A controversy which refuses to die down

WE are in the midst of another 'chucking' row. This is one controversy that refuses to die down.

What bothers me this time around is how the controversy resurfaced again. Even before Ruchira Perera was called, doubts were being cast again on Muttiah Muralitharan's action.

We had Adam Gilchrist, who being a contemporary cricketer, has no business to pass comments on Muralitharan's action, especially after the International Cricket Council had cleared the cricketer, calling the Lankan a chucker.

How is it that whenever an Asian side is in England, the action of some bowlers come under scrutiny. I remember when India once toured that country in the late 70s, Karsan Ghavri's action, while sending down pace, was put under microscope. This was immediately after he struck Mike Brearley on the helmet in a tour game. The list goes on.

The manner in which the present controversy came about, and its timing, do raise suspicions in my mind. Gilchrist does not deny making the statement, but says a journalist had picked it up without his knowledge.

Whom is he trying to deceive? If Gilchirst passes certain remarks at a public function where he happens to be a guest of honour, surely he is going to be quoted.

And Gilchrist's unfortunate remarks were bound to be picked up in England. Was the entire episode stage-managed to put pressure on Muralitharan and Sri Lanka. I feel the Australian Cricket Board let Gilchrist off very lightly.

Here was a bowler, on the path of recovery from a serious shoulder surgery, on whom serious aspersions were being cast again. How much mental torture can Murali possibly bear?

It's very simple. Muralitharan has been cleared by the ICC that has concluded that the Lankan has a deformity in his bowling arm. Why can't people accept that. After all, somebody has to be the deciding authority.

We are in a situation where a bowler with over 400 Test scalps at a phenomenal strike rate hardly receives any credit from a section of the cricketing world. It is sad.

In any case, the entire chucking controversy and the various correction procedures hardly make any sense. It should be a simple two-way process. The umpire should be given powers to call a bowler straightaway, and then, the ICC, within a week, should deliver its verdict on the umpire's decision. And that verdict should be accepted and respected, unlike in Muralitharan's case, where sheer jealousy appears to be causing much of the trouble.

The procedure should be easy and effective. Instead what we have here is a complicated, confused approach, that does everything apart from finding a quick answer.

By robbing umpires of what is their right to 'call' a bowler, the ICC puts itself in a corner. I find nothing wrong with Darrell Hair 'calling' Muralitharan. However, once ICC has overruled that, where is the question of the off-spinner's action coming under a cloud again. Yet, do not deny the umpires of their right in the first place.

Let's assume that a bowler throws in the mind of an umpire, who still cannot 'call' him during the match. What if the same bowler picks up 10 wickets in the game and leads his side to a crucial victory, it might be a series clinching effort.

It just doesn't make sense. The ICC should allow the umpire to make a ruling during the Test, and then decide on it sooner than later.

Instead, we are in a rather hilarious situation. Somebody like Harbhajan Singh gets 'called' and he has to travel all the way to England to get his action corrected, by Fred Titmus of all people!

Now I believe that India has two of the foremost former Test off-spinners Erapalli Prassana and Srinivas Venkatraghavan, who are well qualified to guide a youngster like Harbhajan.

I also cannot understand how a bowler, who has been punished for throwing, can recover so quickly. Miracles do happen in cricket!

It's absurd, and any sane person will laugh at the very idea. These illogical procedures are being followed just to please some in the ICC. Now Brett Lee's action was questioned. Would the Australians send him to Kapil Dev, who was an exemplary paceman. I doubt very much.

The Asian cricketers and cricket are invariably at the receiving end. When any Asian bowler is suspected of chucking, the media, especially in countries like England and Australia, highlight it.

When the player in question is someone like Brett Lee, then everything is played down. This much is blatant.

The Western media, especially in Australia, has the habit of closing ranks and going after a particular cricketer in the enemy camp. A player, who is a marked man.

Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar's action made so much news for the wrong reasons. I am not holding any brief for Shoaib, but if he chucks, then what is Brett Lee doing. Is he squeaky clean? Does he possess a clear, copybook action. The truth is Lee's action is as clean or wrong as that of Shoaib.

Yet we found the Pakistani at the receiving end for most part of the last two years, while Lee was hardly bothered. This, I believe, is not fair.

Going further back, there was more than an element of doubt about left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell's action. It did appear to me that he was straightening his arm when he sent down the quicker one. However, Tufnell's action never landed him in trouble.

Despite all the fuss made about Ruchira Perera's action, the real target was a much bigger cricketer - Muralitharan. It is time for the Asian countries to unite and fight this bias and prejudice.

It must be said that with so much technology being used, the actions of more and more bowlers are coming under scrutiny. It was different during the 70s and the 80s, when I played most of my cricket.

And even as I grew up, I had people telling me that West Indian Gilchrist was furiously quick, had a mean short ball that put fright into the batsmen, but possessed an extremely doubtful action. Yet, I do not think anybody got conclusive evidence about Gilchrist's action.

The issue of 'chucking' affects the very soul of cricket. It is vital the ICC acts decisively while handling this sensitive issue.

It would be so much better if a bowler with a doubtful action is corrected while playing domestic cricket. He should never be allowed to proceed to the highest stage, that is Test cricket, without the necessary adjustments. If somebody has a problem, get him early. Do not wait and watch.