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ICC committee mulls better methods to detect flex

Nagraj Gollapudi

June 6, 2014

Comments: 68 | Text size: A | A

Sachithra Senanayake in action, England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Edgbaston, June 3, 2014
Sachithra Senanayake was reported for a suspect action during the Lord's ODI © Getty Images
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ICC's cricket committee

  • Chairman: Anil Kumble (former India captain);
  • Ex-Officio: Alan Isaac (ICC President), David Richardson (ICC Chief Executive);
  • Past Player representatives: Mark Taylor (former Australia captain), Andrew Strauss (former England captain);
  • Current player representatives: Kumar Sangakkara (ex-Sri Lanka captain and current player), L Sivaramakrishnan (former India leg-spinner);
  • Full Member team coach representative: Darren Lehmann (Australia coach), Ottis Gibson (West Indies coach);
  • Women's cricket representative: Clare Connor (former England Women's captain);
  • Member Board representative: David White (NZC Chief Executive);
  • Associate representative: Trent Johnston (former Ireland captain);
  • Media representative: Ravi Shastri (former India captain);
  • Umpires' representative: Steve Davis (member of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires);
  • Referees' representative: Ranjan Madugalle (ICC chief match referee);
  • MCC representative: John Stephenson (MCC's Head of Cricket);
  • Statistician representative: David Kendix (statistician/scorer)
  • Kumar Sangakkara, Ottis Gibson and Ranjan Madugalle were absent from the meeting in Bangalore. Darren Lehmann joined the meeting on the second day via a remote link.

The ICC's cricket committee has stated that the methods currently in use to detect illegal bowling actions are imperfect. The committee, which discussed the issue during a two-day meeting in Bangalore on June 3 and 4, said that numerous international bowlers with "suspect" actions were continuing to bowl undetected, and hence it was important that match officials get support from biomechanists to identify the illegal actions with "more confidence".

"The committee discussed the issue of illegal bowling actions, and believed that there are a number of bowlers currently employing suspect actions in international cricket, and that the ICC's reporting and testing procedures are not adequately scrutinising these bowlers," the ICC said in a release. "It recommended that changes be considered to encourage umpires and referees to identify suspect bowlers with greater confidence, to use the expertise of the biomechanists working in this area to assume a greater role during the assessment process, and to allow for ongoing scrutiny of bowlers once they have been identified under the ICC procedures."

To make the process more robust, the ICC has decided to open illegal-action testing centres in more countries. Until now, bowlers had to travel to the laboratories at the Universtiy of Western Australia in Perth to undergo testing, but the committee was informed of additional centres being accredited by the ICC.

"Members of the committee were also updated on the project to increase the number of illegal-action testing centres around the cricketing world, noting that Cardiff Metropolitan University was now accredited to conduct illegal action testing for the ICC, and that other facilities in India, Australia, England and South Africa were likely to be accredited over coming months," the release said.

Last week, during the Lord's ODI, Sri Lanka offspinner Sachithra Senanayake was reported by match officials for delivering with an illegal action. Sri Lanka Cricket officials were surprised by the decision, even though Senanayake had been reported while touring England with the Sri Lanka A team in 2011. At the time, Senanayake worked on his action and subsequent tests found his bowling within the prescribed limits.

Currently, bowlers whose actions are considered suspect are required to attend ICC-approved biomechanics laboratory tests to assess the amount of elbow extension (flex) in their bowling action. In November 2004, the ICC set a uniform 15-degree limit on elbow extension.

Under the existing procedure, Senanayake, who finished as the second highest wicket-taker in the series, will be scrutinised in a closed-door environment within 21 days of his being reported. During this time he is allowed to play, until the test results are declared.

In another incident, last month, Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal had sought an explanation from the ECB after England fast bowler Stuart Broad appeared to suggest Ajmal bowled with an illegal action. West Indies offspinners Shane Shillingford and Marlon Samuels, too, have been hauled up for suspect actions more than once.

In order to help bowlers correct their flawed actions, the ICC tied up with a consortium of Australian cricket, sports science and sports engineering institutions in 2012 to develop wearable sensor technology that would allow the legality of bowlers' actions to be assessed during matches and training sessions. The ICC revealed that the technology was tested on 70 players in training sessions during the Under-19 World Cup held in UAE earlier this year.

"The results of the trials were very encouraging, with the final stage of the project expected to conclude in 2016," the ICC's release said, without elaborating on any details of the findings.

The cricket committee's recommendations will be tabled at the ICC chief executives meeting scheduled to be held before the annual conference between June 23-27 in Melbourne.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by kensohatter on (June 9, 2014, 5:24 GMT)

This whole flex malarky is rubbish. It was brought in to protect Murali and now its impossible for umpires to take control. Darrel Hair was 100% correct and should have been backed from the word go. There is either round arm or bent arm... once you straighten that should be the end of the discussion. How can an umpire judge if something has flexed a certain % point. And how to you test players who are clearly going to be careful during the testing phase and then go full bore in competition. Murali becoming the worlds highest wicket taker in my mind is one of the games greatest injustices and robs Warne of his rightful spot as the standalone standout spinner of this generation.

Posted by rkannancrown on (June 7, 2014, 14:30 GMT)

What has always been surprising is that the off spinners have been questioned while the fast bowlers are the ones who actually get away. Many fast bowlers clearly let loose an unexpected faster delivery by chucking & this gives them an unfair advantage.Spinners get little adavnatge by chucking except when they let loose a faster delivery. A committee led by Anil Kumble clearly needs to go into the subject deeper than just bothering about complaints.

Posted by getsetgopk on (June 7, 2014, 13:35 GMT)

UK_Chap: Fully agree. It took a certain country a fair amound of time to change its opinion of reverse swing as cheating to becoming an art, im sure they'll coming around on this one as well. Fact is, all bowlers, fast and spin, chuck. Thats just how it is. You can't bowl with a perfect straight arm. That is humanly impossible, unless you stick a steel rod across a bowlers arm and prvious tests have shown that fast bowlers chuck more so than spiners. These are the facts of the matter now if one makes the argument that since fast bowlers move their arm fast and hence the naked eye can't see the chuck, i.e they are esthetically ok and that spinners, since they rotate their arm much slowly, their chuck is visible to the eye and if you present just that as argument and call for a ban for spinners then clearly you are discriminating against spinners. But even if such an argument is acceptable, some spinners rotate their arm faster than others, how are you going to detect that?

Posted by UK_Chap on (June 7, 2014, 12:27 GMT)

The vast vast majority of the people from the " I am glad the ICC are doing something about it" brigade all seem to have this notion that this will only affect certain spin bowlers from certain countries. With ever more high definition / high speed cameras all the cheerleaders will find that all bowlers from their own countries will be under scrutiny and they will also find that they are not so squeaky clean as they would like to believe. All I can say is keep on shouting for the demise of any kind of innovation, creativity or development of the sport. Can the purists honestly tell me cricket is still using the same bats and balls and equipment they were using when the game was conceived about 140 years ago ?. The shots that are played now with batsmen moving around and switching sides mid delivery are all part of the same changes that have and are taking place. You cannot halt progress.

Posted by bobmartin on (June 7, 2014, 12:05 GMT)

I agree that it's a total mess. Did we have all this nonsense before ICC tampered with the Laws by introducing the amount that the arm could straighten in the delivery swing ? No we did not, and there was very little if any controversy for however many years that Law 24 has been in force.(Note that the Laws of Cricket are still as they were before that ICC ruke/regulation. ie NO straightening) Now we have a plethora of chuckers who are taking loads of wickets and affecting the results of matches, simply because on the field where the infringements take place it is virtually impossible for umpires to judge the amount of arm straightening with the naked eye. When they do have suspicions there's a whole rigmarole to be followed which is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. And as long a the ICC persist with this tampering with Law 24, the situation will persist. And as for the ludicrous suggestion of electronic monitoring during a match... I'm speechless..

Posted by   on (June 7, 2014, 11:03 GMT)

What a mess in the making! It all started with the 15 degree rule. Look as to how many bowlers are using full armed shirts!!! I think only Bishen S Bedi called the bluff. As youngsters, when playing club cricket we would see a few chuckers. Now we see them in all their grandeur in international cricket. It is a shame. Imagine the amount of effort needed to rectify at all levels of competitive cricket. As umpires will have no way to empirically determine the degree of flex, a certain bowler can abuse the system and perform in a an important match, for example, a World Cup final. What if his action is determined illegal later, the match result would have been told long back. It is best to not allow any flex and immediately no ball any transgression. After 2 warnings, the bowler should not be allowed to continue to bowl in the innings.

Posted by   on (June 7, 2014, 10:37 GMT)

I'll try again- contraction by triceps followed by a "braking" contraction by biceps at the time of release. Many bowlers throw especially "off cutters" which involve sharp supination. The practical problem with 15 degrees is the detection by the square leg umpire - an unreliable imprecise . Video technology - hawkeye may work.but probably not the gold standard - emg for practical reasons.

Posted by   on (June 7, 2014, 10:33 GMT)

I really hope senanayake gets cleared because he deserved this success he is enjoyin as of late..He was never a star in school cricket,and had to work his way up through the lower tiers of sri lankan club cricket..He may not be naturally talented as players like mendis but he works incredibly hard..He has payed his dues and he deserves success...

Posted by fkhawaja on (June 7, 2014, 6:29 GMT)

whenever there is a series in england and they lose there will be a controversy created to mentally disturb the visitors specially their main players. australia did this with murlidharan, waqar wasim sarfraz etc if I remember correctly. they can't bear the fact that the teams from subcontinent are better. they are scared of india so they will never say a thing against any indian player at all....

Posted by   on (June 7, 2014, 6:24 GMT)

the problem with most commenters is assumption that spinners only chuck .as mentioned by some commentators worst offenders are quicks. why are you clubbing asian teams together when was the last time an indian spinner was reported?

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