Back in the 90s, when Muttiah Muralitharan was called for chucking by Darrel Hair, it sent shockwaves through the cricket world. Muralitharan wasn't a great name then, back in 1995, but was on his way to establishing himself as a legend. In the years that followed, India's Harbhajan Singh and Rajesh Chauhan, Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar and even Aussie speedster Brett Lee was reported to have a suspect action. Those however were more of exceptions and less of a rule. Things however have drastically changed in recent years, and only for the worse.
In the current Champions League T20, five bowlers have been reported to have a suspect action. And, the biggest name of all is the latest one to be named -- Sunil Narine, who was reported by the umpires during KKR's last league game against Dolphins. Narine will feature in the semi-final, but he will be definitely be under the shadow since he will soon have to undergo corrective measures to make his action compatible with required standards. Remember, Narine has been one of the best bowlers in T20s, and the most successful one in the history of CLT20.
The most dangerous aspect of the current scenario is the frequency with which bowlers are being reported, and also the fact that some of the biggest and most successful names feature in the list of suspect actions. Apart from West Indies' Narine, Pakistan off spinner Saeed Ajmal was recently suspended for an illegal bowling action. Ajmal is the number one bowler in international cricket across all formats, and his suspension is not only a big blow for international cricket, but also raises questions about his participation in the World Cup next year, which could be a massive loss for Pakistan.
Considering the number of bowlers under the scanner for suspect action, one wonders whether the authorities have suddenly become strict over reported illegal actions. Such queries are bound to be raised because the bowlers being questioned are not rookies. The list includes established players like Shane Shillingford, Kane Williansom and Mohammad Hafeez among others, who have been around the international scene for a while. For sure, we have missed out a few names, but it is really bizarre how, out of the blue, numerous players are being called for having a suspect action.
Chucking is a strict no-no in cricket, and the menace must be done away with. However, there must be a proper mechanism in place to deal with the same. The 15-degree rule is clearly not working since a number of big names are unable to meet this basic criteria laid down by the ICC. If that was the case, so many bowlers wouldn't have been under pressure over their actions. The ICC clearly needs to take a relook at the way the whole process of reporting suspect actions is taking place. Else there would only be more embarrassments in store for the game as a whole.
--By A Cricket Analyst