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The law is open to manipulation

Professor Bruce Elliott and his team of experts at the University of Western Australia Department of Human Movement and Exercise Science have done the better batsmen around the world a huge favour by recommending that Muttiah Muralitharan be allowed to continue to bowl his `doosra'. I believe he is a much more dangerous bowler without it in his repertoire.

There is no doubt that the `doosra' is an incredible delivery but no top batsman in his right mind should be deceived by it. The difference between the action required for bowling the orthodox off-spin delivery and that required to bowl the `doosra' is as obvious as the differences between Muralitharan and Shane Warne. You would have to have your eyes shut not to pick it.

Murali has to set up his body very differently for the `doosra' than for his orthodox delivery so that any batsman who has reached this level should recognise the difference before Murali leaves home. Failing that, his wrist-cock is so much more pronounced than for his conventional delivery that it should also set the alarm bells ringing.

If, for some reason, the bells have been short-circuited there are still two other back up systems. Firstly, the rotation of the ball in the air is very different for the two types of delivery and secondly, because Murali is so good, he bowls the two deliveries on distinctly different lines. If, as a specialist batsman, you haven't worked out the difference between the two by now you should hand in your membership card to the professional batsman's union.

The Australian batsmen generally played him very well during the recent series in Sri Lanka. Having had a good look at him, and his repertoire, in the one-day series they were well prepared for the Test series. They showed commendable patience and were prepared to make him bowl a substantial number of overs for his wickets.

Darren Lehmann in particular had no problems picking the difference and made a point of lofting as many of his `doosra' deliveries straight down the ground as possible. By playing sensibly the Australian top-order batting made it difficult for Murali to have an impact on the series. Even though he took the odd early wicket he generally had to wait more than twenty overs for his next and his wickets came at a healthy cost.

As flexible as Muralitharan's right wrist is, it is humanly impossible for any orthodox spinner to turn one the other way without flexing the elbow beyond acceptable limits. It is hard enough to cock the wrist adequately to bowl the normal off-spin delivery without releasing the bowling elbow to some degree.

The more front-on the delivery style and the more quickly the front side of the body is `cleared' in the delivery action, the more likely is the need to shorten the bowling-arm arc to complete the action in a timely fashion. The most efficient way to do that is to bend the elbow. Side-on bowlers, conversely, `clear' the front side more slowly than do their front-on counterparts so the bowling arm has more time to complete a fuller arc and is therefore less likely to infringe the law.

It was disingenuous of the report on Murali's action not to point out that that is why he has become more front-on with his action since developing the `doosra'. He has to. The only way to get some action on it is to achieve more mobility in the wrist and the easiest way to do that is to release the elbow more than is required for the off-spinner, not to mention, what is acceptable under the law. I wonder how "enthusiastic" Murali will be about his new side-on action when he realises he can't get the same revolutions on his `other one' in a game situation.

Here is the nub of the argument. What umpire without the benefit of all the technology available to the experts at UWA, will be able to tell the difference between ten degrees and fourteen, let alone five degrees and ten? Not many I suggest, therefore the law is open to manipulation.

Coaching methods around the world need to be examined closely to see why we have such a plethora of pace and orthodox spin bowlers around the world who are flouting the law. A considerable number of bowlers at the U-19 World Cup held recently in Bangladesh were reported for suspect actions.

From a batting perspective what I would want the umpire to do is to protect me from someone who varies his action dramatically during the course of play. The question cricket needs to ask itself is whether it wants to become another form of baseball or remain unique in sports where the bowler has to put the ball in play with a basically straight arm. For me it is not a difficult decision.

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