26th January 2016
Overthrows – backing up strong returns
Another very welcome missive from John Holder. He dropped me a line to react to a couple of the issues that Reds and I discussed in our latest Willow in the WIndies podcast, which you can still hear here, focusing on poor pitches and the continuing confusion surrounding Sunil Narine:
It was interesting listening to you and Reds discussing the poor quality of pitches in the Caribbean and the ongoing efforts to remedy Narine’s chucking.
Back in 2008 when I worked for ICC, I was asked by the WICB to submit a report on the quality of pitches and preparation in the Caribbean. This I did, with special mention of Guyana and Port of Spain. What concerned me most was that the pitches were virtual baked mud, on which the ball hardly bounced. Groundsmen shaved every blade of grass off the pitches, leaving lifeless mud surfaces on which the ball did not bounce, or come on to the bat. This led to boring cricket as batsmen could not play attacking strokes and there was no life for bowlers. I never even received an acknowledgement from the WICB, much less a thank you.
In 2010 while in Guyana during the T20 World Cup, I had a long conversation with Andy Atkinson the ICC pitch specialist. I knew Andy from England where he had been head groundsman for Essex and with whom I had worked while umpiring there. Andy was regarded as one of the country’s best groundsmen. He told me that a big problem in the Caribbean was that the pitches needed grass to help the ball to bounce and carry to the keeper. He simply could not get groundsmen to leave grass on the pitches.
I remember watching an inter-island 50 overs match at Providence between Guyana and the Combined Campuses. Chanderpaul and Sarwan, two Test batsmen, struggled to get the ball off the square because the bounce was below knee-high. There was not a blade of grass on its surface. The cricket was boring.
On the subject of bowlers throwing, I cannot recall any thrower in the past 50 years whose action was remedied. Jermaine Lawson, Shane Shillingford, Saeed Ajmal and now Johan Botha are among those who have failed. I first saw Shillingford and Ajmal in 2010 blatantly throwing and was amazed that they were not called. Both have had remedial work done on their actions, as a result of which they cannot spin the ball. Ajmal played for Worcester in England last summer. The change in his action is plain to see but he no longer spins the ball. Once a chucker, always a chucker.
Fascinating as ever!
I didn’t know that about the grass on pitches in the Caribbean. I did mention in the show that I wanted to talk a little deeper about the pitches issue, and your feedback will inspire us to do so and discuss further.
Re chucking – I think you know where I stand. I unashamedly of the old Lord Harris/Jim Phillips school. When it comes to a dubious bowling action ‘if in doubt, chuck ’em out’.
I see from reports today that Narine is likely to be selected for the World T20. I think it’d be a huge mistake.
I suspect he will be called for throwing on the world’s biggest, live cricket stage and his career will almost certainly be immediately over.
I don’t think he, or us, should go through such a horrible public ‘execution’.
John Holder is a highly respected former international umpire, who stood in Tests & ODIs between 1988-2001, and in 1st-class cricket from 1982-2009. He was also the innovative mind behind the introduction of the ‘bowl-out’ to settle washed out one-day games.