Island Cricket

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Attitudes to throwing | Learning by degrees

Learning by degrees
Peter Roebuck
November 23, 2007

Throwing has been the most emotional topic the game has known. Considering the fury of the argument, it might be imagined that batting was in peril and practitioners were constantly taking blows from some demonic chucker. In fact, batting has got progressively easier and therein lies the true scandal. Anyone following the saga about supposedly illegal actions could be forgiven for thinking that throwers have been running amok for years and are spreading faster than bad grammar. They could easily conclude that offenders perpetrate some terrible evil that needs urgent exorcism. In fact, most of them are gentle spinners seeking extra purchase on hard decks; they have never bruised a batsman, merely a few fragile egos.

In the history of the game it is impossible to think of anyone complaining about batting excesses. Yet the willow-wielders have dressed themselves in suits of armour, insisted that the pitches be rolled till all life has left them, changed the no-ball and lbw rules to suit themselves, turned bats into weapons of assault, demanded changes in field-placement rules, complained about intimidation, whined endlessly about imperfect light, and generally conned the game into making their lives easier. Meanwhile bowlers have been accused of ball-tampering, bodyline, appealing, slowing down over-rates, sending down bent-armers, and all manner of other infractions. The wonder is not that an occasional ball is thrown. The wonder is that bowlers did not toss in the towel decades ago.

Bowling actions have always provoked a disproportionate amount of attention and abuse. Batsmen used to enjoy facing under-armers, and grizzled horribly when confronted with round-armers. Not long afterwards, the round-armers raised their hands to the vertical and again the batsmen bleated. Great heaven above, they might get out. Or hurt.

Batting has belonged to the blue bloods and bowling was an activity pursued by the hoi polloi. Naturally, the bowling changed as pitches improved. No longer able to rely on bumpy surfaces, bowlers grasped the need to develop pace, bounce, curve and spin. It was an attempt to even up the odds. Throwing has been the leather-flingers' solitary excess.

Everything else was objective but the throwing law was open to interpretation. For once, too, prejudice was on their side. To call a man for chucking was to accuse him of cheating, a bigger step than most umpires were prepared to consider.

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