Category Archives: Light roller

What a piece of work is Kevin

How long could YOU spend in an armchair watching the IPL when switching to Channel 401 brings you into contact with an innings by Kevin Pietersen.

Had Hamlet seen KP bat might it not have changed the Prince’s world view?

What a piece of work is a man, How noble in
Reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals. and to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights me; and Woman too…

We require some awareness of failure to appreciate skill and form. 

In this mini-series between Sri Lanka and England the skill and form has been provided by Jayawardene; at home on the Silk Route, as it passes Galle and Columbo.

But Kevin Pietersen provides something other than failure and susccess – neither man, angel nor god, nearer superman in the Shavian sense.

Can we find precedence? Do we need precedence?  Does exception require contrast or relationship?

His physique sets him apart and into (for now) a small minority (but as sons continue to out grow fathers other will join those ranks). He has the eye of the very good batsman.  Strength may substitute for fine balance.  Because of his other talents it is difficult to isolate and judge these qualities which are so necessary to others.  He may have them, but he does not need them.

His reason is acute.  He has somewhere along the line torn up the coaching manuals and rethought batting from first principles.  Regarding his career is like looking at a scientist test hypotheses, abandoning some leads and pursuing others to their logical conclusion.  His mind is restless, inquisitive, arch, and commercial.

Then, there is his conviction – his extraordinarily developed sense of self-belief – however frail, it has an almost inexhaustible facility to renew itself.

Each of these qualities has allowed him to transform the way cricket can be played – or batting carried out.

Few, so far, have followed him, but they will.  He has done the hard and courageous work, exploring the territory that his physicality has made accessible and which he alone has reached.

 

What is being described is an impact on the game similar to that of William Gilbert Grace.  That impact is not yet fully apparent.  It is as if we are watching cricket in 1878.  A path has been trodden by one man, but a Golden Age is yet to come.

Above, the alignment of shoulders is captured by the camera and, right, that perceptive cricketer and artist Albert Chevallier Tayler confirms how revolutionary  was Grace’s side-on technique.

Here is Grace in the colours of his own London County Cricket Club.  Watch out for Pietersen starting his T20 franchise.  It won’t be long.)

Until then …

If this goodly frame the Earth, seemes to you a sterrill
Promontory; this most excellent Canopy the Ayre,
look you, this braue ore-hanging firmament, this Maiesticall Roofe,
fretted with golden fire: why, it appeares no other thing
to you, then a foule and pestilent congregation of vapours …

… try a little Pietersen.

Context of the innings:

KP arrived at the wicket with the score 213 for 2 and departed 212 minutes later for 151 off 165 balls ( 16 fours, 6 sixes) at 411 for 6.  His strike rate was double that of the next quickest scorer in the match. He scored 50 off 59 balls, 100 off 109 and 150 off 162 deliveries.

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It’s That Time of Year – IPL 2012 Match 1 – The Fall of Champions

With a pot of tea, a slice of cake, sit back in a deep arm chair around 14.30 GMT and set the co-ordinates (in theUK) to Channel 120.  It’s that time of year again – all blue and gold and silver, yellow and red.

It’s IPL 2012 from Chennai and look, there’s our old friends, Malinga, Sachin, Bhaji, Raina, Vijay and the rest of the troupe. The circus is in town.

And the experience is instantly as comfortable and as reassuring as a favourite pair of shoes:  a Strategic Time Out, a DLF Maximum, back-lifts as high as the Himalayas and Mumbai fielders fresh from their boot camp serving notice to the rest, “This time!”

Their opponents, Chennai, on the other hand were jet-lagged from partying in SA for the benefit of Jacque Kallis, sluggish and as slow as an England Football side in the opening match of a World Cup tournament.

Their ground staff had ‘helpfully’ prepared something special for the opening match.

The resulting wicket looked like a green Bengal striped shirt with variable pace and bounce to unsettle and humble the great gladiators who, in their BAE Air Buses, bestride the cricketing world.

Dear Bhaji has found new confidence and purpose as captain of the Indians and he brought obvious relish and leadership to the role, with positive, involving, encouraging body language and support for his bowlers and fielders, who responded with élan and éclat. The Indian’s throwing had the zip of a Wild Bill Hickok knife-throwing act.

Three run outs soiled the shirts of the diving, despairing  Super Kings and knocked the stuffing out of them.  

The debased champions, hobbled from the field for a miserable 112, the spoils of the engagement shared equitably by Pollard 2-15, Malinga 2-16 and Ojha 2-17.

Thus they made way for Tendulka and Levi and annihilation.

Richard Levi, who makes Dave Warner look like the skinny kid on the beach, plants his left foot across to the off stump line and from this vantage point pulls every ball to leg like a meteor. 

Chennai could have set a 9 – 0 field had they not realised they might need one somewhere on the off to take a catch if the Protean ever assayed one of these pulls from too wide of the off-stump.

But when this did come to pass, Levi had already made 50 off 35 balls having crashed 6 fours and 3 sixes.  He also enjoyed a Master Class from TLM (The Little Master) 20 yards away at the other end. Sachin interspersed tips and advice for Levi with SUBLIME shots off front and back feet. 

Who knows, with the monkey of the 100th hundred off his back, fans may about to witness a golden sunset or even an ‘Indian Summer’ from this extraordinary batsman.

That said, when a ball flew off one of the green Bengal stripes on the wicket, crashed into and brought blood gushing from TLM’s bottom hand forcing him to leave the field, we were reminded that, however exceptional and heroic, Tendulka like Hercules, is made from clay.

Meanwhile in Columbo, Kevin Pietersen appears to have caught the IPL bug.  It is that time of year!

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Hair Styles and Shot Selection in Cricket

Mark Zuckerberg has written to congratulate Third Man on his birthday today.  It came as a surprise only in that TM had quite forgotten he was meant to be born on this day in the 1740s. The parish register was destroyed in a great conflagration.  All Fools Day seemed as good as any, his mother said.

It is not surprising that the young bucks of the Silicon Valley should reach out to members of the Squire’s Team. But they will learn nothing from this faithful factotum.

Those who consider that they are making Geography History, but who are tied to Time, are prone to a modern fallacy that is also afflicting England’s batting. 

Before this pernicious fallacy gained hold of the popular imagination it was widely accepted that there was a single appropriate shot to any given ball and, as man is located in a particular geography, so a batsman is confined by the nature of the ball to a uniquely appropriate shot.

In those times, a batsman armed himself with a couple of all purpose ‘stop’ shots, narrowed his ‘game’ to just two or three scoring shots, and left the rest to pass harmlessly through to the ‘keeper. “Good leave!”

A batsman of the Brylcreem and later the Side Burn eras might work up a couple more scoring shots, but made a mental selection well before crossing the boundary rope and walking to the wicket.

It was the Mullet that first introduced the current fixation with Expressionism and so widened the choice of possible shots to any given ball.  Today, the young are required to be able to play a ball to any part of the field regardless of its length or line. 

There is still an element of predetermination in this approach with calculations and selections being narrowed in anticipation of the ‘hunch’ that all good batsman have in the nanosecond before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.

In the Emirates, England encountered spin unusually ‘fired’ in at around 95kph. They interpreted this tactic as an exploitation of the way DRS confirms how such bowling is lightly to strike the stumps.  They anticipated it in Sri Lanka.

This, then, was the mind set that England brought to Galle where they found Herath bowling at around 80kph and using dip, made more possible at that speed, to deceive them.  

The first innings was over in a trice: 40 overs and a 120 run deficit.

 The second innings tested England’s mental agility and their immunity to stress. 

Cook played across his front leg and against the spin with a far from perpendicular bat.   Strauss, who had had to captain his side against an annoyingly resistant tail and could not prepare himself properly for opening the batting, exploded mentally in the twenties.  

Pietersen forgot that it is wise to play yourself in after an interval.  Trott played each ball on its merits with composure and balance (mental and physical). But he was truly exceptional. 

Most of the rest became fixated with the ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting’ sweep which as a ‘flick’ from a relatively stationary position bears as much resemblance to a sweep as a hand brush does to a yard broom.  

The true sweep destroys length and is therefore the only attacking shot played to a good length ball.  That said, it is wise to reserve it for balls missing leg stump or wide enough that a batsman who misses is struck outside the line of the off-stump.

The ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting sweep’ is played with a bat that has to be  deliberately placed before the ball arrives and is best reserved for games when batting resources are plentiful (T20) or when bowling resources are scarce (a run chase).

For the fourth Test in a row, England has failed to manage the situation properly.  It is therefore a failure of management.  There is rigid, inflexible thinking and mental confusion when preparations go awry. 

Cricket’s wonderful complexity makes a mockery of game-plans, exposes bad thinking and punishes collectivity.

As the Squire was quick to assert, “It would not have happened when players were responsible for their own hairstyles.”

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Is it so tough at the top?

One of Third Man’s abiding cricketing memories is of David Shepherd, not standing on one leg in umpire’s panama and coat, but with both legs rather unsteadily searching for balance on a five star hotel’s plush carpets, his face as red as the Devonian soil from which he grew, holding a champagne bottle in each oversized hand, pronouncing to anyone one who was willing (and to the many more who were unwilling) to listen that, “It’s tough at the top”.

‘Shep’ at that moment had been ‘at the top’ for precisely four hours.  The scene was Gloucester’s Nat West Final celebrations in 1973, a few hundred yards from the scene of their triumph on a flat Lord’s deck that had drawn the sting from the Sussex attack. 

Cinderella had indeed gone to the ball.  On a nearby sofa sat three cricketing legends.  Between Garfield, St Aubren, Sobers and Frederick, Seewards, Trueman slouched the twenty year old James Clive Foat .  The three were swapping stories from their extraordinary cricketing careers, as mates do at such moments.

TM was recently twice reminded of this vision of impermanence: first, when visiting Old Trafford. The Squire had been invited to inspect the latest phase of the redevelopment scheme that to His satisfaction is placing giant children’s coloured building blocks around the boundary edge. “Quite visible from outer space, Cumbes assures me.”

Inside the Lancashire CCC Indoor School young Peter Moores has stuck up various mission statements and motivational homilies from the likes of General Patton and other celebrated management gurus. (No wonder Kevin, Power-from-within, Pietersen and Moores did not quite see eye to eye.) 

“What is that all about TM? In our days only amateurs bothered to read and there are no amateurs today,” volunteered the Squire.

One vinyl-coated missive read: “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”

So once wrote T. Alan Armstrong,

“Well he got that one ar*e about face didn’t he – like his parents with his names.”

The Squire was referring to the fact that the victorious performance is merely the prelude to events in which the status as champions is put to the test.

World Champions, England, have lost four Test matches on the bounce.  In each of which their batting has failed the True Champion’s Test,

“TM, as that keen exponent of the 2nd Law of Thermo Dynamics, the Dowager Duchess herself was fond of reminding us, ‘A plastic coat does not permanence make’.”

“Perhaps Your Grace should send Mr Flower your celebrated essay, ‘On Shot Selection’?”

“Have it coated in vinyl immediately and require Hague to dispatch it in the next bag to our Man in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.”

In a world where we are forced to conform to society, it is necessary to have personal chaos – T Alan Armstrong.

“Bring it on.”

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Watching a Cricketing Aurora Borealis

“Shake a leg, there, Third Man. Shake a leg.”

Being woken in the middle of the night by a Squire intent on adventure and travel is a shock to any system, let alone one that in its time has withstood a hundred thousand or more such summons to consciousness. 

Let Third Man confide that, unlike most other exercises, waking does not get any easier with practice.

“Vexing, most vexing. In half a millennium I have never found the calculations more convoluted.  There are more knots in time tonight, TM, than in that awful piece of willow I got from Millichamp and Hall last season.”

Sun spot AR1429 had been causing merry hell with the Earth’s magnetosphere and most time travellers (and all sensible time travellers) had been confined to harbour, much to the frustration of the Squire who had wanted to see the 1st Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Duneden.

To ensure the party could leave the moment a break in the storm presented itself, hammocks had been hung in the workshop where the Type III resides in its rusty splendour. 

Within, the Squire puzzled over his calculations, hour after frustrating hour.

Spotting a gap in the clouds, Third Man wandered outside where the air was sharp. It was as if a great city had dropped fully built and functioning ten miles to the north of Whirld’s End, its urban light bouncing off the clouds. The sky was in turmoil. 

It was rare indeed for the aurora borealis to be seen so far south. The faintest of pinks filled the all-too slender gap between the horizon and the clouds, but it was enough to suggest what extraordinary sights others more fortunate with weather and location were …

“Don’t you dare write ‘enjoying’, Third Man.  This bloody storm is the very devil.  Now, get aboard and get this tub on the move.”

The Type III landed in the Botanic Gardens.

“Damn and blast this thing.  What day is it?”

“Saturday March 10th.”

At the ground, South Africa began the day at 268 for 3  in their second innings, already 186 runs ahead.  The day before Graeme Smith had posted 115.  Jacques Kallis, after a duck in the first innings, was resuming his second innings on 107 and Jacques Rudolph starting on 13 would later become the third South African centurion of the innings.

These are mighty men who come at the ball and bludgeon attacks.  There is a relentless pressing about their batting that must make a bowler wish for two more yards of pace, or even three, with which to force them back, back into their crease, back into their mind, back into the hutch.

Has the Squire risked the atoms of his being in the worst solar storm in years to see these examples of cricket’s infantry?

Of course not!

SA declare and prepare to intimidate the Kiwi batsmen.  McCullum counter attacks with a bottom hand as strong as that of Kallis and Smith, and an edginess both literal and metaphoric.  He ignites the greed for runs and domination that propels the game. 

And then, at 55 for 2 in pursuit of four hundred, in walks Ross Taylor  and the Squire leans forward in his seat.

What is it about a bat that in one man’s hand it is a mace and in another’s a blade?

Pleasure from cricket is semantic and neurotic. 

This Taylor plays later, the top hand allowed its hegemony.  The body lines sideways.  Shakespeare calls it majesty.

The Squire is watching a cricketing aurora borealis.  There have been few in the history of the game.  Fewer still have been great enough to compete statistically with the infantry.

Taylor may not be among the very few but he reminds the followers of this game why they should willingly trade hour upon hour of the Smiths and Jacques for thirty minutes of Taylor’s kind of batting.

“Glad you joined the service, Third Man?”

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Cricket Led Astray

Is cricket being led astray?

“I fear it is, Third Man, I fear it is,” said the Squire, his head between his hands.

The travellers have returned and kicked the sand from their sandals.  An air of depression pervades as the luxuries of the Emirates, physical and mental, wash through the blood stream.

The only consolation is provided by the camellias that are beginning to bloom along the south terrace of the Great House.

Set against their glossy leaves, the vivid reds foretell of spring with the regularity of a pavilion clock.

“A promising year,” the Squire is told by Williams, whose family have cared for the camellias over the generations.

But the Squire is in no mood to hear him.  He has taken to spending long hours on the exercise bike staring at the blooms and listening to a cracked recording of Marina Poplavskaya singing Violetta’s recitative How Strange! from Verdi’s La Traviata or The Woman Led Astray.

“What more can I hope for?…
What should I do?
Enjoy myself,
Perish in the whirlpool of desire.
Enjoy myself!”

The Squire has a theory that, in the finale to Act I, Verdi is commenting on the state of cricket.

“1853, TM.  Even you must remember the situation.  At the time of the first performance, William Clarke was traipsing across the country one day with his All England XI, playing to massive crowds and racking in the dollars, the next he was captaining Nottinghamshire or pulling pints in the Inn.”

The good old game still played to the limit on the village Green.  There you are Green: Verdi.  I tell you it is all there; the complex tensions between the new pleasures of professionals set free from their betters and employers and the old virtues.”

“The Marylebone Club in a state of abject paralysis – that’s Alfredo – cricket as the heartbeat of the universe, mysterious and exalted, pain and delight of the heart.”

“It is the professional Clarke within Violetta when she sings:

I must always be free
To hurry from pleasure to pleasure,
I want my life to pass
Along the path of delight.
At daybreak or at the end of the day,
Always happy, where ever I am,
My thoughts will ever fly
Towards new delights.”

“Listen TM, listen!”  From the phonograph the plaintive voice of Miss Poplavskaya singing:

“When I was a girl, a pure
And diffident longing
Showed me the dear image
Of him, for whom I waited.
When in the sky I beheld
The brilliance of his beauty,
And this divine fallacy
Sustained me.”

“Madness, Third Man, Madness!

“Pleasure! Pleasure!
I must always be free…”

“But Your Grace, she chooses Alfredo.”

“She is already dead, Third Man.  Acts II and III are fillers.  She cannot make time. The disease is too far gone.”

“And today?”

“As the clock face tells us, what goes round, comes round.”

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Runs in the Desert

Even the Squire had never conducted a coaching session in a sand storm before.  

“After a game at Slindon, we once spent the night on the West Wittering sands, but this is a first, Third Man.”

Don't those shoulders look better!

KP wisely accepted the pair of Second World War tank driver’s googles purchased on E-bay for just such an eventuality and took guard outside leg stump.

The Squire had shaved a couple of ounces off his bat with an old coffin shaped smoothing plane picked up from Little Baddow on the way.

After a 360km drive from Dubai through the constantly shifting sculptures of some of the highest dunes in the world, the intrepid travelers had found themselves transfixed by the breathtaking sight of the Liwa Oasis.

“It looks for all the world like runs in the desert,” said KP.

“It’s a secret place that you can’t always find.”

 

Bat & Bowl Team Opposition Ground Match Date Scorecard
0/4, 130 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 21 Feb 2012 ODI # 3247
111* England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 18 Feb 2012 ODI # 3243
26 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 15 Feb 2012 ODI # 3240
14 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 13 Feb 2012 ODI # 3238
41 England XI v Eng Lions Abu Dhabi 10 Feb 2012 Other OD
32, 0/9, 18 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 3 Feb 2012 Test # 2034
14, 1 England v Pakistan Abu Dhabi 25 Jan 2012 Test # 2032
2, 0 England v Pakistan Dubai (DSC) 17 Jan 2012 Test # 2030
38, 0/3, 3, 1/10 England XI v PCB XI Dubai (GCA) 11 Jan 2012 First-class
0/23, 15, 1/12, 1 England XI v ICC Comb XI Dubai (GCA) 7 Jan 2012 First-class

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Abu Dhabi – Cricketers and Time Travellers Welcome

 

At 3pm local time yesterday, Kevin Peter Pietersen came out of the Empty Quarter into the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi only to return to the The Rub’ al Khali precisely 51 long minutes later, weakened further by the crossing of this waste land. 

Pietersen is a man for whom time is running like sand through an hourglass.  He is disorientated mentally and physically.  In defence, which was all that was on view when he opened for England in their first ODI with Pakistan, he showed his full chest to whichever bowler cared to torment him, his right heel raised like the latter-day Achilles he has become.

From this position the bat must skirt his hip and descend across the ball. When in doubt, or out of form, assume the sideways approach of a hermit crab on the exotic shoreline of the Persian Gulf.

The Squire and Third Man passed Pietersen’s stooping shadow on its return journey missing the Liwa Oasis by as wide a margin as he missed Alfridi’s leg break.  

The two visitors to Abu Dhabi had enjoyed the drive down the Al Ain Road, entering the Emerite in 2030.

Usually the future is embargoed for time travellers, but in this special place the future has been rendered so freely by BSD (Big Swinging Dick) Architects  and Master Planners that it is common knowledge, free from copyright and available for followers of Third Man to experience here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0zKSNhB5Eo&feature=related

Time is of the essence for Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  Spring is on its way and the ruler must deliver to the ruled the promised land now.

It is believed that the Sheikh and Andy Flower, for whom success in the sub-continental environment is also an imperative, have enjoyed a number of meetings during England’s stay.   The two leaders have much in common.

Meanwhile, Third Man can report that the Squire continues to enjoy himself.  He has invented a new game; identifying England players with iconic buildings, built, nearly built and virtual, just like their careers.

Eon Morgan, he declares, resembles the National Exhibition Company’s CapitalGate Tower– the most leaning building on earth which is designed to show no symmetry outside or in. 

Zara Hadid’s Performing Arts Centre calls to mind the cultured Cook.  

The solidity and occasional displacement of Trott, who went first ball yesterday, is evident in the spiraling Helix Hotel.

 

Stuart Broad is the obvious muse behind the World’s  First Positive Energy Building.

There is something about Jimmy Anderson in the Saucer Shaped Building, don’t you agree?

The chaotic lines of Craig Keisweter’s batting must certainly have inspired Frank Gehry’s latest building for the Guggenheim Foundation. 

The twisting tendons in Ravi Bopara’s bottom hand finds representation in the Shumacher Tower.

And finally, the gazelle like tension in Steve Finn has an obvious affinity in the Empire Island Tower.

When next you fill up the battered Ford or the tatty Toyota, be proud that your commitment to the infernal combustion engine is making this extraordinary experiment in Metropolitanarianism possible.

Meanwhile, the Squire is tied up in the marina for the foreseeable future.  It’s a tough life following the England Cricket Team.

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Home Thoughts, From Abroad: Farewell Hawkes Bay

Time to leave Te Mata and the beautiful Coleraine to the relief of readers.

In his comment to the previous post, the ever thoughtful Backwatersman linked to a film shot in 1902 of the Lancashire captain A.N. (Monkey) Hornby batting in a net against Arthur Mold in an attempt to prove that accusations that Arthur threw the ball were unfounded.

It should remind cricket lovers that there was a period at the end of the C19th and start of the C20th when the ‘authorities’ had allowed throwing to become endemic in the game – including among the untouchables (the so-called amateurs) like C.B. Fry. 

Hornby did his best to protect his old trooper and, in the propaganda war, seized on new technology to help him. The game was subsequently ‘cleansed’. Mold was removed.

To borrow BWM’s reflection and transplant it to the those earlier times, it may be that this up-swell in the use of the throw came as a response to the improvement in batting technique and performance led by W.G. Grace’s innovations. 

The determination of the authorities to ‘outlaw’ the chuckers perhaps had to wait until there was a general sense that the ball had moved into the ascendency – a kind of Kondratiev Wave  operating through cricket.

Because in modern times the (redesigned and unpressed) bat has enjoyed a period of ascendency, there is no palpable call for action that would further aid the bat by restrictions on the bowlers’ present freedoms.

Until there is a device to measure changes in the rate of elbow joint extension the game is left only with the lab, with all its limitations and secrecy. 

Today’s Hornby and Harris won’t be inviting the cameras in there.  As batting reached a zenith bowlers were helped to ascend from their nadir.  How did it happen this time?

This then is the view from Down at Third Man:

The exception that provided the rule.

The story starts with the never to be forgotten Murali, no matter that in many facets he was a genuine exception, he was to provide the justification for the new rule. 

Murali was able to bowl with limited extension.  Lay observers can take the film of him operating in the plaster cast as significant proof of this. 

His physical abnormalities gave him two advantages.  The arm that could not straighten meant that he had a naturally large distance between the wrist and the axis of rotation of the humerus. This permitted an exceptionally strong wrist flick.  The use of this strength enhanced the flexibility of his wrist, further increasing the force and therefore the number of rotations he could put on the ball.

Bowlers who have mimicked this technique (without the abnormality) have had to sacrifice some height at the point of delivery.   Not so Murali, because the second abnormality, the one in his shoulder, meant that he was able to keep both the height of the arm and the distance of the wrist from the axis.  Ajmal has to bowl with his head lent to the left so that the arm can be upright (except for his new delivery).  Not so Murali. 

This gave the Sri Lankan bounce, more options on wrist position and heavily revved top spin as a variation to the zipping off-spin.

These abnormalities also helped him when he began to explore the possibilities of Saqlain Mushtaq’s ‘other one’ or ‘doosra’, which he came to bowl even better than the master.

TM believes that at this point in history it is with little profit to speculate whether Murali, on the field of play, used any further elbow extension within or in excess of 15 degrees. 

The important point is that he could put on the extra revs and bowl the doosra  without recourse to extra flex and extension prior to and through release of the ball.  (See yesterday’s post for how this technique from throwing increases ball speed and revs.)

Two further developments then occurred. 

First other offspin bowlers searched for ways of bowling the ‘other one’ without having either of Murali’s anomalies.   They achieved it by using a flexed elbow.  That is by imitating the first anomaly of Murali.  But without the shoulder anomaly they could only do so by sacrificing height or balance. 

It must have been tempting for them consciously or unconsciously to compensate for this by increasing the extension prior to and through the delivery.  At first trial and error would have led them to these developments. Later knowledge of biomechanical principles will have guided them.

Second, the authorities were stung by the ‘appearance’ of Murali’s deliveries (and the apparent throwing by bowlers such as Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar) into researching these actions and turned to the biomechanic experts for help.

The biomechanics found  in lab conditions at least 20-25% of elite bowlers were flexing and then extending by amounts up to 15 degrees.  To keep these bowlers ‘legitimate’ they set the bar at 15 or fewer degrees of extension, arguing that, as all these elite bowlers’ were considered to have lawful actions, any limit had to be set at a point which did not outlaw them. 

In response to criticism by Martin Crowe in his 2006 Cowdrey Lecture, the  ICC general manager Dave Richardson stated that the scientific evidence presented by biomechanists Professor Bruce Elliot, Dr Paul Hurrion and Mr Marc Portuswith was overwhelming and clarified that, “Some bowlers, even those not suspected of having flawed actions, were found likely to be straightening their arms by 11 or 12 degrees. And at the same time, some bowlers that may appear to be throwing may be hyper-extending or bowl with permanently bent elbows. Under a strict interpretation of the law, they were breaking the rules – but if we ruled out every bowler that did that then there would be no bowlers left.”

But the biomechanics advisers had by that time also pointed to a practice whereby certain bowlers (who had elbow extension factors of less than 15 degrees) were going into their actions with heavily flexed elbows and starting the extension of this joint late in the action, just before release, but carrying on the extension after release, as would someone throwing an object. 

The ICC had also been told that this kind of rotation of the humerus brought about by throwing techniques made possible the ‘back of the hand’ spin from leg to off (the dousra). 

With an elbow extension limited to 5 degree (as it was originally set by the ICC) Murali could bowl the doosra.  He didn’t need 15 degrees.  

But the exception had provided the rule and, by increasing the limit, the ICC made it possible to use throwing mechanics for all types of bowling without breaking the 15 degree barrier and without the technology to identify and prevent the use of those techniques.  That is where the game stands with throwing techniques legalized.

The Point of Inflexion

Either cricket will have to wait and then like Hornby seize a new piece of technology (fitted to a bowler’s arm) or …  with the advanced commoditization of cricket, to wait for its consumers to tire of the present model.  At which moment those who make their livelihood from the game will suddenly agree the need for action.

Meanwhile Ajmal awaits England on the morrow.  Though there seems enough turn for all the Pakistan spinners to run amok.

“And the co-ordinates Sir? “

“Home or Abu Dhabi or Adelaide?  Time is our oyster, Third Man.”

“Anywhere but this point in time.”

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Cricket’s Jerks, Angles and Extensions or Not Throwing a Tantrum

(This post is one of a series which began here, yesterday.  Readers my wish to start there )

Last Thursday it was Info Day at Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawkes Bay, NZ.    So, the Squire, shunning conventional means of travel, and saving the CO2s, waited ‘til Friday morning before joining Third Man in the Type III to travel back in time to the EIT Info Day.

A little secret here: the co-ordinates were already set in the ‘My Favourite Places’ section of the Squire’s terrestrial navigation device that Her Grace gave Him for Christmas. 

Not EIT exactly, but Te Mata, and the other Buck House, Coleraine, pictured above,  across the road from the winery, designed by the Wellington architect Ian Athfield,  who incidentally also designed a modest C20th ‘extension’ to the East Wing of the Great House for the Squire.

Stretching his legs after the short but naturally debilitating passage and savouring a well aged bottle of Coleraine, the Squire, in improving humour, awaited the arrival of his very good friend the biomechanic, Professor Bob Marshall.

“A little light background reading, Third Man, please …”

The 1947 code (4th Edition, 1970): Law 26b states thata ball shall be deemed to have been thrown if, in the opinion of either umpire, the process of straightening the bowling arm, whether it be partial or complete, takes place during that part of the delivery swing which directly precedes the ball leading the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from the use of the wrist in the delivery swing.”

This set elbow extension as an anatomical constraint and ‘just prior to release’ as a impractically vague temporal constraint. 

So a new code Law 24.3 in 2000 sought to clarify thisA ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler’s arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.

By 2000, biomechanics had already revealed that, under the constraint that any straightening of the arm prior to release was evidence of throwing, almost no bowlers operating in the first class game could meet the restriction.

The ICC therefore chose to specify a range of elbow extension tolerance levels that it considered acceptable, but which were dependent on ball release speed.  Fast bowlers would be allowed 10° elbow extension, medium pace bowlers 7.5°, and spin bowlers only 5°.  Poor umpires !

In 2004 Rene Ferdinands and Uwe Kersting published Elbow Angle Extension and implications for the legality of the bowling action in Cricket.

For their research sixty-nine bowlers were selected and grouped into fast, med-fast, medium, slow, and finger-spin categories. 40% of these were first class or test cricketers.  8 bowlers in their sample were observed as possibly having a “throwing-type” or “jerky” action.  

Ferdinands and Kersting quickly confirmed that the elbow angle extension operations of none of their 69 could meet the provisions of the 2000 code.  Further, although 100% of the medium bowlers met the ICC’s constraints, only 86.7% of the fast, 87.5% of the fast/medium, 35.7% of the slow and 60% of the spin bowlers satisfied the 10, 7 and 5% limits respectively.

At this point the ICC could have required bowlers such as these to alter their actions to meet the prescribed constraints or they could have eased the maximum angles to ‘legalise’ a greater proportion.  They chose the later. 

Nor did they appear to consider that they might not be basing their decisions on a ‘reliable’ sample.   Of the 69, 28 had come through the trial by batsman to become first class or Test bowlers, a process that selects not for legitimacy of action but for effectiveness.

Increased elbow extension benefits quick bowlers for speed, but also facilitates humerus internal rotation which, for spinners, improves rotation speeds and wrist flexibility.  The former considerably aids turn, drift and dip.  The latter increases the potential to bowl deliveries such as the doosra.

The authorities chose to set the limit at 1) a one-angle-fits-all i.e. regardless of bowling style, thus, avoiding issues of interpretation as to style of bowling, 2) at a extent of angle that would allow accurate observation – floppy long sleeved shirts and all, and 3) at an angle, incidentally, that identified as legal all but one of the 8  ‘throwers’ in the sample.  This was 15 degrees.

Professional bowlers are capable of modifying their actions to gain the maximum permitted advantage.  Like speeding drivers they will see a ‘limit’ as a target if it increases their performance. Without an ‘on field’ or ‘non-lab conditions’ means of measurement bowlers will naturally risk grabbing a few extra degrees.

Also they are capable of reducing the elbow angle extensions if they should need to.  Almost all of those who have been sited and worked on their action have had their ‘new’ actions cleared; evidence that those who earn a significant income from bowling can alter their elbow angle extension.

The authorities ignored the opportunity to demand improved actions.  For instance they could have set the elbow angle extension limit at 10%.  This would have required 13.3% of the fast bowlers, 12.5% of the fast/medium and 40% of the spinners in the sample to modify their actions.

Interestingly and significantly in the ‘throwing’ group of 8 only one extra bowler would have been ‘excluded’ by a reduction from 15% to 10%.  Clearly for this group it is not elbow angle extension that causes the cricketing purist to wince and cry ‘jerk’.

Does this mean, as they and their supporters will claim, that many of those whose actions look really bad are in fact bowling fairly?

“Well,” said the Squire, “that is why we are here in Hawkes Bay, waiting for my old cuz Bob.  He’ll be along soon, but until then there’s another bottle of Buck’s best to enjoy.”

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