How Jermaine Lawson happened LIVING CRICKET By Imran Khan
Stabroek News
September 15, 2003

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Seven for 78 and six for three. Those are bowling figures which are recorded in cricket's record books as the two top takes of Jermaine Jay Charles Lawson, the Jamaican fast bowler embroiled in the ICC chucking controversy. While it took super cameras to recently determine that his action is not yet within the rules of cricket, it needed only the naked eye to determine that all through the last series, from Bourda to Antigua, Lawson was clearly operating outside the game's laws.

If his action was so clearly flawed how it was that he reached the very pinnacle of cricket without it being remedied?

It is a question which is both revealing and dreadful in its simplicity.

I may have stumbled upon the answer during the course of the Essequibo Cricket Festival last weekend. At the New Opportunity Corp ground at Underneeming, East Bank Essequibo faced South Essequibo in one of the semi-finals.

The man who delivered the ball from the top end for South Essequibo would have given the ICC Chucking Committee a severe heart attack at the way he went about his business.

In cricket, courtesy of those principle-less Australians, we have come to accept that every now-and-again someone will come along and try to bend or just outright rupture the rules for his own benefit.

It is for this reason that umpires have such a decisive role to play in ensuring that the playing conditions are balanced for both teams. It was precisely because the conditions were so uneven and so in favor of the West Indies, that the infamous Sabina abandonment was forced.

Unlike umpires Steve Bucknor and Sri Venkataraghavan at Sabina in 1998 though, one of the officiating umpires at NOC stood at square leg and twiddled his thumbs and allowed the unabated chucking to go on for nine overs!

It was a downright disgrace as any primary school student with only a fleeting interest in cricket could have seen that the bowler was chucking. It was as plain as day.

During the break, when asked about the bowler's action the umpire responded by saying that he thought that only a single delivery was illegitimate. When asked why he did not call it a 'no ball' he simply said that his role is not to call the no ball but to report the bowler to the Essequibo Cricket Board.

I have heard my fair share of cricketing nonsense in my time but this one is the mightiest of them all. Here it was that an umpire, operating at the most senior level within Essequibo's cricket and the second highest level within Guyana's domestic cricket, had a flawed understanding of the rules of the game.

Reports are to be made to the relevant boards when the umpire(s) are of the view that a bowler's action may be contravening the laws of the game.

When the bowler is clearly pelting, as was the case in Eseequibo, he must be no balled right there and then. If he is unable to legitimately bowl the ball, as appeared to be the case with the violator in question, then he must be removed from the attack and not be allowed to bowl again. It is as simple as that.

One cannot be too harsh on the bowler himself as at this level he may be oblivious to his illicit action. The blame must be placed squarely at the feet of the incompetent umpire. By allowing the bowler to pelt, his behavior can be deemed 'cheating' as the rules regarding chucking are clear. Once the arm has passed the shoulder level, there can be no straightening or bending.

I used my ordinary digital camera to capture that the bowler was bending and then straightening his arm way after it had passed his shoulder. You will notice that in the fourth frame of the accompanying composite photograph the arm is kinked and in the very next frame it is perfectly straight. That is what chucking is.

If dozens of spectators were able to pick up a clear case of chucking from way beyond the boundary then surely an umpire standing at square leg must have been able to see it.

While the blame for what transpired that day must be borne by the umpire mostly, others too must share.

The selectors of South Essequibo must be reprimanded by the Essequibo Cricket Board for selecting and allowing this youngster to pelt the opposition. It could not be that they are so inept that they do not know what pelting is.

Further the captain and coach of the South Essequibo team must also be held accountable. The officials of South Essequibo cricket along with all the officials of the club for which this youngster plays have got to be called into question by the ECB.

The most disgusting occurrence though, was the support that the pelting bowler received from his fans who knew and accepted that he was pelting.

They were of the very vocal view that because he was playing for 'their' team it was ok.

It is this, more than anything else, which caused Lawson to reach Test cricket with a questionable action.

It is because when he was playing his junior, club and regional cricket his fans and the self serving officials cradled and supported him.

None of them had the good sense or the intestinal fortitude to say to the young man that what he was doing was contravening the laws and that he should undergo remedial training. They left him, encouraged him and now they are costing the West Indies Cricket Board thousands of US dollars in correcting a problem that should never have been.

And it is not that his unscrupulous action was not identified early. When he took part in the regional under-19 tournament in Barbados in 1999, the eminent writer Tony Cozier pointed out the young man's dilemma. Instead of the Jamaican officials heeding Cozier's wise advice and properly correct the young man's action they lashed out against him with all sorts of wild accusations.

Chucking is as grave an offence as is ball tampering, if not worse. It gives the bowler an unfair advantage over the batsmen.

The laws of the game strictly prohibit it, yet for half a day at the NOC ground one umpire and several officials before him allowed a youngster to pelt his way into cricket.

They protected him because for them, winning is what matters most, not the betterment of cricket.

And that is the reason why Jermaine Lawson is currently enduring the trauma of being internationally labeled a cheat. Lawson has been failed by his fans, his supporters and the officials in Jamaica who guided him through his formative years.

West Indies cricket is now suffering the result.

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