Sunil Narine was asked to undergo a retest to clear his action by the BCCI despite being cleared by ICC earlier © Getty Images
Sunil Narine was asked to undergo a retest to clear his action by the BCCI despite being cleared by ICC earlier © Getty Images

The Board Of Control For Cricket in India’s (BCCI) diktat to Kolkata Knight Riders, insisting on a retest of Sunil Narine’s bowling action, coinciding with Saeed Ajmal’s inclusion in the Pakistan squad for the tour of Bangladesh are some of the baffling decisions of the World Cricket administration that have Ankur Dhawan rubbing his eyes in disbelief.

Sunil Narine and Saeed Ajmal are in a sense two sides of the same inscrutable coin, but their destinies are unravelling in opposite directions. While Ajmal has again got a toehold in International cricket, Narine’s comeback is still shrouded in uncertainty despite a clean chit issued to him by the testing centre at University of Loughborough in early March. Also Read: IPL 2015: Sunil Narine opts out of practice on 1st day for KKR

Both enigmatic off-spinners have consistently spelled doom for rampaging batsmen in limited overs cricket. It is hard to imagine teams amassing the kind of astronomical scores the World Cup witnessed if the opposition had the bamboozling sorcery of Ajmal and Narine at their command. Ajmal has enjoyed considerable success at the Test level as well. Read: Sourav Ganguly refrains from commenting on Sunil Narine’s IPL clearance

However, their careers came to a standstill last year, when the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the BCCI acted on some sort of divine revelation to eradicate “suspect bowling actions” from the game. ”I think we’d reached that straw that broke the camel’s back. There were just too many bowlers starting to emerge that people were starting to worry about. I think it was simply that we said ‘no, this is far enough’. It’s arguable that we should have taken this kind of action earlier. That we can take on the chin,” ICC’s chief executive Dave Richardson was quoted saying by Sydney Morning Herald in October 2014. SEE: KKR threaten to pull out of IPL 2015 if Sunil Narine not allowed to play

While most of the cricket fraternity backed the sudden clampdown on chucking, there were some murmurs about the efficacy and consistency of ICC’s testing policies, the details of which should be made public opined some, not that biomechanics is an average Joe’s cup of tea.

Anyhow, Ajmal’s remodelled action passed its acid test just before the commencement of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. With Mohammad Hafeez nursing an injury, there was a strong case for Ajmal to be drafted into the side. Title-tattle has it that the Pakistan team management, in fact, wanted Ajmal as standby for Mohammad Irfan but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) did not play along. Merely a week after the conclusion of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the PCB has made wholesale changes to the set up (some of them forced), and ‘Saeed Ajmal 2.0’ has found a place in the squad to Bangladesh. He may consider it a blessing in disguise that Pakistani players don’t participate in the IPL (which is weird considering Pakistan toured India in 2013).

At the other end of the spectrum was Narine representing the West Indies, which was badly mired at that time in player-board tiffs. The warning signs came when Narine was cautioned and subsequently banned during the Champions League T20 last year. Theoretically, since the Champions League T20 is a domestic tournament, the ban shouldn’t have hampered his International career. But that’s where the incestuous nexus begins to unravel, considering that the same people (BCCI and Cricket Australia) are stakeholders in the Champions League T20 and also control the International Cricket administration. So, with West Indies scheduled to tour India soon, Narine sighting knife over-head, pulled out of the series at the eleventh hour, which was eventually truncated due to an unresolved dispute between the West Indies players and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

The idea behind shielding Narine from the ICC’s glare was to allow him enough time to remodel his action before cricket’s biggest jamboree In February. However, Narine mysteriously (considering he hadn’t received an official warning from the ICC) pulled out of the event before the West Indies squad was announced. The vague understanding was that the off-spinner needed time to adjust to his reworked bowling action before he could confidently repeat it in a match situation. Eventually, Narine’s remodelled action stood the test of biomechanics experts at University of Loughborough in March. So all seemed hunky dory for Narine till the BCCI stepped in to examine the off spinner’s action for itself prior to the beginning of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) eighth edition.

If the BCCI deems his action illegal, the test conducted at University of Loughborough would for all practical purposes be void. It also begs the question of uniformity in testing procedures. The BCCI clearly considers itself the ultimate authority and without their approbation Narine’s future hangs in limbo. Furthermore, in the event that the experts in Chennai dismiss Narine’s reworked bowling action, it becomes an archetypal case of one man’s word against another, so who’s verdict should be taken as gospel? You surely can’t have a situation where Narine is free to play in a particular tournament but not in another. These questions will naturally come to the fore the next time India and West Indies compete in a bilateral series or possibly sooner.

(AnkurDhawan is a reporter with CricketCountry. Heavily influenced by dystopian novels, he naturally has about 59 conspiracy theories for every moment in the game of cricket. On finding a direct link between his head and the tip of his fingers, he also writes about it)