Banning one bowler after the other, what is PCB doing wrong?
Yet another dejecting news story regarding one of our new off-spinners, Bilal Asif, was published recently. Bilal was reported for suspect action during the third ODI match against Zimbabwe in Harare. The series ended on a high note for our cricket team, but for Bilal, the series cast a gloomy shadow over his future career growth.
Thirty-year-old Bilal performed exceptionally well in his second ODI match against Zimbabwe, during which he bagged five wickets and contributed 38 runs as an opener, which helped Pakistan sail towards a seven wicket win. These statistics proved that Bilal is a force to reckon with, but after the news of his bowling action being reported, his future seems plagued by uncertainty.
Considering the fact that two of our main off-spinners were banned from playing international cricket, and now a third one may be added to the list should be a wakeup call for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). It’s extremely impractical and unjustified if the International Cricket Council (ICC) and PCB expect these bowlers to return after remodelling their actions. Even if their actions are approved, they won’t be as effective as they used to be. A case in point is Saeed Ajmal.
Bilal is the third off-spinner and eighth Pakistani bowler to have been reported for suspect actions in international matches. The list includes Saeed Ajmal (2014), Shahi Afridi (2001), Shabbir Ahmed (2004), Muhammad Hafeez (2014), Riaz Afridi (2014), Shoaib Malik (2014), and Shoaib Akhtar (2001).
The glaring question here is that how on earth does PCB fail to detect these illegal actions beforehand?
In Bilal’s case, there are reports stating that PCB’s coaching staff assessed his actions at the National Cricket Academy and found his action to be in accordance with the rules and regulations. If these reports are correct, then the future of all our upcoming off-spinners is in jeopardy.
Although after Hafeez’s bowling action being banned, PCB officials woke up and over 35 bowlers were reported by umpires but there have been no follow-ups on those bowlers, additionally several bowlers with suspected actions are still playing for their respective teams.
The problem does not lie in our players, the problem lies in PCB and their assessment technique. PCB has failed to fulfil the contemporary requirements needed to upgrade the National Cricket Academy (NCA). The bio-mechanical equipment which was purchased for around Rs44 million by the then PCB Chairman, Nasim Ashraf, has become obsolete.
These embarrassments will continue unless and until the management at PCB decides to apply to ICC protocols to first class and limited overs matches. PCB needs to adopt ICC’s global policy and testing rule which is used for elite bowlers, in order to ensure all of our domestic players to conform to international standards.
Apart from this issue, another worrying fact is that PCB has no policy for the rehabilitation of bowlers whose actions have been reported. One such bowler is Atif Maqbool, a 33-year-old whose action was reported at domestic level.
Speaking to Tribune, Atif, who has 255 wickets in 60 first-class matches with 22 five-wicket hauls to his name, reveals that PCB has not helped him even once in his rehabilitation process and he has been forced to do everything on his own since being reported.
Atif said that after his action was reported, he went to NCA and the officials told him that he has a 32-degree elbow angle. However after going through some drills, he was asked to come back after a certain time period to assess his action again, during which PCB did not allow him to stay at the academy.
It is rather unfortunate to see players like Atif and many other talented bowlers become the victim’s of PCB’s incompetency and unfairness. It is a known fact that without the board’s cooperation, these bowlers cannot remodel their actions on their own and the process can only be completed under the supervision of qualified coaches, and yet, knowing this, PCB fails to reach out to these bowlers.
As far as Bilal’s future is concerned, let’s hope that he gets clearance, but in case he doesn’t, he would have to go back to Kuwait, because there is no way he can make it back to the team with or without his remodelled action. If PCB can turn its back on a former number one off-spinner, such as Ajmal, they can do it to anyone.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.