Shuffle… pause. Then, chest-on skip followed by a slingy dextrous flick, catapulted from an impossible angle – Ajmal’s mystery doosra was (is?) a befuddling revelation, but will he ever bowl it again? … And can it even be done legally?
What is a doosra?
I won’t bowl it. A lot of people and experts are saying you have to bend your arm to bowl it
Deriving from the Hindi for ‘second’ or ‘other’, doosra has been at the forefront of discussion ever since Saeed Ajmal – the world’s leading wicket-taker across all three formats in the last three years – was called for an over-extension of the permitted fifteen-degree elbow flex. Ajmal was the highest profile international spinner banned in a three month, ICC-directed off-spinner cull. As well as Ajmal – West Indies’ Sunil Narine, Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, Zimbabwe’s Propser Utseya and Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi all paid the price for illegal actions.
A CHEST-ON ACTION IS SEEN AS PIVOTAL IN BOWLING THE DOOSRA.
England’s Moeen Ali – mentored by Saeed Ajmal during the Pakistani’s time at Worcestershire – was initially picked partially because of his apparent ability to bowl the doosra. Now, after the suspension of his friend and mentor, Moeen is adamant that he’ll be putting it to bed.
“I won’t bowl it. A lot of people and experts are saying you have to bend your arm to bowl it. I don’t think you do, but it is a tough one and I don’t want to risk not playing for England because of it. I’m definitely more reluctant to bowl it. You can see that 16 First-class players have been banned in Pakistan because of their actions. I don’t think I will bowl it in the World Cup. I don’t want to risk not playing for England.”
MOEEN ALI HAS BEEN A SPIN-SUCCESS FOR ENGLAND
Moeen is also of the opinion that the doosra has derived from increased pressures in one-day cricket.
“With one extra fielder coming up, it’s very tough to bowl off-spin in ODI cricket. I think there was a period where off-spinners felt they needed a doosra and everyone was bowling it. Because of that, there were some people with different actions trying it.”
In stark contrast, Ajmal has adamantly vowed to continue bowling his trademark doosra upon returning to international cricket and doesn’t think that recent bans spell the end for the invaluable variation.
“The doosra [first bowled by Ajmal’s mentor, Saqlain Mushtaq] is an art and a weapon to use against batsmen. When I am back playing international cricket, I will bowl the doosra with the same venom that I always have done,” says Ajmal. “The doosra is part of my repertoire and a delivery that I intend to continue bowling in future.”
SAQLAIN MUSHTAQ TAUGHT AJMAL TO BOWL THE DOOSRA
Ajmal remains confident that he will be back playing in time for the World Cup. But, although the ICC claim that his action has undergone a “substantial improvement” – with reduction from as much as forty degrees – the flex remains marginally above the allowed fifteen degrees; especially when bowling the doosra.
Former Pakistani cricketer, turned T.V. pundit, Ramiz Raja, believes that the doosra is such a fantastic skill and spectator draw that allowances should be made to accommodate it.
“The ICC should consider raising the permissible limit of a bowler’s elbow extension from the current limit of 15 degrees to 18 to 20 degrees to safeguard this phenomenon.” Raja went on to claim that if “unorthodoxy” was consistently penalised, cricket would soon become a “robotic sport.”
AJMAL STILL NEEDS REDUCTION IN HIS ELBOW FLEX
Surely this would propel the ICC down a slippery slope. If allowances were made, where would they stop? Alternatively, perhaps allowances like this would help in restoring the balance to a game becoming ever-increasingly skewed in favour of batsmen.
Perhaps the only genuinely legitimate off-spinning variation, aside from the arm-ball, of course, is Ravichandran Ashwin’s version; the ‘carrom’/knuckle ball (also sometimes referred to as the doosra). This is bowled with less reliance on extraordinary rubber-wristed dexterity and more on a subtle flick of the middle finger. It is arguably easier to pick, but seems to flirt less with illegalities.
ASHWIN’S DIFFERENT VARIATIONS
IAN BELL WAS ONE OF AJMAL’S SEVEN FIRST-DAY ENGLISH WICKETS IN THE FIRST TEST, 2012
Timeline of ICC crack-down:
August 2014 – Sohag Gazi reported, to be tested in Cardiff.
August 2014 – Prosper Utseya reported, to undergo testing.
August 2014 – Saeed Ajmal reported, banned in September.
July 2014 – Kane Williamson banned after Tests found his action illegal.
July 2014 – Sachithra Senanayake banned, undergoes remedial work.
December 2013 – Shane Shillingford suspended from bowling, cleared in March 2014.
December 2014 – Marlon Samuels prohibited from bowling quicker deliveries.
October 2013 – Johan Botha cleared by Cricket Australia after initial report.
Fancy learning to bowl the doosra? Wikihow attempts to show how it’s done…