Over the years, the 15-degree bowling rule has created a lot of controversies. The likes of Saeed Ajmal, Johan Botha, Marlon Samuels are among the few who have been pulled up for the illegal bowling action. They’ve been handed warnings and suspensions in their careers which has hindered their bowling quite a bit.
According to the official website, the ICC rule says, the action is considered illegal when the “player’s elbow extends by an amount of more than 15 degrees between their arm reaching the horizontal and the ball being released.”
Moreover, the bowler is only suspended when he/she is reported for the first time. He can remodel his action, get it cleared and resume bowling. However, when he/she is reported for the second time and the action is found illegal, the bowler is banned from bowling for 12 months.
Sri Lanka have had a history of a few bowlers (spinners, in particular) being pulled up for illegal action. Akila Dananjaya was the latest addition to the list as ICC banned him from bowling for one year. Thus, here we look at the list of Sri Lankan spinners who were suspended for action issues.
It is no secret that the great Muttiah Muralitharan had a series of problems with his bowling actions. Rather, others having a lot of problems against him with that bowling action. Be it umpires, players or experts, everyone questioned the Sri Lankan spinner’s action at some point. At various points in his career, Muralitharan has been called up for his action. But each time, he came back stronger to prove that his action was legal and within the laws of the game.
Muralitharan was first called up by umpire Darrell Hair for ‘chucking’ during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG in 1995. He called a series of no-balls but later, it was clarified that the Sri Lankan spinner’s action was clean and legal. On Sri Lanka’s next tour down under (in 1998-99), umpire Ross Emerson pulled up Muralitharan for throwing. The Sri Lankan team almost abandoned the game in protest. However, the game continued and Muralitharan went through a series of tests which proved his action as legal again.
In 2004, his doosra came into question. It was officially reported by match referee Chris Broad which officiated in a Test match between Sri Lanka and Australia in March 2004. It was found that Muralitharan bowled the doosra with an angle of 140 which was later remodelled to around 100. Muralitharan kept going through various kinds of tests which kept proving that his action is fit and fine and there’s nothing illegal about it.
Sachithra Senanayake may have played his last international game in 2016. However, every time a batsman is out for backing up too far (‘Mankading’), Senanayake is remembered. Senanayake became famous for running Jos Buttler out for backing up too much at the non-striker’s end in 2014. However, there was another controversy that the Sri Lankan spinner was a part of and that is, for his illegal bowling action.
In 2014, he was excellent on Sri Lanka’s tour to England. However, it was dampened a touch as he was called up for illegal action. He was first reported in June and a month later, he was banned by the ICC from bowling in international cricket. The mystery spinner travelled to Perth to remodel his action which became a lot more side-on and hence, he made a return to international cricket in December in the same year.
Tharindu Kaushal was one of the many mystery Sri Lankan spinners that came along in the earlier part of this decade. However, he was reported for illegal action and came under a lot of scrutiny. After being pulled up in what was eventually his penultimate Test match (against India in the third Test of the series in 2015), Kaushal went through a few tests.
The Galle-born spinner was asked to bowl a series of off-breaks and doosras, from both over and around the wicket. It was found that his off-break was within the 15-degree rule while his doosra was found to be illegal. He was banned from bowling the doosra. After this suspension, Kaushal played just one Test match.
Akila Dananjaya has been Sri Lanka’s premier white-ball spinner for the last couple of years. He had performed really well through 2017 and 2018. However, just when he was turning his white-ball form to red-ball and cementing his place in the Test team, he was called up for his action.
He was first reported late last year and was suspended in December. Thus, he had to remodel his action and go through remedial work. After his action was reassessed, Dananjaya was allowed to resume bowling in international cricket. His efficiency dipped and he was left out of Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad. However, he returned with a bang and also became Sri Lanka’s lead spinner in Test cricket.
But his bowling action once again came under scrutiny in the first Test against New Zealand. The mystery spinner was put through an assessment test which showed that his action was illegal. Hence, Dananjaya has been banned from bowling in international cricket for a year now. He can now approach the ICC for re-assessment after his one-year ban.