I generally like Kridaya, the self-proclaimed “best cricket lounge on the Internet,” but its recent post on the Johan Botha fracas made a number of absurd, unsubstantiated claims. Let’s deal with them one by one:
But it does seem that every offspinner invites attention especially with the advent of the doosra. Unlike leg spin, the offspin ball is not a natural outcome of the normal overarm bowling by a right-arm bowler. And then to use the offspin action to bowl a leg break is even more convoluted and tricky. No wonder that people look askance at the action.
Actually, it’s more a wonder what this sentence means. Why is leg spin a “natural outcome of the normal overarm bowling” when any spin depends chiefly on wrist and finger movement? And Saqlain Mushtaq — the man many credit with promulgating the doosra — never faced any throwing allegations. Next:
The fact that Muralidharan was not banned shows that the cricket institutions themselves did not have any bias, racial or otherwise.
That’s a pretty high standard, no? Since Muralidharan still faces criticism on his action, even though he’s been cleared over and over and over again, why isn’t it plausible to argue some people think ex-colonial subjects just can’t play the game properly? I’m not saying all people suspicious of the Sri Lankan’s action are necessarily racist; only that his non-expulsion doesn’t prove anything. Right, moving on:
[The] problem remains that many bowlers do seem to be bending their arms albeit within the 15-degree permissible limit. Because of the serious nature of the throwing allegation, it is not an easy matter to levy a charge against a bowler. So we see bowlers increasingly pushing the limit of the law.
I’m sorry, but are we seeing bowlers increasingly do what this writer says? Is there some chucker epidemic in the cricket world I haven’t heard of? And, more importantly, the first sentence in this extract makes no sense. An ICC study found that all bowlers bend their arms within the 15-degree limit (except Ramnaresh Sarwan, apparently) and the rule change accommodated this biological fact. So why, then, would you care if bowlers are bending their arms within the permissible limit? Finally, there’s this little nugget:
Given the influx of money into the game, which is generally a good thing, bowlers will do anything to gain the extra advantage to improve their statistics and gain greater opportunities. While batsmen have been the beneficiaries of both changing conditions (equipment, clothing, etc.) and laws (Powerplays, free hits), bowlers have had it harder and they could be skirting closer to the edges of the law.
OK. To paraphrase Henry Fonda, let’s put two pieces of testimony together and hope they make sense: in the previous paragraph, the writer says throwing allegations are so serious umpires rarely file them (I don’t know what evidence is offered here, or why an umpire would refrain from enforcing rules). Then, in this next paragraph, the writer says bowlers are skirting closer to the edges of the law. But if bowlers know that a chucking allegation could seriously end their careers, why would they then risk consciously throwing the ball? For that matter, why would Botha — whose career has endured this type of interruption before — tempt fate again?
For my part, I don’t know if Botha chucks or not (see slow-mo video here). I’ll be happy to wait out the results of the process in place for such accusations and leave it at that. But here’s what I won’t do: I won’t think Botha’s problem represents a crisis for off-spinners in general; I won’t argue that other bowlers are consciously cheating, or even that Botha did, and I won’t draw any silly comparisons to what Muralidharan endured.