We’ve never talked about drugs on this site before. I hasn’t really seemed necessary. Call me naive but I’ve never really thought that steroids (or other performance enhancing drugs) could particularly enhance a cricketer’s abilities. The sport is so technical that sheer bulk, or muscle strength, always seemed slightly irrelevant.
Although I’ve often thought that a bowler’s stamina could be aided by hormones, and that a batsman might find it easier to relax (or feel confident) if he used certain recreational substances, drugs have never really been on my radar … unless we’re talking about the aptly named Keith Piper’s penchant for smoking cannabis.
However, the changing face of cricket and the rise of T20 has brought the issue into sharper focus. Gone are the days when cricketers could be slightly out of shape and still perform wonders for their country (or franchise). Today’s professional cricketers are generally finely tuned athletes with less fat on them than a water biscuit. What’s more, there’s more emphasis on hitting the ball absolutely miles – indeed, the ability to do so can land one a lucrative and life changing IPL contract.
Although I’m not convinced that muscle strength determines a bowlers ability to hit 90mph – I’m no expert but I’ve always thought it’s to do with fast-twitch fibres rather than brute force – science and technology are always developing new ways to enhance a bowler’s pace. This might involves developing certain smaller muscles, or a certain group of muscles, or simply enhancing a player’s strength and conditioning. What’s more, things like bat speed and power can obviously be increased by spending hours in the gym.
Unfortunately this emphasis on strength and conditioning makes the selective use of drugs more tempting to players. Therefore I guess it was only a matter of time before another doping scandal hit cricket – after all, sports like athletics, football and tennis are frequently dogged by rumours of cheating and dodgy Spanish doctors. One just hopes that these controversies won’t become more common as the financial rewards, and therefore the desire to seek an unfair advantage, increase over time.
Given this context, I’m very concerned that one of the T20 circuit’s premier globetrotters, Andre ‘call me Dre’ Russell, has just been banned for a year for ‘whereabouts violations’ – in other words, failing to tell the anti-doping authorities where he was on three separate occasions. This is an important breach of protocol because random drugs test are an important part of WADA’s armoury – and if the authorities don’t know where Russell is, then he can’t be subjected to these random tests.
Considering that many drugs cheats take prohibited substances ‘out of season’ (to avoid being caught) it’s important that top sportsmen are monitored at all times. Nobody has a clue whether Russell has actually taken anything illegal, but his failure to report his whereabouts (whether he’s personally responsible for doing this or not) is therefore rather serious and has been punished accordingly.
I’d be interested to know what you all make of Russell’s punishment. Is one year too long, too short, or about right? Please bear in mind that he’ll now miss both the Pakistan T20 thingy and the IPL – in other words, this is going to hit ‘Dre’ in the pocket rather hard. I’d also like to know whether you think drug taking is rife in cricket, or whether this whole thing is a storm in a urine pot.
In other news …
Jack Leach has been talking about the remedial work he’s done on his action. I recommend you give this article by David Hopps a read. This whole situation just gets weirder and weirder in my view, and I’m still not satisfied with the explanation. Here’s the paradox:
15 degrees is the legal limit because after that a kink (or throw) is visible to the naked eye
Jack Leach was ‘well above’ the 15 degree limit
Nobody could tell (with the naked eye) that Jack Leach was chucking last summer.
Call me old fashioned but I usually trust my eyes when it comes to this thorny issue. Whenever a bowler has been sent for remedial action, or called for chucking, it’s usually quite obvious why. For example, when Sunil Narine, Kane Williamson, Marlon Samuels, James Kirtley, Saeed Ajmal and Murali etc aroused suspicions my immediate thought was ‘quite right’. But when I heard the news about Jack Leach I just thought ‘eh’?
This whole situation is incredibly bizarre and it probably hasn’t been handled by the ECB in the right way (shock horror)! I’m also slightly bemused that Leach heard about the issue from Andy Flower, who phoned him up when he was on holiday. Way to ruin someone’s holiday, Andy ;-)