Mumbai: Ever since the infamous Muttiah Muralitharan chucking episode involving umpire Darrell Hair during Sri Lanka’s 1995 tour Down Under, bowlers with bent elbows have managed to hide their dubious action beneath a fashion trend – that of wearing long sleeves while bowling.
In the ongoing test match between India and the West Indies at Kolkata, we have two distinct tales of success tucked under shirtsleeves. The first is Pragyan Ojha who bowls with straight sleeves. The other is Shane Shillingford who prefers a loose fitting full sleeve shirt.
Intriguingly Murali of the 800 test wickets fame seldom wore these loose-fitting shirts during his heydays, preferring the short sleeves which any bowler will tell us is much more comfortable. Ask Ravichandran Ashwin and he is bound to agree and the lanky off-spinner is always in short-sleeves.
So, what’s behind this new fad of wearing long sleeves that are at least two sizes bigger? And why is it that off-spinners seem to apply for membership to the ‘Long-Sleeved Bowlers’ Association’? In recent times, the names of Saeed Ajmal, Harbhajan Singh and Kane Williamson come to mind. An honorable exception is Graeme Swann, who is arguably the best off spinner in modern day cricket.
And this is what former India left-arm spinner and outspoken Bishen Singh Bedi felt too...
They'r all looking at frnt ft no ball,no body's bothered abt bent elbow!But Indns can't complain can they?Am very wary o longsleevd offies!!
— Bishan Bedi (@BishanBedi) November 7, 2013
To answer the question on this long-sleeve fad, one has to hark back to the days when Jagmohan Dalmiya was ruling the ICC. In return for Sri Lanka's support, Jaggu Dada bent the rules that disallowed bending the elbow while bowling. Under the new rules, bowlers to bend their arms by 15 degrees. Sadly, the ICC forgot to provide both umpires or the TV cameras built in protractors to measure the bent arm of bowlers, that too in split second.
Of course, the real problem lies with the ICC that regularly catches bowlers bending the rules and their elbows, puts them through a biomechanical program and announces that everything is fine. Remember the case of our very own Rajesh Chauhan or Marlon Samuels?
If the ICC’s biomechanics is a blindfold that makes cricket fans accept the impact of scientific intervention, the loose fitting sleeves blinds the ICC itself by encouraging other spinners to flex their arms and show the middle finger to players who bowl with short sleeves. For, how does one judge a 15 degree turn within a shirtsleeve that can allow for twice that quantum?
If you wanted to know what made ICC change rules for Murali, here is the video...