Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja has urged the ICC to consider raising the permissible limit of a bowler’s elbow extension from the current limit of 15 degrees to “18 to 20 degrees.” Speaking exclusively to ESPNcricinfo, Ramiz said something had to be done to “safeguard this phenomena called the doosra.”
In recent months a number of offspinners, including Saeed Ajmal and Sunil Narine, have been reported for suspect bowling actions, and Ajmal was also banned after tests showed his action was illegal. Ramiz feared that if “unorthodoxy” was penalised, cricket would soon become a “robotic sport.”
“I have always felt that the most exciting delivery that has taken the playing fields is the doosra,” Ramiz said. “You have got to make room somehow to legalise it, even if you have to tweak the limit to 18 or 20 degrees because: a) it is not threatening the batsman physically, b) it is a great ball to describe and you need skills to play it.”
Ramiz also disagreed strongly with claims that the doosra was a form of cheating equating it with reverse swing that he said could only be achieved with “tinkering with the ball.”
“I’ve played with some of the greats who reversed it and I can vouch for the fact that you possibly can’t get a natural reverse swing, you have to tinker with the ball,” he said. “That’s been looked at as a great art and we look the other way. Even though we have laws in place to detect a roughed-up delivery, we know in commentary that this can’t happen without somebody playing foul.”
Ramiz, who opened the batting for Pakistan in most of his 57 Tests and 197 ODIs, said bowlers need tricks such as the doosra to survive in the modern game that is heavily skewed in favour of batsmen.
“Batsmen can stand wherever in the crease, they can even stand in the danger area and not be called by the umpire with the spikes on, whereas if the poor bowler gets on that danger zone he is called and then taken off,” he said. “The switch hit is controversial yet nothing has been done about it. So because of the lopsidedness of the laws, we have seen the bowlers tweak the limits. Had the laws been 50-50, I think everyone would have been within the parameters and the game would have advanced smoothly.”
According to Ramiz, it would be extremely difficult for Ajmal, who was banned from bowling last month after being reported during Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka, to remodel his action in time for the World Cup.
“Can you redeem a bowler who straightens his arm? I don’t think so. I think we will lose them,” Ramiz warned. “I don’t think a guy who has an indifferent bowling action can make a comeback. From 40 degrees flex you ask him to bowl at 15 degrees or lesser, it just can’t happen. From 37 to 15 degrees in a matter of couple of months, I don’t see that happening.”
Tests at Brisbane’s National Cricket Centre had shown that Ajmal flexed his elbow up to an average of 42 degrees while bowling. Ramiz expressed skepticism about these findings, contending that the “process” followed wasn’t very clear.
“We were told from 15 degrees to 17 degrees (in Ajmal’s case) it was just a minor fault and now it has gone up to 100% more,” Ramiz said. “I need to know how the process has been conducted; they have got to make it public. In case of a 40-degree flex, the home board needs to know why and how and what’s the process? Who has designed this machine and why has it been accredited by the ICC?”
Ramiz also suggested that the ICC had to understand how street and club-level cricket was played in countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka before imposing bans on bowlers with suspect actions.
“You have allowed them to play for 10 years, the next generation has looked up to these bowlers,” he said. “Every bowler at the domestic level in Pakistan wants to replicate Ajmal. Saqlain [Mushtaq] was the hero earlier and Ajmal has modeled his action on him. Saqlain was given a clean chit. [Muttiah] Muralitharan is probably a great role model for the Sri Lankan young bowlers probably because he was allowed to bowl for so many years with an indifferent action. I think it’s important that, before imposing bans or fines, you have got to visit these countries because our street cricket, our club and domestic cricket is viewed differently.
“The world body needs to understand the structure of Pakistan cricket. How the spinners are brought up, how are unorthodox actions are legalised because there has been a history. To stop it, I think it’s imperative that you understand how street and club cricket is being played. Are players being screened or are they being allowed to go ahead and be another Saeed Ajmal?”