The ICC flexes its elbow muscles

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Saeed Ajmal - he's a straightener

Well this is news. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal has been banned from bowling.

Ajmal was tested once before and had his action cleared. But not this time. This time he has been found guilty of the greatest crime in cricket.

People will whisper the word whenever he is near and he will have to use the special toilets reserved for his kind whenever he is at a cricket ground. Whenever his name appears in on-screen statistics, it will always be accompanied by an asterisk. This is not to indicate that he was captain. That asterisk says just one thing. People will hiss the words, rather than say them: “Saeed Ajmal was a straightener.”

A thousand parallel Ajmal-less universes have opened up to bitter fans of other nations. In ours, an entirely different Pakistan spinner keeps taking five-for-spit against England in the UAE in 2011. Probably a far less likeable one.


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  1. Oh, poor Saeed.
    This recent news
    Is sad indeed.

    We can but pray
    His action’s faults
    Are worked away.

    His bowling might
    Will maybe lose
    A little bite.

    But with him, Pak-
    Istan have a
    Better attack.

    And by-the-by,
    When the format
    Is ODI,

    They’ll then still win
    Against the Poms
    Who can’t play spin.

    (Apologies to Bert.)

    1. Nice. And thanks for the apology. What is it for, by the way? Was it you who let that door shut in my face at the Bull’s Head in Hale Barns on Sunday?

  2. That can’t be the only difference in your universe compared to everyone else’s. Come on, yours has got more taxidermy in it, hasn’t it.

    Anyway, Ajmal. This was inevitable, not that it is him, just that it is one of the world’s best bowlers. As soon as the law became 15 degrees instead of zero degrees, bowlers trained to use 14.5 of them to their advantage. And as there clearly is an advantage (spin a tennis ball in your hand to find out), those who used most would be among the best in the world. And since there is no way to actually tell the difference between 14.5 degrees and 15.5 degrees during a match, the straightening crept up and up. Call it the aggregation of marginal cheating, if you will.

    I don’t think this is a conscious process. I don’t think Ajmal is a cheat (in the sense of a knowing one). It’s just that the ICC shouldn’t be surprised that professional sportsmen push the boundaries of the laws to their advantage. What was introduced as a buffer zone was never going to last as such.

    1. Very good points and also faintly depressing because it implies there will always be pedantic bickering about chucking.

    2. I can’t help thinking that the recent bans/restrictions/testing of Shillingford, Samuels, Williamson, Senayake et al has been basically to pave the way for this.

  3. Saeed is 37 years old. Sure, he could go back, work on his action, clear up with ICC, and return to international cricket. But let’s be honest – this is pretty much the end of the road for him. In my mind, he’ll always be the guy who squatted ass-to-grass to claim a wicket:

    and did hopeless imitations of kung-fu Dan when he got one:

    He’ll be missed.

  4. Either let ’em chuck (why not?), or make them bowl in a cast. Murali proved he could.

    Leaving it to guesswork is stupid. Nobody can tell from looking.

    Oh, and either get umpires or a computer looking for front foot no-balls again.

    1. Commentator-cum-protractor, Jonathan Agnew, says:

      “For me 15 degrees is ok not least because it’s pretty obvious when that is being exceeded.”

  5. Cricinfo: ‘Saeed Ajmal banned from bowling: All deliveries found to be illegal.’

    Although you did forget the major crime for those south of the border, which is aggression. It’s almost like they forget that they aren’t a real country in the first place.

    I meant Barcelona.

    (This was a poem.)

  6. When i was younger (around 14-16) i was called by a few batsmen and eventually a couple of umpires for having a bent arm when i delivered the ball. This was a huge blow to my confidence because i never wanted to bend my arm it was just that it somehow did that as i bowled (it didn’t straighten though). My case is probably different because I was a medium pace bowler but to this day as i run in to bowl I still fear being called a cheat, but does this make me one?

    I don’t know. but it was extremely frustrating and a huge blow to my confidence.

  7. Angus Porter, Professional Cricketers’ Associaion, on Moeen Ali being booed by Indian fans: “You are more likely to boo someone when you think they are someone to be feared. Take it as as a positive, you’d rather be booed than ignored.”

    People who are actually at the ground are saying that this booing was racially motivated. So all those black footballers who had bananas thrown at them should take them as a positive, then? After all, they’re high in potassium!

  8. I didn’t want to comment on this until I had read through the technical detail.

    Apparently Ajmal achieved around a 40 degree flex of his elbow. This is not just a little over, this is blatant throwing. He’s not the only one doing it either.

    The fact is with offspin it is impossible to generate the same amount of turn as a legspinner unless you are a genetic freak like Murali or have hands strong enough to bowl by ‘squeezing’ the ball out. Yet somehow, all over the world you have offspinners, many of them part timers, getting the ball to kick and turn like they are Murali rather than the ‘traditional’ offspinner who relied on flight and swerve as much as spin (eg Daniel Vettori).

    On some level we all knew something was wrong, the test results that we’ve seen in the last couple of months have confirmed it.

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