Difficult times for off-spinners but all is not lost

Former cricketer Saqlain Mushtaq talks chucking, remodelling and why the doosra shouldn't be banned.

    Ajmal is currently the top-ranked bowler in ODIs [AFP]
    Ajmal is currently the top-ranked bowler in ODIs [AFP]

    Pakistan will be without the services of Saeed Ajmal at the World Cup.

    A lot of people have questioned the timing of the ICC’s clampdown. Some are saying it’s the wrong time, being so close to the mega event while others are saying it’s always the right time to enforce rules.

    I believe the ICC has the right thing to question legitimacy of the actions and ensure rules are being followed. The governing body has not done anything wrong. If someone is breaking the rules, they have to fix that.

    Recently reported
    Saeed Ajmal
    Mohammad Hafeez
    Sunil Narine
    Pragyan Ojha
    Prosper Utseya
    Malcolm Waller
    Sachithra Senanayake
    Kane Williamson


    It’s not just Pakistan bowlers that have been affected. It’s a big blow for them though, losing Ajmal while also having Mohammad Hafeez's action reported. But other countries have also had their star bowlers reported. It’s a big blow but I’m sure off-spin will come out of it stronger than before. It definitely won’t stop production and introduction of new off-spinners.

    Off-spinners are kings

    I’ve been undertaking spiritual studies and learning more about faith and I don’t believe in making predictions. But when I started my career, off-spin was dead. It picked up. Off-spinners became economical and now you see that the world’s highest wicket-takers in all three formats of international cricket are off-spinners – Muttiah Muralitharan in Tests and ODIs and Ajmal in Twenty20 internationals.

    Even the reported and banned off-spinners are fully capable of making a comeback. It depends on how strong you are and what kind of an individual you are – skill, intelligence and the willingness to fight, that’s what you need.

    It took around four to five weeks to remodel Ajmal’s action. He then went through three to four weeks of repetition. There is no set timeframe for a bowler to come back with a remodelled action. It depends on how quickly the bowler can get used to the new action and its demands on his body.

    It’s also about the follow-through, the arms, the angle, the point of release etc are things you need to consider. It also takes time for the muscles to develop and you need to control those. All bowlers are different and it doesn’t mean that a bowler will be less effective with a remodelled action.

    No effect on effectiveness

    I’ve worked with a lot of kids in England. I tried remodelling their action and their effectiveness remained the same. The pace can be affected but you need to work on the trajectory among other things.

    There are also doubts cast by various individuals that the doosra should be banned because it’s not possible to deliver it while staying within the legal limits.

    These are the people who can’t bowl a doosra and want it to be banned. You need the right technique, the right control, lock your wrists, use the right muscles in the right way and you have a perfectly legitimate doosra.

    It’s a skill and an art and no way should it be banned because it can be bowled while staying within the limits


    It’s a skill and an art and no way should it be banned because it can be bowled while staying within the limits. It’s like telling a batsman not to play a sweep shot or a cut shot. It’s a very harsh thing to do.

    But speaking of limits, 15 degrees is a very, very marginal limit. I spoke to a couple of biomechanics experts and questioned them about this. I also want to ask the ICC how they’ve come up with the 15-degree limit and what sort of people have they done their research on.

    Asian people are different from Europeans who are different from say someone from the Caribbean. Their bodies are formed differently and so are the muscles. Their body mechanics work differently.

    The other factors

    If you look at Ajmal, he had an accident too. His bowling arm is hypermobile and can twist back. When he bowls, it moves freely. People have different issues. Spotting a 15-degree bend with a naked eye is another thing. Therefore, the ICC needs to revisit this rule and look into it more carefully.

    Having said all that, I’m sure off-spin will continue to grow. Not only that, I’m sure they will come up with new deliveries. Yes, there certainly is a scope for that. Newer skills will come into the world and I’m certain that a bowler from the subcontinent will be the one coming up with a new delivery.

    I grew up in the subcontinent but have played and coach in England, Australia and New Zealand among other place. Cricketers from the subcontinent are creative and not scared to try different things. I have faith in that and we’ll see new deliveries trending very soon.

    The writer is a former Pakistan cricketer, having taken 496 international wickets. He was speaking to Al Jazeera's Faras Ghani

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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