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Why Sunil Narine – and why now?


Mike King

Why Sunil Narine – and why now?

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Off-spinners with high elbow extensions beware, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is coming after you.

The recent suspension of mystery spinner Sunil Philip Narine from bowling in the Champions League T20 has been the buzz in the cricket world over the last few days.

It has cast a doubt over his career not only that league and the Indian Premier League (IPL), but for the West Indies as well.

Narine, 26, has been withdrawn by the West Indies board from the series of five one-dayers in India series that start today.

Those Caribbean fans who feel West Indians are being targetted should note that off-spinners from all around the globe are being called for chucking. Narine is the eighth bowler – and the  eighth off-spinner – to have been reported for a suspect action over the past few months. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, Bangladeshi Sohag Gazi, Zimbabwe’s Prosper Utseya, Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson aare among the others.

That list also includes Lahore Lions off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez, who has been reported for a suspect bowling action by the umpires, following the team’s Champions League T20 match against Dolphins. Offspinner Prenelan Subrayen of Dolphins was also reported.

Ajmal’s average elbow extension is more than twice the permissible limit of 15 degrees. The Pakistani, who will turn 37 next week, was found to flex his elbow up to an average of 42 degrees while bowling.

The issue of suspect bowling actions had come up during the ICC cricket committee meeting in June, where there was a general consensus among members that the current methods used to detect illegal actions were imperfect. It recommended changes to help match officials get more support from biomechanists in order to identify illegal actions with “more confidence”.

Even before then, three bowlers with dubious actions had come under the microscope. Last December, two West Indians – Shane Shillingford and Marlon Samuels – were suspended from bowling, though the former was cleared in March. In October 2013,  South Africa’s Johan Botha was cleared by Cricket Australia after being reported during a domestic match.

Clive Lloyd, the chairman of the West Indies selection panel, has questioned the Champions League T20’s decision to ban Narine, highlighting that the offspinner had bowled around the world for years without being reported.

Lamenting the timing of the suspension, “just before an important series against India and the World Cup that follows”, Lloyd said he was surprised by questions over the legality of Narine’s action.

“He has been bowling over the years with the same sort of action. Now all of a sudden it has changed. What has changed, I don’t know,” Lloyd has said.

A more sensible approach by ICC would be to issue a warning letter to the bowler with the suspect action and the respective cricket board – allowing a time frame of  three to four months for the bowler/cricket board to carry out the corrective procedure.

During this time period the bowler should be allowed to continue playing international cricket. A date should be fixed for the second review of the bowling action in this warning letter. If the bowler fails this second review then he can be suspended for a further time period. In this way the bowler will be given a fair chance to address the problem of the suspect action.  

I do not have a problem with Lloyd’s public stance, and I do not believe that he went over the top. Anyone, whether it be Lloyd or any other official, has a right, even a duty, to publicly defend his players, especially given the circumstances under which it happened and the cynical way in which it took place.

It seriously questions the integrity and the competence of the CLT20, not to mention the inconsistency. Publicly defending your players’ interests and careers is the best consolation you can offer them, and shows that you have their best interests at heart.

Certainly, the ICC should have acted much sooner – but better late than never. Fair play has to be recognised and those who contravene the rules have to be penalised.

A crackdown just before the World Cup may not be ideal, but something had to be done.

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