Is this a witch-hunt?

HARARE - Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and former national team captain Prosper Utseya received a huge setback on Wednesday when Utseya's bowling action was deemed to be illegal.

Utseya and Bangladesh's Sohag Gazi have been added to the growing list of spin bowlers who have been reported for suspect actions.

Both Gazi and Utseya's actions were reported to the International Cricket Council (ICC) in August, Gazi while touring the West Indies, and Utseya after the third One Day International against South Africa at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.

The tests were conducted on September 19, and the results made public on Wednesday, October 8.

The recent casualties join the likes of Sri Lanka's spinner Sachithra Senanayake, New Zealand's part time spinner Kane Williamson and Pakistan's match winner Saeed Ajmal who have according to tests exceeded the limit of 15 degrees elbow flex allowed by the ICC.

Should the bowlers elbow exceed the amount of 15 degrees, it is deemed to be illegal and the bowler will be banned from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect, until such time he has undergone remedial work to rectify his action.

This latest development is yet another one of countless stumbling blocks that has beset the already struggling sport in the country, and the exclusion of Utseya will be a crippling one as Zimbabwe gear up to tour Bangladesh for three Test matches, and five ODI matches later this month.

Utseya was Zimbabwe's best bowler by far in the recently concluded triangular series which also included South Africa and Australia, where he recorded career best figures of 5-36 which also included a hat-trick against the Proteas.

So is this an unnecessary witch-hunt by the ICC? Are they deliberately picking on the lesser nations when conducting these tests?

A fair question to ask, especially when considering that India's off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowls a doosra, which is the most suspect delivery because of the mechanics it requires to do so.

The doosra also happens to be Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal's most successful delivery which has got him a high percentage of wickets in all formats of the game.

It is however suggested, that Ajmal has perhaps taken matters into his own hands, and deliberately flaunted with the rules of the ICC if the results of the tests are anything to go by.

As already explained, the ICC rules stipulate clearly that a bowler can maximum elbow extension or flex the amount he bends and straightens his elbow, while delivering the ball of 15 degrees.

Anything more than 15 degrees, and the action is deemed to be illegal.

As per report during the tests Ajmal was subjected to, his average elbow extension stood at 37 to 39 degrees for off spin delivered over the wicket, 41 to 42 degrees for off spin bowled around the wicket, 40 degrees when bowling the doosra, 38 degrees for quicker deliveries around the wicket and 42 degrees for quicker deliveries over the wicket.

Clearly, there is a problem, and it most certainly needs to be addressed, which it has been, and then corrected, which apparently Ajmal is in the process of doing.

It would however be very interested to see the outcome of the likes of Ashwin and Australia's Nathan Lyon who is also beginning to make an impression after a indifferent start to his Test career back in 2011.

Up to recently, umpires have been a little nervous to call high profile bowlers for suspect actions, this may well be due to the fiasco that ensued after Australia's highly controversial umpire Darrel Hair called Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan for chucking (throwing) when Sri Lanka toured Australia in late 1995, shortly before the World Cup which was held in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in February 1996.

Now, the ICC have given umpires carte blanch to report suspect actions, and rightly so-although the timing of this crackdown may be questionable as teams are in their final preparations for the World Cup.

The only query people may have with this new tough stance taken by the ICC is why has it taken so long?

Why wasn't it nipped in the bud as soon as it became apparent that there are so many bowlers who no longer have the classical off spinner's delivery, and will this closer scrutiny also be extended to the so called big three who currently rule world cricket?

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