Throwing law bends with the arm

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In one dramatic swoop yesterday, the emotive rules governing throwing were changed forever. The letter of Law 24, section three has yet to be changed but its spirit has been irrevocably amended.

The International Cricket Council acted with a resolve that belied their reputation and now face accusations that they have effectively approved a chucker's charter. Recognising the impending criticism, Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, said: "This issue has afflicted the game for over 60 years. Try as it might, the sport has never properly come to terms with it. Every time it comes up there are emotional reactions based on fear and ignorance, and I've no doubt we will see them all again this time. The reality is that this new process provides the game with a sensible way forward."

The ICC's chief executives committee, meeting in Melbourne, agreed with a proposal to allow some straightening of the arm in the bowling action. This will be restricted to 15 degrees, which bio-mechanists have established as the point at which any straightening becomes visible to the naked eye. Several bowlers round the world will be legalised under this eminently sensible scientific umbrella, including Muttiah Muralith-aran, who has been hounded by sections of the cricket world for years. Murali's action meets the 15-degree limit exactly.

Under the new regulations, bowlers operating outside the limit will be banned immediately. The ICC did not examine actions from previous generations, which means that the English will still swear that they lost the Ashes in 1958-59 because the Aussies had an array of chuckers.

The new laws come into effect next month and the ICC are already talking with MCC, the law's guardians, about whether Law 24 needs changing. The law covers cricket at all levels, not only internationals, and its application is fundamental to the playing of the game.

The meeting also discussed Twenty20 internationals and may formulate proposals after one-off matches have been staged this year. Discussions on the Champions Trophy format will continue, and it would not be sensational if that was soon played under Twenty20 rules - with, who knows, baseball pitchers.