Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Bhaji could be the first

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is expected to become the first bowler in elite cricket to benefit from a relaxation of rules on chucking, an Australian biomechanics expert said Sunday.

The new International Cricket Council (ICC) rule, which comes into effect on March 1, allows bowlers to bend their elbows by up to 15 degrees.

Harbhajan was reported for a suspect bowling action late last year and has been assessed by expert Bruce Elliott of the University of Western Australia, who supervised a high-speed camera test on the cricketer in Perth last Thursday.

Elliott said his report to the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India on Harbhajan would be based on the new ICC rule, which will deem almost all modern bowling actions legal.

This would be of benefit to Harbhajan, who was reported by English match referee Chris Broad during last December's Test series in Bangladesh for his "doosra", a delivery which turns away from the right-handers instead of coming into them like a normal off-break.

"I am assuming the reference to angles will be under the new (ICC) regulations," Elliott told the Sun-Herald newspaper. "That's the way I will write the report."

The 24-year-old spinner, with 189 wickets in 43 Tests, had been given until February 18 to correct his action ahead of India's home Test and one-day series against Pakistan next month, Indian cricket board secretary Karunakaran Nair said.

Elliott said he had not yet examined the footage taken at the university's human movement laboratory but he was confident Harbhajan had bowled with similar intensity to Test match conditions.

"We can make a comparison to the video from the match when he was reported -- that's things such as ball speed, arm rotation, position of the body and technique," Elliott told the newspaper.

"We had two arbiters in Daryl Foster, an expert coach, and Harbhajan himself to give a ranking to each delivery so that we were confident they were quality deliveries."

Foster, a former coach of the Western Australian state side, has been closely involved in helping bowlers such as Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan undergo testing and remedial work at the Perth university.

Elliott said Harbhajan's doosra, which was more of a top-spinner, was significantly different from Muralitharan's, which was delivered with pronounced leg spin.

Harbhajan was reported for his bowling action in 1998 before being cleared by the ICC. He underwent remedial work in London where former England off-spinner Fred Titmus helped him remodel his action.