Lay Off Saeed Ajmal

Here we go again: another South Asian off-spinner takes a few wickets (at the hands of some clueless white men), and the commentators start yapping about his action. Saeed Ajmal gave the performance of his career after a week of breathing fire to anyone who would listen. Matt Prior had the decency to say he couldn’t care less about his action, but here’s Bob Willis:

“The delivery that I have a problem with is the doosra,” Willis said. “The ICC have accommodated this delivery; they changed the rules to allow these bowlers to bend their elbow 15 degrees, which is what makes it so difficult for the batsmen.

“The authorities are now allowing these mystery spinners, unorthodox offspinners to bend their elbow to a degree. If they are going to be allowed to do that then England have to address this and decide whether we should be teaching our young spinners to bowl like that as well.”

Let me say this once more: the rules were not changed to accommodate any specific type of player. They were changed because the science showed that it was impossible for the human eye to see any inflexion below 15 degrees. I know that Willis — and many, many others — refuse to accept this tale, but to indulge in silly conspiracy theories makes them sound, well, positively South Asian. If you believe the ICC committee that decided this rule based its decision on something other than science, then show me the evidence.

And here’s some pseudo-science from the Daily Mail, which purports to do what an independent ICC panel didn’t and make the case against Ajmal’s arm. I’m not sure taking a crappy picture and putting an angle on Ajmal’s arm is going to beat the 3D modeling the ICC panel used, but at this point, I’d rather stick with the authorities than a tabloid. The real danger is that these people will do to Ajmal what they did to Murali; that is, it’ll come to the point that even when commentators finally agree about the validity of his action, they’ll still bring it up to say it’s cleared, only serving to reinforce the ambiguity behind the whole affair.

Let’s nip this in the bud, people, and enjoy the prospect of an overseas defeat for England. Let the revenge begin!


21 thoughts on “Lay Off Saeed Ajmal

  1. golandaaz says:

    Not sure about Ajmal but from whatever cricket I know Murali and Harbhajan chuck the ball. And from whatever I know of the Asian mentality, I do not buy the science bit even for a second. May be I am being delusional but the 15 degree science is the science manufactured, bought, twisted and arranged by Asia money.

    For short term, misplaced pride, the Asian bloc have screwed up the game forever.

    I am with Bedi with this one. Play shot put or throw a javelin if you can’t bowl with a straight arm

      • Golandaaz says:

        See any Murali delivery and most Bhajji deliveries…. if you have bought into the 15 degree nonsense good for you because that means you can watch these bowlers with a certain peace of mind. I am not so lucky….

      • Weak, Golandaaz. I’m not going into the whole Murali thing, because that’s been dealt with extensively elsewhere. This is like Republicans and climate science — I can’t argue with biomechanic experts, but I trust implicitly that they’re going on evidence, scientific method, etc.

        Keep in mind that even Michael Holding said he bowled between 0 and 15 degrees (he was on the panel that changed the rule).

      • golandaaz says:

        not all laws are just and not all rules make sense. The 15 degree rule is a rule of convenience to allow bowlers like Murali to bowl. Perhaps this is like climate science; so lets leave it at that but I am with Bob Willis here and any commentator who questions the 15 degree thing

      • But why, Golandaaz, why?

        You say “look at these bowlers’ arms.” I say, “Multiple ICC panels, with far more technology and expertise than either of us, have cleared them.” You say, “No. Look at their arms.” I say, “People who had no stake in Asian money — like Michael Holding, for e.g. — admitted that their arms bent more than 0 degrees and they had to allow 15 degrees for visibility’s sake.” You say, “No, really. Look at their arms.”

        Obviously, this debate isn’t about evidence but about some bigger political fight — in your case, the not-so-crazy assumption that “Asian” — i.e., Indian — money rules the game. I understand the idea, but if I can’t fight conspiracy theories and old men like Bob Willis with rationality and evidence, what can I say to change your mind?

        At the very least, you should know that I’m always open to some evidence, if you find some. What would convince me? A fair number of credited scientists saying 15 degrees makes no sense. Or that biotechnology panel’s methods revealed to be flawed, either through blogger or scientific peer review. Something, anything more than just, “Look at their arms!”

      • golandaaz says:

        Expertise can be bought, science can be used to support a motive. The cause in this case was to allow Murali to bowl at all costs. The day I need science and biometrics to tell me that a bowler does not chuck is the day cricket ceased to be cricket and became a vehicle t

        I know Murali chucks. And Australia was right to call him. Instead Asia made it into a race issue. and then started looking for science and biometrics to support their motive to let Murali play at all costs.

        I have no evidence to offer than my sure knowledge that Murali chucks. To me Murali is the issue and the science, panels, etc were arranged around him to make Asia get over its inferiority complex.

        The world does not work on evidence and data. People form perceptions and often seek data / evidence to make their case. A truly rational person is an imaginary one.

        Trying to tell me Murali does not chuck is like trying to tell me that the world is flat. And the reason Murali is core to this discussion is that it is only after him that cheaters have run rampant in this sport. Harbhajan being another prominent one

        I wish there are more people like Bob Willis who speak out against such actions. I wish Bedi was more articulate in his opposition for Murali than his ‘fit-for-twitter’ one lineers. Murali set a bad precedent

      • “The world does not work on evidence and data.” — No, only you don’t. But hey, thanks for the discussion.

        Also — you know climate change is real right? : )

      • Ajmal is a good bowlers with variations.

    • golandaaz says:

      Today morning it was -3 degrees Farhenit in Chicago. Could not go out for a run. Climate Change f…ing better be real 🙂

      But frankly perception is everything. Data, Evidence, etc is for the 5% of people who think it matters and even they seek just the right amount of it to make a case for what the percieve to be either true or want to further their motives.

      But I guess that is where we are disconnected… 🙂

      But does Ajmal chuck?

    • Saeed Ajmal will do best for Pakistan’s future but he should stay away from bad decisions. that will lead him to end of the carrier

  2. Navin Anand says:

    Bob Willis is fun, his comments should not blow up a storm, as a matter of principle. He is upset that coaches in england are not working with youngsters on mystery balls. Unfortunately his frustration got expressed with Ajaml wearing long sleeves to avoid bet elbow detection.

    England were clinical on day two, although the balance is still in Paksitan’s favour. There will be more pad action, keeping umpires and DRS busy with more LBW appeals through the next couple of days. With little deviation and low bounce, LBWs will remain the favoured route for bowlers. Expect Rehman and Ajmal to be a handful in the second innings. England will have to battle hard with the bat next. Game on!

    You are blogrolled at


  3. Hewy says:

    I think you’re being a little touchy – Ajmal has got a action which could be described as ‘potentially suspect’, and as such has been reported and tested previously.
    The fact that he is still surrounded by controversy is due to flaws in the testing process.
    Testing outside of a game environment is clearly problematic. Whilst I can’t comment on Ajmal in this regard, I know that Harbajan’s doosra was cleared from a biometric point view, but the actually tested delivery bounced three times on it’s way to the other end of the pitch – clearly not the same delivery he bowls in a test match.
    Obviously in-game testing is where we need to head. The ICC has been given a proposal to implement the technology but so far has not shown the will to do it. If that can be implemented then all the inflammatory comments on both sides of the argument (‘x is a chucker’, ‘clueless white men’) will just fade away and we can get back to enjoying the cricket.

    • Not a bad point, Hewy. I’m a little touchy (and a tad hypocritical, since only a few months ago, I posted a picture that raised concerns about Ajmal’s arm).

      It is suspect, but the man has been cleared according to the ICC’s current method for clearing suspect bowlers. I think it’s a bit unfair to give the man a hard time when he takes wickets given that he’s done all he needs to play for his team. If the critiques were framed the way you do — i.e., by calling for changes in the way these bowlers are tested — I’d have an easier time.

      By the way, how do you that bit about the Bhajji doosra in the test environment? Can you send me a link if you have any? Would love to read about what this process looks like.

  4. Hewy says:

    I hear what you’re saying in regard to Ajmal having been passed and therefore we should lay off the guy. However that doosra does still looks like it pushes the boundaries, and due to the flaws with the testing process I think it’s somewhat appropriate that questions are still asked. However, those questions could/should be asked at any time – not just when he happens to roll the no.1 test side (which does taste of sour grapes to me).

    Regarding the Bhaji doosra comment – it’s fair to say that I know people in and around the testing process. I can’t give you any references, so really you’ve every right to just ignore what I say. However clearly telling someone to bowl their ‘bad’ ball in a testing environment where their income and careers are on the line, will not give you the pure scientific results one may be after.
    And please don’t think this is an Asian thing. My biggest concern is Johan Botha, who just simply walks up and ditches his doosra. He was tested, told not to bowl his doosra, but is now back playing and that doosra is creeping back in. In-game testing would solve all this.

  5. critihas says:

    The point is not that Ajmal chucks, or Murali did. That judgement has to be made on the basis of how a chuck is defined at particular time. What I do take serious issue are two related issues. One, this completely racist notion (and the colour of the person making the comment doesn’t make it so or not) that “Asian money” (read BCCI) somehow created new sets of rules. McGrath and Lee bent their arms more than 15 degrees too. When the Murali controversy erupted, and the actual flexion was tested, folks realized that almost ALL bowlers bent their arms somewhat. Hence the 15 degree rule. The rule reflected empirical reality, not “Asian money.” Second, what bugs me is the timing of these accusations. Why was this “news” about Ajmal doing the rounds when, say, Pakistan were playing Bangladesh or Sri Lanka last year, or even South Africa in 2010. It seems that it’s only when the English or the Australians are playing and losing in conditions that they cannot handle (read subcontinent or Asia) that these accusations start doing the rounds. Think of the ball tampering accusations against an earlier generation of Pakistani bowlers for another example.

    • Yeah, I think I’m largely in agreement with you — except the panel did not find that McGrath and Lee bent more than 15 degrees, only that they bent more than 0 degrees. (I think only R. Sarwan and Marlon Samuels were found not to bend their arms at all — but I might be getting that wrong.)

      • critihas says:

        I meant that they too bent their arms, somewhat. Upto 15 degrees was deemed to be acceptable because that was deemed to be the norm, if I am not mistaken. My point was that this was no conspiracy by perfidious Asians. Another correction to the above post, is that I meant to ask why the “news” about Ajmal was NOT doing the rounds earlier.

  6. David says:

    This really is the issue that won’t die! I have only three points to add:
    1) I really hope that Ajmal continues to bowl awesomely. Even an Englishman can see the greater good that his performance is bringing to Pakistan.
    2) The testing of potentially dodgy actions includes the possibility that a bowler performs differently under testing conditions that out in the middle. For example, Maurice Holmes was suspended after it was deemed his action was substantially different from when the umpires first raised objections.
    3) There are some interesting objections with the science. I don’t think, on balance, I agree with him but Down at Third Man has a great post discussing them:


    • Thanks for the mention David, Third Man hopes Ducking Beamers doesn’t mind this contribution:

      At this very moment professional clubs will be working with young people from around thirteen years of age and upwards who they think have some potential to become spin bowlers. Their national bodies will also have already wired them up and plotted their actions.

      How will they be coaching them? On the physical side, to be a world class spin bowler you need to be able to put as many rotations on the ball as possible. Swann can get over 2,000 revs a minute. Warne probably would have been up at the 2,500 and above level. Revs produce turn, drift and dip in varying proportions depending on the orientation of the ball, which is a function of a number of things, including the position of the wrist and the energy behind its flick.

      You also need the ability to deceive the batsman. Once the ball at say 80k has reached about a metre and a bit from him he is mentally and physically unable to react in time if any of his earlier decisions have proved wrong.
      The batsman makes decisions on anticipated turn, drift and dip. The bowler tries to disguise those factors by controlling revs and wrist action. (Leaving aside the finger flickers like Mendis etc)

      The coaches now know from the biomechanics that the best way to achieve maximum revs and wrist manoeuvrability is through increasing the speed and force of humerus internal rotation accompanied and assisted by the extension of the elbow joint through release.

      The best action for spinners is therefore to go into the action with a bent arm and before (but actually quite late in the action) and after release of the ball to extend the elbow joint.

      Humerus internal rotation is also improved by maximizing the wrist distance from the internal rotation axis of the humerus. Picture a bowler chest on, elbow bent and pointed to mid off for a right handed bowler and batsman.

      You will have seen it perfectly demonstrated by Ajmal’s “new” delivery bowled from round the wicket. Leaving questions of its legitimacy aside for one moment, it is a designer delivery – not the result of trial and error in the nets.

      Note that the degree of bend in the elbow is not crucial to this, even though that is the measurement ICC has selected to limit. 15% of extension is ample to achieve a pronounced improvement when the other techniques of late extension, extension through the release and increased distance from the wrist to the humerus are exploited.
      Of course if you think that the young bowler will be able to get away with greater than 15 degrees on the field of play then you would encourage him to start from a more acute angle. (He’ll be able to limit that back to sub-15 degrees for testing.) The more acute you can get away with the better for wrist action.

      Obviously the ICC know all this too. Why are they still focusing on and defending 15 degrees of elbow extension, when a throwing efficiently is all about the other factors listed above?

      Because more and more players are using the throwing techniques identified by biomechanics to design their actions and the actions of the young players they are grooming for the future.

      As enthusiasts for the game, what do you want done about it?


  7. girisopinion says:

    This will always be the case. As long as Ajmal is not bowling against western teams, no one will question his action. This time he took wickets when England were thrashed by Pakistan so that makes it even worse for the English media. Asian spinner + Losing western teams = Action Questioned. This formula will not change. I also challenge England to teach their youngsters to bowl like Murali and Ajmal, lets see if they would be half has successful. Talent cannot be taught Mr.Willis.

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