed Ajmal were always counted amongst the game’s most effective slow bowlers. Muralitharan, for example, sometimes referred to as the best slow bowler in history, has 800 Test wickets in 133 matches, including a staggering 67 five-wicket hauls. Harbhajan took 417 wickets in 103 tests, and while Ajmal only has 178 wickets, he played in just 35 Tests.
But their bowling actions attracted incessant controversy. All three have been subjected to whispers throughout their careers from opponents and onlookers who found their techniques questionable. All three were forced by the authorities to undergo tests to verify the legitimacy of their bowling actions.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) initiated a clampdown that examined and eventually jettisoned many of those with impure bowling actions from the game. Ajmal, Shane Shillingford, Narine, Sachithra Senanayake, among others were all banned from bowling for a period. Remedial work to reconstruct their actions and further testing allowed them to return to the fold. In most cases, however, their revised techniques rendered them less effective.
Ajmal, upon his return to regular play, was no longer the spin-bowling demon he was before. And Shillingford, for a while the West Indies’ most penetrative bowler, soon lost his place as he found less success operating without the Doosra. Changing your action frequently makes you a different, less potent, bowler.
Efforts to have bowlers adhere to the rules governing bowling actions are understandable. Rules are rules and should be followed by all. The extra flex in the elbow that some bowlers get away with for a while is unfair to batsmen who have to face them and to bowlers who comply with the law.
What is the remedy available to the batsman who fails to pick a doosra delivered from an elbow flexed beyond the allowable 15 percent and is dismissed? And why would a bowler be happy to see a competitor gain an unfair advantage by bending the rules?
It is unfortunate, in a way, that finger spinners are no longer able to call upon the “other one”. The balance between bat and ball has been largely askew. Batsmen have long been heavily favoured, much to the detriment of the game. A few recent Tests have shown that the most enthralling contests are those in which the bowlers are brought fully back into the game.
The doosra’s emergence was something of a partial redress to the way batsmen have been advantaged. It is a pity, therefore, that the delivery has not been able to exist within the confines of the game; a pity the doosra now has a place in cricket’s graveyard. In this era of the batsman, bowlers need all the help they can get.