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Asterisk the Ball.

Tony Tea

There's an old political tactic whereby you claim your opponent's strength. Thus, if your party is considered dodgy with the budget, you say "Who would you rather run the economy: us or the other clowns?" If you are considered untrustworthy, you say "Who do you trust: us or the other barefaced liars?" So it is with Barnes.

Back in 1998, when the article is set, the limit of flex for spinners was 5 degrees. At that time the Chuckanistas said Murali could not chuck because he has a bent arm, which was a straw man argument because you can have a bent arm and still both chuck and not chuck. They said he was able to bowl like he did because he had a flexible wrist, which did not excuse the fact that he was still able to flex his elbow. They said his chucking was an optical illusion, because of his bent arm, flexible wrist and fast arm movement. Finally, they played the race card. Murali went into the lab (not on the field) and the science revealed his action flexed an average of 19 degrees, 14 degrees over the allowed 5 degrees. The Rubber Stampers at UWA then managed to work Murali's flex down to 14.9 degrees, subsequent to which, the ICC changed the allowable angle to a convenient 15 degrees. They also release nebulous figures: oh, by the way, everyone chucks.

The science, contra Barnes' claim it had cleared Murali, had in fact proved Murali was indeed a chucker.

Professor Rosseforp

Neat summary, Tony, none of which is alluded to in the responses to the original article.


Where has it ever been acknowledged that he flexed 19 degrees? I haven't ever read that they modified his action, either. And I thought it was the doosra (subject to later tests) that was thought to have produced those sorts of numbers. Where are you getting this stuff, Tones? Not an argumentative question - I just really wanna know!

It's funny that even though those figures look bad, they're still nothing on Saeed Ajmal's, In his test last year (or was it 2014?) he was well over 20 degrees all the time apparently, and sometimes as bad as 30-40. That makes him easily twice as bad as Murali ever was. Hard to countenance that he took as many wickets as he did before he was finally pulled up. The one thing even the most pro-Muralithan advocate surely has to acknowledge is whether he was clean or not, his legacy did leave us with fifteen years of really bad actions literally everywhere. Hats off to the ICC for reversing that trend, late though it was.


Carrot, Saeed Ajmal was playing County cricket one summer in England and anytime one of the Sky commentators mentioned it, the smirks and near giggles were uncontrollable. It is indeed bizarre that he got away with it for as long as he did.

Tony Tea

I can't find the link (it's in the AGB somewhere), but Bruce Elliott said that when Murali came into the Rubber Stampers in 2004, he was initially clocked at about 19 degrees, but they were able to work it down to 14.4 degrees plus or minus 0.5 degrees.

Whereas Ajmal was all chuck, all the time, and by heaps.


Right - not just well over 20 degrees, but well over 30 and 40, all the time.

I was still verging on whippersnapper status when the Muralitharan thing kicked off in '95, but all I followed it pretty closely as any cricket-mad kid would during his summer holidays. All I remember was that he was cleared; that's literally the first time I've ever heard that there were any modifications done. Were there subsequent tests after the first lot or something? The first lot were done in the same summer that he was called, weren't they?

If you've got the timeline correct, it does seem a bit strange that the UWA mob were able to dictate ICC policy so completely. This perhaps backs up what I've been saying for awhile though, that policy on chucking was still in the dark ages when Murali came around, it caught everyone by surprise, and the ICC were flying by the seat of their pants and legislating as they went.

Re: the "everybody chucks", 15-degree line in the sand, it would be interesting to put a few current bowlers through the same tests, just to see what came up. The trouble is that we don't have any real point of reference. What would Lyon come out as? Maureen? Anyone who bowls the doosra? Even players like Brett Lee and Shoaib were under the spotlight for awhile as well, so putting some fast bowlers through the tests would be interesting, too.

Tony Tea

Don't know which Rubber Stamper cleared Murali after 1995 Boxing day, but Bruce Elliott did his work with Murali after he was reported by Chris Broad in 2004. Murali was subsequently banned from bowling the doosra and, as far as I'm aware, did not bowl one until the Tsunami match at the MCG in early 2005.

UWA has been dropped from the Chucking Panel, with some critics suggesting it was too lenient:

Until recently, all bowlers with dubious actions had to be tested at the University of Western Australia in Perth. "[This was] impractical for a number of countries, and as a consequence the screening of bowlers with suspect actions at domestic level was not as rigorous as the ICC would have liked."

"Not as rigorous as the ICC would have liked" is the kicker.

The falling out between the ICC and the University of WA, where Muralidaran's doosra famously passed the test in 2004, appears to centre on a disagreement over testing methods.

Pretty sure it was UWA again in 1996, ahead of the World Cup.


And this is where I get a bit concerned about your timeline, Tones - I'm pretty sure he wasn't tested in 1998, and I think any testing that would have modified his action to fall below the accepted 15 degrees would have been in 2004. Pretty sure he just got a clean slate in 1996 when they first tested him, and they were only concerned with the doosra later on. So if I've understood that correctly, he would have been given a pass under the old 5 degrees rule in 1996, and it was his doosra that was subject to the 15-20 degrees issue, and it was then that they decided that everyone should be able to flex 15 degrees and not before.

Tony Tea

I didn't say he was tested in 1998, that is when Barnes' article was set, I said he was tested in 2004. But I understand how you could draw 1998 that from my original comment. The 15 degrees change was introduced sometime after the 2004 tests.


The other smoking gun to look for reporting from UWA was the word 'remediation'.

ie. When first tested he was outside the law but we did some work to get him just below the line.

Optical illusions and flexible wrists do not need remediation.

There are unconfirmed rumours about the results of those remediation sessions where the bowlers are unable to send down anything like their match day deliveries and instead a barrage of full tosses and long hops.


Yep, sorry Tones, realised some of that later on. Still, it's interesting that if the rule still was 5 degrees in 1996 that he ws passed. Even if UWA are not being used anymore and the rules have been changed to reflect the fact that a perfect action doesn't really exist, somewhere there are documents saying that Muralitharan flexed at 5 degrees or less.

I had heard about some of those stories, Bruce - and also that some bowlers pretty much refusing to cooperate, and bowling well under their match speeds for the tests, making a proper diagnosis nigh-on impossible. I think that's what Samuels was doing when he got tested - he still got banned in the end, though.


Tones, are we getting a 1st Test thread? I want to say something vaguely rude about Peter Siddle before we start....


changing the subject, back in the mid 70's I played cricket on an aluminium pitch that was laid in sections and could be picked up and put away at the end of the game. Mat laid on top. Only ever one place in Sydney whhere it was used, and they stopped it after a couple of seasons. Noisy when the bowler landed on it, and not a lot of bounce, innovation gone mad.
A few years before the aluminium bat.

Big Ramifications


Tony Tea

That aluminium pitch experience was so weird that I asked about it on Twitter.

Professor Rosseforp

Re the falling out between the ICC and UWA, my suspicion is that this arose from the last articles I read about this (probably a couple of years ago), where UWA researchers published a paper saying that elbow-bending is a poor indicator of throwing vs bowling. Some bowlers who exceeded the flex looked like they were bowling, and some bowlers who had virtually no flex looked like they were chucking.
In other words a century plus of MCC rules had been looking at the wrong part of the arm. My intuition, based on throwing balls around the park, is that a pitching or throwing motion is a complex series of movements -- no surprise there, baseball coaches and medicos have known this for years. The essence of a throw, for me, originates in a jerking of the shoulder. This is not discussed in cricketing analysis, but fielders rarely bowl when returning a ball from the outfield. Bowlers rarely jerk their shoulder when bowling.

Professor Rosseforp

You can try this at home -- indoors, if you like:
My experience is that I can keep a straight arm when using a simple shoulder rotation ; I can use a bent arm and keep it in position if I use a simple shoulder rotation [in both cases I can also bend my elbow if I choose to).
If I jerk my shoulder, as if throwing, it is very hard to keep a bent arm in the same bent position, although not impossible, if I fight my muscle memory that wants to turn a shoulder jerk into a throw.
If I jerk my shoulder, I find it impossible to keep a straight arm in a straight position throughout the action.

Professor Rosseforp

In re-viewing Muralitharan, I think his action looks so suspicious because of his shoulder-jerking -- combined with his wrist movement (neither of these is prohibited, but wrist movement is explicitly allowed). When you add in the fact that his elbow was also moving (and probably exceeding the limits at the time), his bowling resembled a pitch or a throw.
For me the clincher was that in his early appearances, many of his deliveries appeared legitimate ; occasional deliveries looked decidedly odd.

Big Ramifications

My missus caught me jerking off in the lounge room. Thanks Prof.

Big Ramifications

Off spinners. What were you thinking?

Professor Rosseforp

Ha, Big Rammers, I knew there was a danger in using the term "jerk" ... just tell your missus you were practising keeping it straight when delivering.

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