A 19-year-old Indian bowler is driving cricket experts worldwide to distraction with his mind-blowing variation of run-up. Former Test stars, umpires and even the MCC, which is in charge of the games rules, have reached for rule book and interpretations to ascertain whether the lad’s bizarre delivery stride is legit.
Uttar Pradesh bowler Shiva Singh’s extraordinary delivery stride was captured on tape during his side’s Under-23 CK Nayudu Trophy match against hosts Bengal at Kalyani. It would have gone unnoticed but for a tweet from former Test star Bishen Singh Bedi.
The legendary left-arm spinner Bedi, whose bowling action was clean as a whistle, on Wednesday posted a video of the ball delivered by the teenage lad with an accompanying tweet: "Weirdo! Have a close look!"
It was a wacky sight alright!
The left arm spinner — part of Rahul Dravid-coached, Prithvi Shaw-led India that won the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year — was operating from around the wicket when he did a 360-degree turn on delivery stride and yet managed to accurately bowl in line with the batsman’s leg stump. It was a startling way to get into the critical delivery stride. But the bowler didn’t miss a beat with his foot placement, lead shoulder line-up, line and length of the delivery and follow through.
But umpire Vinod Seshan would have none of it. He signalled dead ball. Apparently the bowler had stunned the umpires with a similar delivery earlier and after a brief discussion, Seshan and his partner Ravi Shankar had cautioned that he would be dead-balled if he tried the variation again.
Weirdo...!! Have a close look..!! pic.twitter.com/jK6ChzyH2T
— Bishan Bedi (@BishanBedi) November 7, 2018
Shiva and his UP teammates were unhappy with the verdict and argued that he had tried that variation in the Vjay Hazare Trophy game against Kerala and the umpires had no objection then.
He revealed that he had different variations for T20 and one-dayers and used it in the CK Nayudu match only because the Bengal pair was working up a partnership, according to ESPNCricinfo.
One Bengal batsman told the cricket website he had faced Shiva's 360-degree ball in the past as well. “He has uncanny ways of distracting the batsman. He is a spinner who is capable of bowling a bouncer because of his strong left shoulder. He has a couple of different actions — sometimes he doesn't lift his non-bowling arm. Sometimes he walks up to the crease like a zombie, but he's got good control over them,” he revealed.
But umpires Seshan and Shankar were not impressed.
Bedi’s tweet and accompanying video went viral. Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted that he found nothing wrong with the action: "Love this... We keep saying bowlers must bring new innovation... No Issue at all with this ..."
Former ICC Umpire manager and Elite Panel umpire, Simon Taufel told Cricketnext that he agreed with umpire Seshan’s ruling of dead-ball.
“It's up to the umpire but one would have to ask why the bowler did this and have to assume the only reason would be to distract or put the striker off. Doesn't seem right or fair to me. If it is his normal bowling action then maybe a different outcome,” he said.
The tweets, blogs and articles on the peculiar delivery stride moved MCC Laws Department to come out with a detailed analysis.
It quoted Law 41.4.1: "It is unfair for any fielder deliberately to attempt to distract the striker while he/she is preparing to receive or receiving a delivery.
"41.4.2: If either umpire considers that any action by a fielder is such an attempt, he/she shall immediately call and signal Dead ball and inform the other umpire of the reason for the call."
It clarified that the bowler did indeed count as a fielder.
It further interpreted: "The Law states that the offence is the attempt to distract the striker, rather than the striker actually being distracted. Consequently, it was for the umpire to decide if he felt that the tactic was done as an attempt to distract the striker.
Unless the 360-degree twirl was part of the bowler’s run-up for every ball, the umpire may need to consider whether he/she feels that the twirl was done in an attempt to distract the batsman in some way. This is particularly so if there was no apparent advantage to be gained from the twirl, unlike, for example, the bowler varying the width of the release point or the length of his/her run-up, which are entirely lawful, it said.
That being the case, what if there was an ‘apparent advantage to be gained from the twirl’? For instance the bowler might want to propel the ball at greater speed and the 360-degree turn, or "twirl" as MCC calls it, could come in handy. Would it then be acceptable?
MCC’s interpretation leaves room for further interpretation. Umpires need not be hasty in dead-balling all forms of innovation in bowling. It is possible that esoteric modes of delivery could evolve into something more compelling and dynamic. After all, that’s how the googly or chinaman would have first been viewed before they became standard fare.
Shiva needs to be hailed for being a bowler who thinks of ways and means to get the better of batsmen. His control over these deliveries too is admirable. Dead-balling him is the surest way of killing initiative of bowlers with an innovative bent of mind like his. The last has not been heard.