The ball is in ICC's court

The ICC has to bring in a lot of clarity on the code of conduct, as also the extension of the arm while bowling. Until it does so, there will be no end to the controversies that emanate from vague interpretations of the laws of the game.

The main attraction in the ongoing T20 World Cup will be the regular Test-playing nations, but the performances of the associate member countries of the International Cricket Council (ICC) have sparked a lot of interest. Countries like Nepal, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Afghanistan were popular for many other things but definitely not cricket. However, the manner in which they played against the much-fancied countries has earned them a lot of fans besides indicating that the game is getting popular in those countries. Now that the ICC has seen what exposure can do to countries that have been regarded as minnows, the apex body needs to embark aggressively on wooing more countries to the game. Of course, plans to globalise the game have been on the ICC agenda for quite a while, but this may be the best time to cash in. It is all about timing, be it on the field or off it.

Notwithstanding the heart-warming performances of the associate member countries, the ICC has to revise its stand and laws with regard to the leeway given to bowlers. The 15-degree flexion rule has only led to a proliferation of bowlers bowling with suspect action instead of curbing the menace. The idea was to relieve the pressure on some bowlers, who were unwittingly releasing the ball with an apparently illegal action. Unfortunately, the intent of the ICC has been unfairly leveraged by some to garner undue advantage. One does get the impression that the 15-degree flexion law is seen by some as a licence to resort to unfair means. The time has come for the ICC to be firm and impose stringent measures to ensure that the spirit of the law is not abused.

The argument that certain variations cannot be delivered without the elbow flexing may be pertinent. If that is the case, then the bowlers are to eschew those variations and develop other options to be more effective. Some of the great spinners of yesteryear have bowled the modern version of the doosra without flexing their elbows too much and yet have bamboozled the batsmen. After all, it only takes a little bit of deviation to surprise the batsman and therefore, the current crop of bowlers should work towards developing the craft in keeping with the laws of the game rather than get audacious in challenging the governing body. The audacity stems from the knowledge that legal options are available should the governing body take the extreme step of banning a player. It is the umpires who carry the can whenever a bowler gives the impression that his action does not conform to the laws. Sadly, for them, they have to weigh too many things instead of just doing their job in accordance with the laws of the game. Even the courageous will shy away from interpreting the laws as they ought to be for fear of suffering the same fate as Darrell Hair. Obviously, the umpires have to abide by the dictat of their employer, the ICC, but at the same time, it is only fair that the players do so too. Ironically, when a player reacts to a bad umpiring decision, he is penalised based on the guidelines of the ICC. On the other hand, the ICC does not give the requisite freedom to the umpires to do their job when a player breaks the law.

The ICC has to bring in a lot of clarity on the code of conduct, as also the extension of the arm while bowling. Until it does so, no amount of explanations and tweaking of the laws of the game will do to put an end to the controversies that emanate from vague interpretations of the laws. All it requires for the ICC is to take the first step. But the question is: will it? The new decision makers do provide some hope that it will.