Ross Emerson Is Such A Mean Old Man

Kudos to those who catch the Beatles reference in the headline.

There are a couple of things wrong with what Ross Emerson did, when he blathered to media outlets this week that Murali “didn’t deserve” the all-time wicket taker record. First, apart from the technicalities of Murali’s action, insulting the guy after he announces his retirement from Test cricket hardly seems fair, or all that polite. It’s not as if there was a huge stain on Emerson’s career that needed to be washed (and if there were, spouting off about Murali now wouldn’t change a thing).

Secondly, and more importantly, Emerson — like a lot of Australians — does not understand what the rules are or why they were changed. Here’s what he says:

“I haven’t changed my view in 15 years – he doesn’t deserve the record,” Emerson told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “You couldn’t compare his record to Shane Warne’s – no one ever doubted the legality of Warne’s action. Murali was a great competitor and a great bowler but a lot of the time he just didn’t bowl within the limits of the law.”

Right, except people did doubt the legality of Warne’s action. Experts — scientists, for God’s sake! — found that nearly all bowlers (except, I think, for R. Sarwan) broke the same rule that Murali was accused of breaking. That’s just hard, empirical fact, seconded by an authority no less prestigious than Michael Holding.

Then there’s this second doozy:

“Once they changed the rules and made it legal for bowlers to bend their arm to 15 per cent they gave an advantage to a couple of bowlers who could get something extra from that rule. I would rather see the rule as it was where you couldn’t bend your arm at all. That would mean everyone was the same.”

OK; this is just absolute, utter nonsense: first, if you allow every bowler to bend arms to 15 degrees (as opposed to “per cent”), you are applying the same rule to everyone. That may sound tautological, but Emerson doesn’t seem to understand that — it’s not as if some bowlers get to bend to 15, and others don’t.

Secondly, the reason the rule was enforced was that nothing under 15 degrees could be detected by the naked eye. It’s all well and good to say 0 degrees, but if a trees falls in a forest and no one’s around to see it — well, it’s pointless to argue about it.

And thirdly, and most importantly, and once again, Ross: everyone bends arms when bowling. Yes, we’d all like a rule that says “no one can bend arms.” But that would reduce every fucking bowler — except, of course, R. Sarwan — to cheating.

So, great, enjoy your 15 minutes in the fame. But keep in mind that no one cares about you, or your career, except for your connection to Muralitharan. Ah, irony.

P.S. Read a report on Murali’s action here.


9 thoughts on “Ross Emerson Is Such A Mean Old Man

  1. David Barry says:

    It is a little-recognised fact that the report you link to would, under today’s chucking protocols, have recognised Murali as a chucker. In 2004 he only needed the average of his six doosras to have less than 15-degree flexion, whereas today the bowler has to be under 15 degrees on each of the six balls.

    Murali’s average elbow extension was found to be 14 +/- 2 degrees, so he was going over 15 on some of them. He was OK after the remedial action work, at least during the testing.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Fair point. Of course, that sort of demolishes Emerson’s argument even more (that the rules were changed to accommodate Murali).

      But it all eventually worked out — I think the Murali episode became more palatable as technology improved and the game paid more attention to science, rather than to silly men like Emerson.

  2. Russ says:

    DB, a couple of points. Firstly, just because every bowler was found to bend their elbow doesn’t mean every bowler bent their elbow up to 15 degrees. It is almost physiologically impossible to bring the arm past the shoulder without some bend in it, but that study, and other found that side-on bowlers straightened their arms around 5 degrees (ignoring hyper-extension), and front-on bowlers around 10 degrees. You’ll need to show me the study that says you can’t visible see a bend of less than 15 degrees? There are optical illusions at work because of the way the elbow rotates, but that is not the same thing.

    Secondly, other studies have shown that the basic definition of trowing (a straightening arm) is grossly inadequate: a straightened arm is a girl throw, as anyone can see, there is a lot more to a throw than that. The ICC went down the path of precise definitions, and came up with one that was daft. The far better definition of a throw is that the elbow rotates more than 90 degrees (until it faces straight down the pitch). A definition that also “looks” like a throw, and is policeable by the umpire.

    Which brings me to Murali. One, he doesn’t throw but nor does he bowl: he flicks, with an elbow pointing straight down the pitch, but little rotation of the elbow on release. How that fits (or should fit) the law I don’t know. Two, when he was tested for the doosra they found he straightened his arm 14 degrees +- 2. After remedial work, it reduced to 10 +- 1. Thus, while it is true to say Murali doesn’t always throw (under any definition) it is also true to say that he was a) found to throw the doosra under the 10 degree rule b) exceeding 15 degrees on some deliveries under any rule and c) had remediation. To claim Murali never threw the doosra in later years therefore is to assume that he never once regressed back to the old action in 6 years of subsequent play (and that his normal off-spinner, bending 10 degrees on average never went a little beyond that). Unlikely. He certainly threw occasionally under the definition in the laws, but not exclusively (other do too) he just did it more often than most. d) Somewhat regardless of his action, his ability to continually land the ball as he did, with that level of spin, with that action, is remarkable.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Russ —

      You are a much, much smarter man than I. Everything you said, I agree with. (Though I’m still unclear about what ‘elbow rotation’ means — that implies, for instance, turning your palm over, no? But isn’t the issue in cricket something different?)

      You asked about 15 degrees and visibility; I’m basing that on media accounts of when the new rules went into effect. E.g.:

      All bowlers will be permitted to straighten their bowling arm up to 15 degrees, which has been established as the point at which any straightening will become visible to the naked eye.


      • duckingbeamers says:

        Also — a bigger question you leave untouched — was Emerson right or wrong in his assessment? Does Murali “deserve” wicket record; should the rule be “no one bends arm”?

      • Russ says:

        DB, it is probably easiest to start with the assessment done on Shoaib Akhtar, not least because it shows the enormous forces acting on the arm to cause hyper-extension. It is pretty obvious from that bending the elbow is somewhat out of the control of the cricketer while bowling.

        Click to access Shoaib-Final.pdf

        On page 8 there is a nice little diagram showing what I mean by elbow rotation. A normal bowler will begin with the point of their elbow pointing towards mid-on, and end with it somewhere towards square-leg (about 90 degrees).

        Unless you throw “like a girl” (that’s being the scientific term – in which case your elbow always points forwards) the point of the elbow for a throw rotates from behind the thrower to the direction of the throw (about 180 degrees). That circular momentum is where a throw gets its power, and should be banned in cricket. Bowlers who look like they “chuck” have significant elbow rotation that results in the point of the elbow heading down the pitch. A study found as much, but I can’t find it – alas.

        I’d like to see a no-ball rule that says you can’t bowl with the point of your elbow down the pitch, which would exclude Murali, perhaps unfairly, perhaps not. Does he “deserve” the wicket record? He probably got 100-200 wickets from balls that were legally against the rules. Inzaghi probably scored a hundred goals from an off-side position or rank dives. Perhaps a better question is whether changes to the rules – and they were driven in reaction to Murali, even if they concerned everyone – has left a positive legacy for the game? I’m not sure the answer is yes, not if horrid looking chuckers like Symonds and Botha are the result.

  3. achettup says:

    I believe the second quote/doozy was actually said by Daryl Hair, I remember chuckling thinking about the man who was so careful with his terms (a lawyer isn’t he) making such an obvious error, 15% is perhaps a lot easier to see than 15°!
    I don’t see why Emerson should keep his views to himself for the sake of politeness or in respect of Murali’s retirement, he was probably asked and considering the incident was probably key in preventing his reappointment to the Umpires panel. I found the comments to this article very informative and have to agree with Russ. Is there another precedent in cricket where the laws of the game were changed, and I mean outright changed not debated as in the case of KP’s switch hit, to accommodate a player and for the sake of diplomacy?
    Also a subtle difference, it isn’t that nothing under 15% can’t be noticed, but that anything around 15% and over is more likely to be detected by the naked eye, though how the naked eye can distinguish between abducts, hyperextensions etc is beyond me…
    And one final point, I find Emerson’s accusation about being “asked to call”/”encouraged to” no-ball Murali by a cricket Australia official, simply astonishing! Isn’t it possible to argue that this could contribute to match or at least spot-fixing, a direct order from an official of your cricket administration to make a ruling on the field of play that will affect it?

  4. disgusted says:

    OK, all Australian keepers of consicence and fair play champions, what do you think of a CA official influencing Umpires to call Murali – would it not be fair to doubt any Australian appointee in the future that he may be carrying out the orders of CA suited to the needs of their team?
    Should we look at Steve Bucknor’s mistakes in new light with this reveleation? Maybe.

    Ofcourse, the catch all defence you have is that subcontinentals cheat while English and Australians(every single one of them) are above board.

  5. azizk says:

    Nice Post 🙂

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