As Pakistan savour their majestic all-round performance to outwit England within three days of the first Test match, the tourists, especially the English media lick their wounds while teeing off on the luxurious golf courses in Dubai.
Controversy has never been far from a Pakistan-England encounter, but no one expected it to begin as early as it did during the on-going series in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Pakistan, through Seed Ajmal’s artistry, had barely finished delivering an early blow on the morning of the first day’s play in the opening Test, that muted calls of foul-play and doubtful actions started ringing in from London. This time, however, it wasn’t the English tabloids doing the complaining but the highly-respected Sky headquarters – chock-a-block with some distinguished cricketing luminaries – to start the rot.
“The off-spinner has a conventional round-arm (action), and it doesn't seem to be a threat but the doosra is the delivery that the batsmen are all struggling with. The authorities are now allowing these mystery spinners, unorthodox off-spinners, to bend their elbow,” complained a clearly irked Bob Willis.
As the English downfall continued, Willis went on to accuse Ajmal of wearing a long-sleeved shirt to conceal a kink. This latest ‘accusation’ from Willis completely disregarded the fact that play was being held in the middle of winter, and that eight other players were dressed in a similar manner. Matters weren’t helped either when Graeme Swann came on to ball later in the day, wearing the same long sleeves.
With due respect to the “critics” disapproving photographs of Ajmal’s action that are doing the rounds on the web, a little perspective is in order. After all, it is a well-known fact that Ajmal has been cleared by an independent panel of specialists approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Dr Bruce Elliot – a professor of Bio-mechanics, Motor Learning and Development at the University of Western Australia – cleared Ajmal in 2009, when the Australian cricket team were struggling to deconstruct his mystery at the same venue. Elliot revealed that “during a comprehensive analysis it was apparent that the amount of elbow extension in Saeed Ajmal's bowling action for all deliveries was within the 15-degree level of tolerance permitted in the ICC regulations.”
Dr Paul Hurrion, the ICC’s chief biomechanics analyst and consultant, recently explained how these tests were conducted to remove doubts on whether the “conniving” spinner had in fact sneaked his way through the trials. “We use synchronised footage of the player bowling in a match to check that they are not just going through the motions or altering their style. They have to replicate the speed of a delivery from a match, the deviation and the revolutions of the ball. When being tested, the bowler is topless and has reflective markers all over his bowling arm, so the three-dimensional, high-speed cameras can film him from every angle.”
Had the art of spin bowling been given the proper study and credit it deserves, all the hoopla surrounding Ajmal’s action would have been unnecessary. Those who have delved in the deeply enriched nature of spin bowling will know how simplified it has been through the years. The generalisation and viewing of the skill from a very convex lens has led to these recent tirades against innovation.
Spinners, for ages, have been classified into two broad categories: wrist and finger, with leg-spinners being tagged as the former and off-spinners the latter. However, nothing could be further from the truth, since the bowling varieties of several international spinners are incomparable.
First things first: the misconception of wrist and finger spin. There is no form of conventional spin that isn’t aided by the wrist and the reason why leg-spin is wrist spin while conventional off-spin is not, depends on the timing of the wrist action. In normal off-spin the wrist plays an initial part only in transferring the ball to the fingers, while the opposite applies to leg spin. The only true finger-spinner in the game is Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis or India’s Ravichandran Ashwin, especially when he delivers his much-hyped ‘Sudoku ball’.