Shillingford’s Ban – A Response from John Holder

16th January 2014

Overthrows  – backing up strong returns

On December 19th last year I wrote an item entitled It Never Rains But it Pelts about the ban on Shane Shillingford, the implementation of monitoring and responding to suspect actions, and the implications of legitimising chucking by stealth. In it, I solicited former international umpire John Holder’s opinion. Recently he dropped me a line in reply. Here it is:

Hi David

Much as I am not an admirer of how the ICC runs cricket and a lot of things they do, I fully support the ban on Shillingford. I firmly believe that he throws and realistically, no amount of remodelling will make any difference to his action. He WILL ALWAYS throw when under pressure. When there is a desperation to get wickets and spin the ball hard, he will throw.

The former Surrey and England left-arm spinner, Tony Lock had been called for throwing when he was playing for Leicestershire. He took time out and spent hours in the nets trying to remodel his action. In a championship match against my county Hampshire he was trying to bowl us out but one of our batsmen, Peter Sainsbury, a dour middle-order batsman, pushed forward to a Lock delivery which whistled past his nostrils, much faster than any previous delivery. The players watching said that Lock had thrown the ball.

Over the years many Test players who have been called for throwing have tried unsuccessfully to remodel their actions. Geoff Griffin of South Africa, Meckiff and Rorke of Australia and a young Jamaican fast bowler a few years ago.

Tests on bowlers’ actions proved that no bowler bowls with a completely straight arm. There is a degree of flexion in every bowler’s arm on delivery but scientists have proved that at 15 degrees it is possible to detect a throw and that is where the bar has been set. A few years ago while working for ICC I saw Shillingford bowl and was convinced that he threw. I also saw some of the TV coverage of him in India on the recent tour and from the camera behind the bowler’s end umpire, he throws blatantly. I did a TV piece at Cave Hill in Barbados in November in which I said that he threw. A man there who overheard what I said told me afterwards that Shillingford had been called for throwing on more than one occasion previously.

It is unfortunate for the player and the West Indies but if he breaks the laws he must be penalised.

I disagree with ICC’s policy where the umpires do not apply the law and call bowlers for throwing. Having the law written as it stands is a complete waste of time.


John Holder

The throwing issue is not going to go away. It must be addressed. Today, the MCC’s website has published a short interview with MCC World Cricket Committee member Shaun Pollock, who voices his and the committee’s concerns on unfair actions, which you can hear here.

David Oram


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