The witch hunt against spinners reflects insecurity in T20

Over the last few years, there has been an ongoing witch hunt against spinners with suspect actions, and its time some consideration was given to the agenda that drives it.

The official party line is that the ICC are cracking down on bowlers with suspect actions because it is part of the rules of the game. They are just doing their job. Just following orders.

Cricket has now got three raging formats, the newest of which being Twenty20 (T20).

It is the double expresso, to the steady Americano, Test cricket.

When it first emerged, many saw the big bats, short boundaries and high intensity, and thought that it would simply destroy spin.

Nobody really considered that it may become a format where slower bowlers could thrive. Looking back, it is amazing it took almost a decade for mystery spinners, and fast bowlers that variate well, to really excel.

The T20 machine that is projected onto the global audience is one of being a batsman’s game, undoubtably.

The hard hats, the six cards, the crowd catching rewards. It’s all the batsman.

Yet, today, International cricket has many spinners that have had incredible success in T20. They  get attention, sure. But why are they now getting the ICC’s attention, for their actions? Many of these bowlers have been around for 10 or 15 years, and have had nothing.

The current ICC T20 International bowling rankings prove that the plan hasn’t quite worked.

Seven spinners in the top 10. Eight of the current ICC ranked bowlers between 10-20 are also spinners.

It’s flooded.  Saturated with slow bowlers.

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But it isn’t even just International cricket. Even in the IPL, three of the five highest wicket takers to date are spinners too. 

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The cynical traditional cricket fan inside says that this was never the intention for T20. The even more pessimistic and doubtful voice says that the ICC are now trying to put brakes on the situation.

The rules of the game outline that bowlers are allowed a 15 degree flex of permissible straightening of the elbow joint for all bowlers in international cricket.

Spinners with questionable actions, i.e. those that flex more than 15 degrees, can generate huge amounts of turn, both ways. It allows variation, but more importantly, pressure.

In 2013, the ICC released an 18 page document called ‘ICC Regulations for the Review of Bowlers Reported with Suspected Illegal Bowling Actions‘. It goes into great detail with regards to the process for reporting suspect bowlers. Although it outlines that umpires still have access to the right to call illegal actions; now it will be much more official. There will be greater ICC involvement and more use of technology, to really snuff out those responsible.

The ICC, currently chaired by former BCCI chairman N. Srinivasan, is the same ICC that failed to achieve consensus regarding the use of Umpire’s Decision Review System due to opposition by BCCI on grounds of a lack of faith in technology.

But of course, when it comes to suspect actions, technology is a must. Anything to ensure that T20 remains a game in their control.

It may be less humiliating for bowlers to be probed in a lab for a suspect action than to be called on the field in front of thousands,  but in terms of effectiveness, it is far potent.

As bowlers are now less likely to be called on field, they will be more thoroughly checked off it. It is going to be more rigorous and official process, enforced without time limits, or the possibility of having an impact on the game that it allegedly occurs in.

Whereas nobody questions the 15 degree rule as long as it is in place;, it is arguably the case that there is an agenda behind this witch hunt.

In International cricket, even bowlers with an illegal action are still massively under pressure in a batsmen dominated game.

In limited overs cricket T20 cricket, the bats are bigger than ever, the boundaries are in, the field restrictions are on, even the ball is now harder than before, because there are two new cherries from each end.

Every element of the game is geared towards big hits, and big totals.

A world class spinner would go and ruin that.

Whether its a big time bowler like Saeed Ajmal or a part timer like Kane Williamson, there is a clear new discourse.

There is nowhere to hide. It doesn’t matter if you are a big spinner or a small spinner. You are a suspect. Spinning as a art, is now suspect.

As skilful as mystery spin is to watch on TV, it has the potential to remove the entertainment factor of T20 that the administrators crave.

The big hitting.

If it can be sufficiently stigmatised and criticised, then the onslaught against mystery spin may be able to embed a high sense of insecurity for spinners in the International game.

Sooner or later, orthodoxy may reign once more, for the sake of T20.


If the Associates won’t come to Bangladesh, then Bangladesh must go to the Associates

Bangladesh’s abysmal Test record is well documented, and widely cited as a legitimate reason for revocation of their Test status.

The lure of a potential influx of new playing nations may help Bangladesh salvage their Test status with better suited opposition, but they must weigh their interest in maintaining their Test status now, against their integrity of temporarily giving it up for long term gains.

Their stagnant progress and ineptitude with bat and ball has been consistent, due to a mixture of their own failings, but of course also due to the sheer enormity of the gap between them, and ‘the rest’. In statistical terms, they have nearly always been on the losing or drawing side in Test cricket.

Of course, someone usually has to lose a contest, but the cold hard fact is that since their inaugural Test in 2002, Bangladesh have been victorious in four Tests out of 84. When considering that out of the four wins, two were against a desecrated West Indies second string XI, and two were against a weak Zimbabwe side, the relative importance of those four wins, are relatively minor.

Yet In ODI cricket, Bangladesh have had more success, and really, ideally, should be building on this, instead of being continuously trounced in whites.

They have won 80 out of 276 ODIs, and have a stronger sense of how to win in the format. A key factor in this, is the fact that they have played against 17 sides in total in limited overs cricket, compared to the 10 purely Test playing nations, and this does not even include sides such as Afghanistan or Nepal, which are strong emerging nations.

Out of the 80 ODIs that Bangladesh have won, the vast majority of victories have been against the lower ranked Test sides or non Test playing associate and affiliate nations. For example, against Zimbabwe, 31 out of 59 ODIs have been won, in addition to 15 victories against the West Indies and New Zealand.

Against non Test playing nations, there have been 22 victories which leaves only 12 victories against the top six Test playing nations, in ODI cricket.

It could not be more plain and simple. They are able to compete against lower ranked sides, because they are of a similar skill level.

They have never had a meaningful victory in a Test match, but they have a chance in coloured kits.

It must be devastating and uninspiring for young Bangladeshi fans and potential stars of the future, to see your side so paralysed with losses.

It’s time to do something about this.

The ICC, and the Bangladeshi Cricket Board must now be seriously consider the position. Bangladesh are stuck in a perpetual and static position of losing, with the faint hope of having more competitive opposition in the near future.

But, they need to decide whether they wait for others to reach their standard, or they move to a different position. It might be too long to wait for Test nations to created, so they may have to go towards the prize, by making themselves a ODI and T20-I only side.

It may be a bitter pill, but it is possibly a backward step, with prospects of returning to Test cricket in the near future, in a one step back two steps forward approach.

They not only need to play greater amounts of competitive and meaningful cricket, but through doing this, they will produce a more positive and realistic approach. Ambition will be given context, and hopefully a legacy can start to be built up more strongly.

Through playing a more fitting opposition in a more hospitable format, that will be inducive to a more positive outlook.

When Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996, or when India won the World cup in 1983, they ignited a long term relationship between not ‘just’ their country, their fans and cricket, but a love of One Day cricket in particular. They were the biggest upsets in limited overs cricket, and it quickly became apparent that ODI cricket was no longer a drab footnote on Test cricket’s behind, but it was a platform where a team could have an impact.

India has millions of adoring cricket fans that flock to ODI matches, and undoubtably, the 150 Million Bangladeshi fans would do the same, if there was greater likelihood of them winning.

Being continuously thrashed makes a side numb with pain, almost blinding as to why. They need to play more competitive cricket, and now. Cricket they can win, and cricket in which there is something to play for.

It would seam the best long term option, with the view of playing Test cricket again in the future, is for them go to their new opposition, instead of waiting for them.

They need a break from Tests, and to reassess their own skill levels against less proficient opposition.