With Murali’s success in the current test series against Australia (he has taken twice as many wickets in the series as any other Sri Lankan bowler, and in fact has taken as many wickets as all the other bowlers combined), there are a number of articles and blogs around at the moment discussing whether Murali is a chucker or not. This piece doesn’t argue that point at all, but is instead tries to provide a review of throwing since the laws of the game were first drafted. It gets a little long (which I accept is not normal for my posts), so I have split it into two parts.
The laws of the game of cricket can be traced back to 1744, when a set of governing guidelines were developed. There were alterations and additions to this initial set of laws in 1755, but many historians argue the first legitimate and widespread laws were established in England in 1774. All bowling at this time was underarm, and there were no laws at all about throwing. In 1816, Lambert produced his “Cricketers’ Guide. This document is believed to be the first that clearly provided an explanation and definition of what constituted a legitimate delivery. His book stated that:
“The ball must be delivered underhanded, not thrown or jerked, with the hand below the elbow at the time of delivering the ball. If the arm is extended straight from the body or the back part of the hand be uppermost when the ball is delivered, or the hand horizontally extended, the umpire shall call “no-ball.”
Lambert’s definition was adopted by the major cricketing bodies in England, and was adhered to by the players for the next six years. It was in 1822 that “round-arm” bowling came to the fore, with many arguments about its perceived legitimacy. John Willes achieved lasting infamy, being no-balled at Lords for bowling round-arm. The debate continued for another six years, with players experimenting with this new style of bowling. In 1828, the MCC proposed a modification to the law about bowling, which said:
“The ball shall be bowled. If is be thrown or jerked, or any part of the hand or arm be above the elbow at the time of delivery, the umpire shall call “no-ball.”
Over the following thirty years, the law-makers continued to try and come up with a specific ruling on what a legitimate delivery actually was. Even then, defining what a ‘bowl’ actually was, proved very difficult. The MCC met in 1864 and changed the law, simplifying it substantially to:
“The ball must be bowled; if thrown or jerked the umpire shall call ‘no-ball’ ”.
This law remained largely unchanged for many decades, with only the addition being the provision that the law should now be read in conjunction with the Law 48:
“If either umpire be not satisfied of the absolute fairness of the delivery, he shall call ‘no-ball’ ”.
The laws about bowling were therefore to be read in two separate parts, Laws 10 and 48. It was 1947 that saw a major re-drafting of all the Laws of the game that led to the next major revision of the throwing legislation.