Sportstar Archives: Frank Tyson on suspect bowling actions, Shoaib Akhtar and more

Former England fast bowler Frank Tyson speaks on Law 24.2 (throwing), how to determine legitimate bowling actions and more.

Former England fast bowler Frank Tyson.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Frank Tyson did not merit the sobriquet Typhoon' for nothing. He was perhaps the fastest bowler between 1954-58, took 76 wickets at 18.56 in 17 Test matches, and won the 'Ashes' 3-1 for England. England captain Peter May chose him because he was lethal. Now settled in Gold Coast, Brisbane, Tyson, who spent some time in Mumbai in the early 1990s as the chief coaching instructor of the Mafatlal Bowling Scheme, talked to Sportstar hours before the India-Pakistan match at the 'Gabba.

"Fast bowlers are not criminals. They are honest and above suspicion. Give me $5,00,000 and I will return it to you," he said. "I would have passed Shoaib Akhtar. There is no doubt that he has a fluent action. I think the relevant law (throwing) has to be looked at."

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Question: There has been so much confusion about the throwing (Law 24. 2) issue. Many feel that this law is not clear. Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has even said that it has to be rewritten?

Answer: I tend to agree with that to a certain extent. We have gone over the years from where
the law has said that the ball has to be bowled and not thrown. And then we got into a stage
where people were defining what constitutes a throw, which became defined to the process of the
straightening of the arm, during the delivery swing which directly precedes the ball leaving the hand. To me that is wishy-washy. You will find that most spin bowlers, off-spin and leg-spin, bend their elbows in the process of delivery. They have to. The configuration of the leg-spinner will be...his elbow will be up, while the offspinner will have his elbow down.

Then, it becomes a question of when does he straighten his arm immediately before the delivery. That's distinct. Now if I want to be strict, as soon as the bowler starts swinging his arm, if he straightens it, I can call a 'no ball.' You can 'no ball' leg spinners and also offspinners. There is another example of the lack of definition of the law. Brian Statham, when he bowled, was doubled jointed in the elbow. Now when he bowled, he used to extend his arm to a certain extent that the arm fell below the elbow. To bowl he had to straighten his arm. That is a technical definition.

This is all subjective, is it not? The umpires, the critics and the public and the cricketers differ in opinions?

It is a very subjective thing. But I think one has to use a degree of common sense. I have always believed that there is no real advantage of throwing, except in two areas, perhaps three. One, you can hit the ball hard on the ground when you bowl a bouncer. Two, you can cut and spin the ball more. Three, your anticipation from the delivery is different from what the batsman expects. I saw Peter May in 1958-59 in Australia. He scored a hundred at Melbourne. lan Meckiff took the second new ball and, off the third delivery, knocked his middle stump out of the ground. It was not that the ball was any quicker. It was just that the ball was released earlier. Now instead of delivery, the ball from here (high), he released it from here (low). Now, this is the sort of thing you have got to prevent. Now how do you do it? People have got to sit down and make the law equitable. There is an old story about Jack Hobbs who said "Don't tell him," when someone told him about a bowler who was throwing. If you throw every ball it is an advantage. I think if a person becomes blatant, then it's quite obvious. People have seen the films of lan Meckiff when he bent the elbow like that.

What about Shoaib Akhtar? Do you think what is being said about him is right?

Obviously he doesn't throw. If you bowl with a closed action, you cannot throw. I defy anybody to throw a straight ball with a closed action, because you bowl across your front foot. Now I think Shoaib has a closed action for many, many deliveries. He gets in the realms of suspicion once he tends to push the ball in, wanting to dig the ball. Because it is when he gets into the open position that he becomes very obvious from the back.

According to Tyson, Akhtar, who bowls with his closed action, cannot be throwing. Photo: GETTY IMAGES


Akram said that someone running in from 100 metres cannot throw?

Well, if a bowler has to throw running in from 100 metres, he has to stop to throw. But then again, you have got to stop and move sideways in order to bowl. Shoaib's action is fluent and good. It is not jerky. I would have passed him. It is just that it becomes a subjective thing. People have individual opinions about these sort of things. Sometimes people overreact.

Do you think the eleven-man Advisory Committee for Illegal Deliveries is too big?

But do you all think that we should reach a situation where it requires an international advisory panel to sit in judgement? Do we have panels vetting bowlers' action in national federations? If bowlers have suspect actions why are they allowed to progress to international level before somebody questions the legitimacy of their action? Surely there should be a national advisory committee within India, within Pakistan and within every Test-playing country. There is one in England that sits in judgment on bowlers with suspect action who are reported by umpires all over the country. Why doesn't this occur in the rest of the world?

Would you then leave it to an umpire to sit in judgement?

No, I would not. Yes, I would say if you leave it to the umpires as a body, but not leave it to the
umpires as individuals to make a general decision. You might then get one person who is determined to insist that everybody bowls with an absolutely pure action. I don't think that's possible. The off-spinner must at some stage, and somewhere, straighten his arm. It's the same with the leg-spinner.

If you look at the old photographs of Harold Larwood, I will guarantee that you will pick up a few with him bending his arm. The human body is made up of bones with joints. And joints are for bending and are bent. I don't think bowlers move around like robots with stiff arms and bow without bending.

Which is the best way to find a solution to all this?

It has got to be done by all the national cricket federations. Well, has Muthiah Muralitharan been ever
questioned in Sri Lanka. I have read and looked at various reports about him. I think in all probability he is all right. But my point is why should all these things reach the international levels. Is it the fault of the national organisations or are the junior umpires not good enough. I think it should never reach the international level. But there are always going to be borderline cases. Shoaib obviously is a borderline case and I am sure he would have got through national vetting anyway. The situation is that three umpires have called Murali and have suspected the action of Shoaib. Now in the past, people who have sat in judgement said that he is fine. Umpires all over the world have said he is fine. What makes the opinion of three individuals carry more weight against th combined opinion of 150 umpires? Are you going to allow one person to disagree with democratic judgement? Professional body of men and support the individuals in this sort of an issue. I mean you have got to have a consensus of opinion about the actions. Are you going to allow a one man panel? I don't agree.

What about Brett Lee? People have started talking about him suddenly? I think it is tit for tat. Is it not?

If you want to look at Lee's action, have a look at his inswing.

In recent times many off-spinners have got into trouble?

Every off-spinner must throw.

Would you say Jim Laker did it?

Yes. He did.

Do you then think that 'a fair delivery' has to be defined?

Yes. I think it requires all the thoughts.

But this has been going on for many years. Still there has not been a solution?

Crossland, Mould, they are 1870 bowlers, they threw. Jessop.. .he threw. Philllps was banned for
throwing. Yes, we have not solved it.

People say that even Tony Lock threw the ball?

Well, I mean he could still spin the ball.

So you said you would pass Shoaib Akhtar?

Yes, I would. I mean there cannot be match-stick bowlers. Yes, there has to be some modification of the law. But in all probability it has got to take into consideration, factors that are involved in
bowling. And I think probably the most sensible way of solving the problem is to define the limits
to which the body functions can go on. The point is the bowler should be striving to keep his arm
straight. Then, in the act of bowling, the natural function occurs when he bends. You are not going
to penalise him. The classic case is that of Shoaib. when he pushes that ball, when he bowls that bouncer, he does not bend his arm.

(This article was first published on Sportstar on January 22, 2000)

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