Put on the back burner

IT is becoming increasingly obvious that the ICC International Umpires & Match Referees have put the problem of illegal action bowlers in a basket. At least, that is my impression after watching all the Test nations in the last six months.

Unfortunately, the basket is becoming increasingly crowded. For, in my view, three quarters of the Test countries have bowlers whose actions should be examined.

If we don't then the basket will be overflowing with chuckers as youngsters try to copy their heroes and adopt illegal actions. While we have some of the old suspect action bowlers still around, almost every month a newcomer arrives on the scene. Obviously, international teams have no conscience in selecting such bowlers. And why should they when so many countries have bowlers, who, to say the least, have suspect actions. And they are thriving, too at the international level.

While I cannot accept countries knowingly selecting bowlers who they know contravene the laws of the game - and they do know this, for I know their own players tell them - I can understand their reasoning of why shouldn't we, for others are doing it. Yes, they are, but is this in the spirit of the game, whose principles the ICC are so enthusiastically pushing?

No. I don't think so and it is about time the ICC did something about it.

For, after all, it was the ICC who dismantled a system which was working well and in time would have had (if they had received the full cooperation of the Board) the chucking problem under control.

I was a member of that panel but resigned in frustration. The illegal action committee still exists, but their power has been neutralised to the extent that they are virtually impotent.

There has been much discussion of late about umpiring technology and the correct use of it.

Illegal actions are clearly exposed by TV, yet nothing is being done about it.

It is almost as though the ICC are scared to delve into this area of cricket.

To me it is simple. A bowler either bowls the ball or he doesn't. If he doesn't then it should be called a no ball. I am sick to death of the excuses being put forward of a birth defect, a childhood injury or a hyperextension of the elbow.

None of these matter and most don't exist anyway and should have no bearing on the implementation of the laws of cricket. Medical problems - if they do exist and my 50 years experience in first class cricket says that it is rare for them to do so - should not come into the umpires' or officials' thoughts when they deal with illegal action.

Make no mistake about it. Illegal action bowlers do get a huge advantage by being allowed to bend and straighten their arm at the point of release of the ball.

Spinners can impart more spin on the ball, get better drop in flight and also more bounce than legal bowlers.

Fast bowlers can generate more pace with less effort and disguise their change of pace.

In all such huge advantages which should not be allowed.

If the ICC do not control chucking now it will get totally out of control to the detriment of the game.

As I travel around the world, coaching more and more at the youth level, I am left wondering whether too much attention is being focussed at this level to the detriment of our youngsters.

It seems to me that the desire to compartmentalise youngsters into age groups may be hindering the process of the very talented.

This is clearly shown by the few teenage players we have in first class and Test cricket.

Don't hurry them. Keep them in their own group or you will ruin them by pushing them too early seems to be the popular concept.

I was disturbed to read recently in the Australian Cricket Board's Annual Report that they had given priority to their quest to win the under-19 World Cup by ruling that if dates conflicted between a under-19 camp and a first class match for a young player he must play for the under-19s.

Surely, that is not in the best interest of the player or even his country. If he is good enough to play first class cricket he must be allowed to do so.

Under-age cricket is important but can't compare with the benefits of playing against the best players your country has to offer.

The other area that worries me and thinking cricketers in many other countries is the granting of international honours to youngsters.

While I am a strong supporter of games between countries it appears to me and others that such an honour will have a profound and not always a healthy effect on the ego of many recipients.

Too many are strutting around as though they have reached the top of the pile and unfortunately feel that they have nothing more to prove or gain.

What a pity, for many are naturally gifted and with better guidance could have played significant roles in Test cricket.

Precocious youngsters have been a delight for international cricket for decades.

The Mohammad brothers in Pakistan, Sachin Tendulkar (India), Ian Craig and Doug Walters (Australia), Brian Close (England), Graeme Pollock (South Africa) and Gary Sobers (West Indies) all made their debut for their country as young teenagers!