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All eyes on Peshawar

The Indian camp seems to believe that there is something wrong with Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action, reports Avirook Sen.Bending back or bending arm?

india Updated: Mar 19, 2004 01:10 IST

Is there really something wrong with Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action? Or is it just a case of India whining? As the team goes into the third one-dayer at Peshawar, the Indian camp seems to believe the former.

"What do you think, watching on TV? I think we all know the answer, don't we?" Sourav Ganguly had said, weaving away from a question on whether all of Shoaib's deliveries were legal, after the loss in Rawalpindi. In Peshawar on Thursday, he made it clear that that was as far as he was prepared to go — officially.

Simon Taufel, one of the most respected umpires in world cricket today, is officiating in this series — and doing a superb job. Asked for his views, he steered clear. "No comment," Taufel told HT, adding, "But if there is an illegal delivery it will be called."

Away from the microphones however, there isn't just talk. There seems to be a firm belief that Shoaib isn't just bending his back. And that a few of the other Pakistanis have good throwing arms as well. Afridi's faster delivery has attracted attention for some time now. And the field glasses are out to watch Shoaib Malik's jerky off-spinners.

"The current joke in the Indian team is that if things go on like this for another few weeks, chucking may well become legal," said a source. "But no umpire has the guts to make the call. Not after what happened to Ross Emerson," he adds.

In January 1999, Emerson had called Muttiah Muralitharan for chucking in Adelaide. It turned out to be Emerson's last international game.

Darrel Hair also no-balled the Lankan off-spinner, and he's no longer on ICC's elite panel of eight umpires. A year ago, Emerson said: "Calling Murali cost me my career and it certainly did not help Hair's."

If Shoaib, or indeed any of the Pakistanis are called, it could well be the end of the series — and probably all the goodwill. But the chucking controversy refuses to go away.

As Australia play Sri Lanka, Bruce Elliot, who cleared Murali's action five years ago, has reopened the debate. Elliot, a member of the ICC committee that investigates dodgy actions, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying Murali's doosra (the one that leaves the batsman rather than spins into him) is slightly dubious. If the arm is kept bent, said Elliot, you can use the "big rotator muscles ... geared for throwing."

Elliot was speaking about Murali's action, but bending the arm can give both spinners and pacemen undue advantage.

First Published: Mar 19, 2004 00:00 IST