Does Brett Lee throw or not? And is it political or not? Those are two questions about which many people seem to have already made up their minds, but to me the whole issue is more grey than black and white.
Tony Greig, a commentator to whom I wouldn't generally give the time of day, probably described Brett Lee's action best. During the last summer season Down Under, there were doubts raised in the Indian camp about Lee's bowling. Shoaib Akhtar was already under a cloud. Greig was of the opinion that they both have what he described as a "little flick" when they put in that extra effort. This is one time when the former England captain has been spot on.
Much has been made of the fact that the umpires who submitted the report about Lee are Indian. Some ignoramus in Australia went to the extent of claiming that it was a way of paying back Australia because an Indian bowler, named Shoaib Akhtar (!) had had his action questioned Down Under. A few lessons, first in geography, and then in history, are probably needed for fools such as this.
The fact that Indian umpires did the reporting has nothing to do with it. Venkataraghavan has not been known to incline towards any side. Many South African and West Indies bowlers have been pulled up by Venkat for bowling too many bouncers or running on the pitch in their delivery stride, including the most intractable of them all, Glenn McGrath. Venkat is basically no respecter of persons and he is not intimidated by the fact that a player comes from this country or that. Jayaprakash is not exactly one to be swayed by this or that.
There are many bowlers on the first class circuit who have suspicious actions. And most of them appear to be deviating from the straight and narrow only when they make that extra effort to bowl the faster ball or get that bit more spin. Such is the case with Lee. Akhtar too. Kumara Dharmasena is one of those who manages to ping them without bowling fast. Indian offies Nikhil Chopra and Harbhajan Singh were in the same camp.
So it isn't something isolated. Along with the increase in money in the game and the advertising possibilities - of earning 10 times as much as one gets through a salary - competition has grown. And if a spot in the team requires one to bowl a bit faster or spin the ball that much more, then that is what the man in question will do. I don't think that people are knowingly indulging in chucking; no, they are trying that bit harder and in the effort are unaware that the delivery has crossed the legal limit.
The treatment that Lee has received is rather surprising, considering what Akhtar went through. The Pakistani paceman was immediately pulled from the game. Lee remains in the Australian squad for the one-dayers against South Africa. This is not a good sign. All players should be treated equally. Else, it could harden the resolve of officials in the game to see that the man is indicted. It could also result in other teams treating the player under suspicion in a way calculated to shame him.
Throwing is something that one can make out by watching with the naked eye. A practiced eye, that is. You don't need slow-motion cameras to know whether a bowler is throwing or not. In fact, slow-motion could distort things to the point where a perfectly good action looks as though it is a throw. All these experts are just so much chaff; they talk nonsense. They need to, in order to justify their existence.
What is needed is an effective remedy. The bowler must be told, pulled off the first class circuit and his action treated. If it can be remedied, then he can come back and play. And he must be warned that if he is caught again, then penalties would be imposed. We need to be transparent about these things. The fudging which the ICC indulges in is something which we can all live without. The game and the players will be better off without it.