Chuckful of Bowling Talent

Village and district cricket in the dry season and football in the wet season, organized in leagues by older players and village businessmen, were extremely important to the pride of the different communities and they were blood and sand affairs, no quarter given, no holds barred and no rule unbroken especially the one about “unfair” deliveries and bowling actions that are called, in the different islands, “chucking”, “shying”, “stoning” and “pelting.”

My friend Franklin (a.k.a Feco), was as lethal a pelter with the ball as with a stone or stick “licking down” mangoes from the tallest trees. He was as accurate with a red leather missile as he was with a slingshot, and he was deadly – even the leathery skin of an iguana could not stop a piece of molten lead propelled by rubber cut from the inner-tube of a truck tire. In marble-pitching a hit on the knuckle from Franklin caused enough pain and swelling to make your finger feel as if it was broken and it looked even worse.

On the other end, there was John, a Mayaro-born oilfield roustabout who looked as if he could move a drilling rig from one place in the forest to another without the need for a Mack Truck or sidearm. They were a formidable and fearsome combination especially after a “nip” of puncheon or over-proof rum. In those days of caps instead of helmets, one pair of pads to be shared between two batsmen, wicketkeeping with working gloves bolstered by inadequate bits of sponge, and wickets that cattle had stampeded on before play started, having to face these two was a nightmare and had batsmen sweating even when rain stopped play.

We did everything possible to win. Our team which was originally “Cassava Alley” became known as “Peyton Place” after the bestselling book by Grace Metalious revealed the sinful underbelly and other parts of the anatomy of a small New England town.

Maybe we should have been called the “Intimidation XI” for, led by our Captain, Ivan “Rabby” Marchan who boasted, “All my convictions is for wounding”, we ploughed our way through the neighbouring teams and countryside without let, hindrance or conscience. Until we ran into “The Weapon.” In a neighbouring village, deep in a ghetto almost similar to our Peyton Place, there lurked a demon who chucked off-breaks. On a clay wicket, the demon destroyed us. We eventually got our own back but that is another story for another rainy day.

In world cricket it is generally acknowledged by the old timers like me that apart from former West Indies wicketkeeper, Jackie Hendricks, no right-hander can chuck a leg-break. While there are left-arm spinners who can do it (Tony Locke and his faster ball), the biggest pelters or chuckers are fast-bowlers (right or left arm) and off-spinners.

Bruce Aanensen, former cricketer and West Indies Cricket Board CEO, swore to me that coach and cricket guru Willie Rodriguez had insisted that there was no way to bowl a “dhoosra” (or a leg break bowled by a right-handed spin bowler with an almost identical action as his off-break) without chucking. The more cynical commentators will tell you that dhoosra or no dhoosra all right-arm off-spinners chuck.

In the old days, Umpires could and did call bowlers for chucking. In Trinidad, when I was a young man playing for an oilfield team and fighting to make the team because some of the older players, many of whom had represented the country at regional level, were chucking and were not penalized, I was told that the Cricket Board was allowing those players to end their days but were doing its best to keep the younger players honest.

In other countries, this had already changed. One call ended the career of Australian fast bowler Ian Meckiff and another almost ended the career of Muttiah Muralitharan, the present record holder for most wickets in Test Cricket. Following his second attempt at rehabilitation after being reported for a suspect bowling action, Jamaican fast-bowler Jermaine Lawson, never made it back into the West Indies team.

In terms of off-spinners, this is second-time around for Marlon Samuels and Shane Shillingford. Other off-spinners who have been called, especially for their “dhoosra” are South African Johan Botha and the Indian “Turbanator” Harbajan Singh.

A release by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on November 16, 2013, stated, "West Indies off-spinners Marlon Samuels and Shane Shillingford have been reported with suspected illegal bowling actions during the second Test against India, which ended in Mumbai on Saturday… The umpires’ reports have cited concerns over the two bowlers’ bowling actions, with particular references to Samuels' 'quicker deliveries' and Shillingford’s 'doosras'."

While the bowlers have a 34-day maximum period to undergo an independent analysis and submit it to the ICC, they can continue to play but at any time during that period they can be called by the field umpire for chucking.

I have always felt that our coaches want to win so badly that they allow players to “pelt” knowing that the players could be ostracized and their careers ended, like Lawson's, but nothing will happen to the coach. If Gibson is such a great coach, how come he did not know that Samuels and Shillingford were chucking?

Thousands of West Indians and other cricket fans were convinced that they chucked and would be called eventually. Yet, the West Indian selectors have defied reason and logic by taking the same players to New Zealand where if they bowl, they would either be ineffective or called for chucking. If the selectors are so intent on embarrassing the West Indies and those two players, they might as well bring back my friend Franklin.

*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Marlon Samuels whips down his faster ball at 120 kph. (75 mph) without a run-up. This is faster than his car.


Tony Deyal

About Tony Deyal

Tony Deyal is a Caribbean journalist who believes laughter is the best medicine.

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