With the Cricket World Cup starting on 14 February 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, there are numerous bowlers who have been selected by their countries to represent them, who will be under the watchful eye of the umpires for the legality of their bowling actions.
According to the laws of cricket, the definition of a ‘fair delivery in respect of the arm’ is that the ball must not be thrown. Furthermore the ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowlers arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint shall not straighten partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) Regulations state that an acceptable level of elbow extension has been set at a maximum of 15 degrees for all bowlers and types of deliveries. This refers to the extension of the forearm relative to the upper arm to the straight position.
This topic has been widely debated ever since Muttiah Muralitharan was reported, and no balled by umpire Darrell Hair in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG in 1995. Ever since then, the legality of bowling actions have been the subject of much debate.
It will be interesting to see how the umpires at the ICC World Cup adjudicate on these bowling actions with there being at least 6 players picked who have been sanctioned for illegal bowling action in the past 12 months.
Two of the most prevalent of these will be Sunil Narine, the off-spinner for the West Indies, and also Mohammad Hafeez, the all-rounder for Pakistan.
Sunil Narine was banned from bowling in the Champions League Twenty20 competition which is governed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), as such his ban only related to events run by the BCCI. Accordingly, he has not been tested nor banned by an ICC sanctioned game, and his action will no doubt be scrutinised in the World Cup.
Mohammad Hafeez was banned in a Test match late in 2014, and has not yet had his action tested by an ICC governed testing centre. At this stage he has not be cleared to bowl. However, if he is cleared he will also be heavily scrutinised in the World Cup.
It is one of the many interesting aspects of the ICC World Cup, which will give all adjudicating umpires food for thought.
In the writer’s view, the 15-degree maximum should be that; a maximum. There will always be exceptions for hyperextended elbows; but as the laws of cricket state, a fair delivery is a ball that is not thrown. In the writers view that is as clear as it can get.
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