Rediff Logo Cricket Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
June 25, 1997


'I feel relieved. At ease, again!'

Rajesh Chauhan For 31-year-old Rajesh Kumar Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh and India), the news that the BCCI had formally instructed the national selectors to consider him eligible for selection was like someone had lifted, from off his shoulders, a weight that had become too heavy to be borne with equanimity.

His is a strange case. Never, ever, has he been called for chucking by any umpire, at the domestic or international level. And yet, the stigma of being a suspected chucker has hung over him from 1993-1994 when, at the end of India's tour of New Zealand, the Kiwi board first raised the issue in an end-of-tour report.

The ICC subsequently despatched a tape of his bowling during that series to the BCCI, asking the Indian body to evaluate it and submit its recommendations. While the wheels of administrative machinery ground into motion, Chauhan meanwhile became a cricketing pariah of sorts, with the BCCI instructing the national selectors not to consider him for selection to the Indian squad.

The process of vindication has cost him over three of his peak years, and contrasts strangely with the case of Sri Lanka's Muthaiah Muralitharan. The Lankan offspinner, it will be recalled, was actually called by umpire Darrell Hair of Australia. The ICC confirmed subsequently that it viewed Murali's action as suspect. However, the Sri Lankan board fought the case, videotaped the spinner and conclusively proved that there was no grounds for believing that Murali chucked. More to the point, even while the proof was being assembled, Murali continued to be regularly picked for his national side.

In fact, when the Lankan offie was in India recently for the Independence Cup, he took a moment off to comment on Rajesh Chauhan's woes. "Initially I was upset when I was called for chucking," recalled the Sri Lankan ace. "But I knew that my bowling was clean, and realised that it was only an effort to upset our team. I am happy that my team-mates, and the Lankan board, stood by me. I can only suggest to Chauhan that he should face the allegation boldly, as I did."

It is -- almost -- over now. Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, the two-man technical committee appointed by the BCCI to evaluate Chauhan's actions, have said in their report that there is nothing in the ICC tapes to raise suspicion, that their observation of Chauhan in the nets at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi last month had also not raised any alarms, and that a final verdict could be delivered only after watching him bowl in a match situation. Subsequent to this came the BCCI move of informing the selectors that Chauhan could now be considered for selection to the national team.

The offspinner spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf from his home in the steel city of Bhilai. Excerpts from the conversation:

You are back in contention for a place in the national side, so how does it feel?

I feel great. Relieved, light, at ease. For the last 18 months, I have been tense under this threat to my cricket career. What kept me going was that all my colleagues in the Indian team, in fact every single cricket player I know, backed me and told me not to worry, that there was nothing wrong with my action, and that I would be vindicated.

Tell us about the tests that Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev put you through...

Sunnybhai (Sunil Gavaskar) and Kapilbhai (Kapil Dev) were very helpful, gave me lots of guidance. I remember, on the day of the inspection, both of them told me not to feel nervous and demoralised, they pointed out that what they were doing was to help me, not to harm my career. They put me through my paces and even when, after a while, they asked me to take my shirt off and bowl so they could see my arm movements better, it did not bother me because they kept explaining what they were doing.

All this began because of the videotapes the ICC sent the Indian board. Have you viewed those tapes?

Yes, I have. And even when I watched them I didn't think there was any reason to think I was chucking. The tapes showed me bowling at various angles. Frankly, though at that point, I knew I had done nothing wrong, I did feel nervous. I guess when an official body hints that you are chucking, then you get deep inside you the feeling that maybe there is something wrong. It's like, if you tell a lie often enough, people start thinking it is true!

When did this whole thing about you chucking first begin?

In New Zealand, during the 1993-'94 tour. Commentators there were the first to tell me I chuck, though I don't want to reveal their names here. Even then, however, Sunnybhai (Gavaskar) had defended me, and said openly that I was not chucking -- I am very grateful to him for all he has done. I must add that I have no complaints about the New Zealanders... they had a doubt and they voiced it, I guess.

Did you consult anyone at that point?

Yes, of course -- I spoke to former Indian offspinner and the internationally respected umpire, S Venkatraghavan. I took suggestions from him about bowling, at the time, though we never really discussed chucking -- I guess at the time, I never suspected there would be so many serious allegations. You see, every bowler has a different style. Pat Symcox has a different style, other offspinners have other styles, same is the case with me.

Has the ICC questioning of your action affected your career?

Initially, it affected me mentally. Later on, my captain Chandrakant Pandit (MP Ranji team) supported me, and that was when I became confident again. Sure, I was out of the Indian side, but I never felt bad about it. I told myself, one day I would be able to prove to the world that I do not chuck.

Sri Lankan offspinner Muralitharan was in a similar situation a while ago. Do you sometimes feel the Lankan board supported him more strongly than the Indian board supported you?

The case is different with Murali, he had been called for chucking right in the middle of a Test. So the Lankan board defended him right there. In my case, what the ICC did was send a videotape, though no umpire has ever called me at any level. Which is why the Indian board took a while longer, I guess. Anyway, I have no complaints.

Now that you are eligible again, how do you fancy your chances of making the Indian team for the Asia Cup?

I am hopeful, certainly. I have 34 wickets in 14 Tests, 24 wickets in 22 ODIs, that is a pretty good record. If I am selected again, I hope to bowl at my best and put to rest, once for all, all these allegations against me.

EARLIER STORY:Sunny, Kapil clear Chauhan's bowling action

Rajesh Chauhan 's career stats:

O M R W Ave Best 5 10 SR Tests 542.5 179 1189 34 34.97 3-8 - - 95.7

ODIs 168 9 714 21 34.00 3-29 - - 48.0