The delivery that has got several off-spinners into trouble is the ‘doosra’ delivery described by cricketers as “the second one” or the “other one”.
Why Sri Lanka’s young spin hope Tharindu Kaushal finds himself reported by ICC match officials is because he has the ‘doosra’ in his bowling armoury. He bowled that delivery throughout the Test series against India and was subsequently reported to the ICC by its match officials which resulted in Kaushal having to travel to one of the ICC approved testing centres in Chennai and have his bowling action tested.
Kaushal follows a long list of off-spinners in international cricketers who have been reported for using the “doosra” and it includes Test cricket’s all-time leading wicket-taker Muthiah Muralitharan. India’s Harbhajan Singh, Pakistanis Shoaib Malik and Saeed Ajmal, South African John Botha and West Indians Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine. While Shillingford and Botha have had their “doosra” deliveries banned from international cricket, Muralitharan, Harbhajan and Malik have all had their actions cleared by the ICC human movement specialist panel after the legitimacy of their doosras was called into question.
What fate waits Kaushal time will only tell. While the results of that test are awaited it would be pertinent to delve into why a delivery like the “doosra” is deemed illegal.
Bio mechanics have found that not all bowlers are capable of bowling this type of delivery without straightening their arms at some point.
The delivery spins in the opposite direction to the conventional off-break. In simpler words, it turns away/straightens for a right-handed batsman, while the initial movement of flight will lure him into assuming it to be a normal off-spin. Hence, the delivery helps the spinner’s cause in making the batsmen commit into a wrong shot – resulting in a dismissal on most cases.
The variation resembles an off-spinner’s action and grip, but, goes the opposite way because of the flick of the wrist which requires a slight fluctuation in the elbows from one’s usual delivery stride. Without the help of the elbow, it is difficult to deliver the variation, even if done so, gets less effective.
Therefore, a flexible wrist is the primary requirement for a spinner who wants to (legally) deliver the doosra. Such a flexible wrist helps in generating the exact pace of one’s normal delivery, thereby, more helpful in foxing the batsman.
Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq was the first bowler to use the delivery to full effect and was widely credited for exploring and popularizing the variation. In recent times, more and more bowlers have tried their hand at the delivery that came into the limelight in the nineties but not all have been successful in bowling it because it requires you to have a flexible wrist and supportive elbow to bowl the delivery within the ICC limitations of 15 degrees.
Shane Shillingford and Johan Botha are two spinners whose wrist/elbow is not conducive to them delivering the “doosra”.
Studies have revealed that the spinners who question the legality of the “doosra” are generally the ones who cannot master it.
Australia for instance has banned the “doosra” because it cannot be bowled legally and there was no place for it to be taught in the country. Ashley Mallett, a former Australian Test off-spinner was of the opinion the doosra could not be delivered by a finger-spinner without it being ‘chucked’ and was thus against cricket’s rules. They say there is only a five percent probability of bowling a “doosra” with a legal action under 15 degrees.
Jerome Jayaratne, Sri Lanka Cricket Head of Coaching believes that every bowler who bowls the “doosra” in international cricket will get reported because all of them bowl with long sleeves and their elbows cannot be shown on television. He said that there is a flick of the wrists extension at the very last moment which more or less gets the bowler into trouble.
Until the arrival of the “doosra” the only other armoury the off-spinner had was the “armer” or the “slider” which goes the other way like the “doosra” but with no flick of the wrist. But with the amount of technology that is being made available to all the countries the bowler has to devise new ways and means to get batsmen out and be one step ahead if he hopes to have a long career in international cricket.
In Kaushal’s case, Jayaratne is confident that he could still be an effective spinner without bowling the “doosra”.
“Tharindu is very young (22) and he has a very vicious off-spin like Murali where he gives the ball a tweak. After five-six wickets others find him very difficult to play because he bowls with a bustling type of action and he bowls with a lot of bite,” said Jayaratne. “He can be a bit more effective in other countries other than in Sri Lanka. The issue is whether he wants to develop his delivery points, angles and use the crease for variations.”