Criticism of Ajmal’s action: Cause for needless controversy

Published: May 29, 2011
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Ajmal took 17 wickets in all and was deservedly named man of the series.

The recent test series between West Indies and Pakistan, which ended in a 1-1 draw, confirmed Pakistan’s strong bowling lineup and the batting weakness of both the teams.

It was one of those rare series in which the Green Shirts relied more on their spinners than the pacers and they returned handsome rewards. West Indian batsmen were simply clueless against the wiles of Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Muhammad Hafeez.

Ajmal took 17 wickets in all and was deservedly named man of the series but the comments of some of the West Indian greats of the past left a sour taste in the mouth at the end.

Micheal Holding and Viv Richards, two of the best players produced by the Caribbean voiced their concerns over Ajmal’s action when delivering the doosra. Tony Cozier, a respected veteran journalist also called it into question. All these great cricketers, commentators and journalists believe that Ajmal doesn’t adhere to the 15 degree bowling rule of the ICC.

The 15 degree rule was implemented by the ICC after the biomechanical analysis showed most bowlers to have a slight flex in the arm and that it was not humanly possible to detect this flex until the arm was bent at greater than 15 degrees.

Richard’s attack was more far reaching than others as he did not name Ajmal specifically but chose to attack all the off spinners in general saying that they are able to do freakish stuff after the rule was changed.

I have at least three reservations to Mr Richard’s comments.

Firstly, he should note that the doosra is not a new concept. It was first introduced by Saqlain Mushtaq more than a decade ago and was never called as an illegal delivery though the rule was tighter then hence it is not freaky.

Secondly, if Ajmal bends his arm by more than 15 degrees to deliver the doosra then that should create a significant change in his bowling action and the batsmen should be able to pick it up easily. So why haven’t they been able to?

And lastly, Ajmal’s action was called into question by the ICC and was cleared in 2009. That should have closed this chapter once and for all.

There are quite a few off spinners on the international scene at the moment and all of them use the doosra as a significant weapon, and while delivering it, even they give an impression of bending their arm at greater than 15 degrees, including Harbhajan Singh and Johan Botha. Ajmal’s action is much cleaner than theirs. Actually, it is probably cleaner than some of the pace bowlers in the international arena at the moment. He hasn’t been reported by any of the on field umpires for almost two years now.

I believe these comments by the former players are more out of frustration at their batsmen not being able to read Ajmal than anything else. These past cricketers need to be more responsible while passing on judgments as these create unnecessary controversies and cricket can ill afford more of those!

Dr Amyn Malyk

Dr Amyn Malik

The author is a PhD student at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who likes to write. He tweets as @amynmalik

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