OPINION: You might not have heard of Shane Shillingford before the West Indian cricket team arrived on our shores earlier this summer.
In case you still haven't, Shillingford is the Windies' off-spin bowler whose action has gotten him into hot water with the International Cricket Council.
Shillingford is sitting out the third test against New Zealand in Hamilton after failing to convince an independent panel in Australia that his bowling arm was within the permitted 15 degrees (from the point the arm raises above the shoulder to the point of delivery), and he is banned until he can do so.
The ICC has a university of arms and legs based in Perth which takes a look at suspect bowlers' actions to ensure they are not gaining an advantage by bending their arm before releasing the ball.
Shillingford and team-mate Marlon Samuels, a part-time bowler, travelled with Windies coach Ottis Gibson to Perth, before coming to New Zealand, after questions were asked at the end of a series against India.
There was particular concern about the flex in Shillingford's arm when he bowled the much-vaunted doosra, a delivery which goes in the opposite direction to the normal off-spinner, and with Samuels' fast ball.
Samuels has subsequently been allowed to continue bowling, as long as he doesn't try his quicker delivery.
While spot-fixing has been grabbing most of cricket's headlines away from the pitch lately, the issue of what constitutes a legal delivery remains a thorny one.
Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was named Wisden's greatest test cricketer of all time in 2002. He claimed his 800th test scalp with his final ball in test cricket in 2010, but throughout his career he was dogged by concerns over the birth defect which allowed him to hyperextend his arm.
Coincidentally, the 15 degrees allowed by the ICC is one degree more than Muralitharan was judged to have had in his delivery arm.
Chucking is pretty much the lowest term that can be, excuse the pun, thrown at a cricketer, and one can only wonder what's going through Shillingford's mind at the moment.
It's certainly been a blow for the West Indian team as they attempt to square the series against New Zealand.
New Zealand have not been immune to accusations.
Kane Williamson often bats in shortsleeves but generally bowls in long sleeves, while Kyle Mills has an unusual action.
Cricketing scuttlebutt suggests that New Zealand officials have actively sought out bowlers who operate up to the 15 degree level of tolerance.
It would seem that the classical action which saw Sir Richard Hadlee terrorise batting attacks around the world may become a thing of the past.
And would that be a bad thing?
Allowing a bowler to throw a little bit, is still allowing a bowler to chuck.
You can't be a little bit pregnant.
And if the ruling is so difficult to adjudicate on that it requires men in white labcoats with super-slowmo cameras to decide, maybe we'd be better off just deleting that section from the rule book.
This isn't the drugs-in-sport debate, which includes a radical element of those who would prefer to see the use of performance enhancing drugs legalised to ensure a level, if not moral, playing field.
That argument is about athlete welfare.
The chucking debate has been driven as much by sporting politics as it has by fairness.
Maybe it's time to chuck it for good.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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