The chucking controversy June 25, 2005

ICC biomechanical expert says Murali was right

Murali's travails prompted greater research into bowling actions © Getty Images

Dr Paul Hurrion, one of the biomechanical experts engaged by the International Cricket Council (ICC), has said that Muttiah Muralitharan was right to opt for technology to clear his name after he was called for chucking in a Test match in Australia.

"Technology was first brought in when Murali became the first big case in 1995-96 where people were suspicious of his particular bowling action," said Dr Hurrion, in an exclusive interview with Sri Lanka's Daily News. Hurrion was in Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Fingara Club to introduce his performance analysis and biomechanical software at the inauguration of the Fingara Cricket Academy.

"Murali was always under the microscope and he wanted to use the technology that was available to help clear his name," said Hurrion. "If you believe you are innocent you would do everything in your power to try and come out clean. That's how it all started and it's carried forward. It is not just him now but a number of other bowlers have benefited by it."

Muralitharan was first called for throwing by Australian umpire Darrel Hair in a Test match at Melbourne in 1995. Four years later, Ross Emerson, another Australian umpire, called him in a one-day international. And as recently as last year, Chris Broad, the ICC match referee, reported him for bowling the doosra, which goes the other way.

The controversy surrounding Muralitharan's doosra brought forth a great deal of research. Dr Hurrion, who set the previous levels of tolerance for bowlers at 10 degrees for fast bowlers, 7.5 degrees for medium pacers and 5 degrees for spinners, was asked by the ICC to review it and to arrive at one figure, which was applicable to all bowlers.

"Fifteen degrees was arrived at by the ICC panel which comprised myself, Bruce Elliott and Mark Portus (the other two biomechanical experts)," said Hurrion. "It took us a long time to come to that figure. A lot of heaty discussions took place. When the panel met in Dubai last year, we put all the available data forward. The ICC has done a very thorough job and the new protocols that we have got in place at the moment are very solid."

Thanks to technology, Muralitharan still continues to play international cricket and is the second highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 532 wickets. Hurrion said that the human eye only works at 15 frames per second and cannot grasp anything that takes place faster than that. "We've done a lot of research and we found that bowlers who are under 15 degrees, the human eye doesn't notice when you watch it at full speed purely because the human brain can't work as quickly as a high speed camera.

"Under 15 framed bowlers look fine. It it is when they get above that 15 mark a little question mark comes in and they say: `that didn't look quite right or quite normal'. The problems are when you have somebody bowling around 14, 15 or 16 degrees. When fatigue sets in or he has been hit for four on the previous delivery all these sort of factors creep in."

Dr. Hurrion said that bowlers could be cleared as a result of laboratory testing, but that doesn't give the bowler carte blanche to go and throw in the next game because he could still be easily called. "The bowlers are tested in laboratory conditions for accuracy. That's really fundamental," he said. "We have 4-5 cameras all filming at 200-250 frames per second. It will be very important to replicate what they do in the game as to what they do in lab conditions. We can try with run ups and speeded deliveries and the amount of turn. We can't get any closer to a match situation.

"We've seen some of the old footage of bowlers and it doesn't look very good. Even the old clips we can drop that down to 50 frames per second. Harold Larwood (of Bodyline fame) looks a little suspect. Charlie Griffith was another one. I don't want to single anybody out, but there are certainly past players when you put under slow motion do look a little bit suspect."

He added: "In the past bowlers got away with throwing because the technology was not available as it is today. Technology in sport science is coming into every discipline. Sport today is big business. With money you are always looking for the edge. Money breeds people who look for different avenues to try and improve their performance. If technology can help give your team gain an advantage why not use it?"

As for those past cricketers who still cannot grasp technology and accept the 15-degree rule and criticise it at every opportunity, Hurrion said: "I would challenge anyone who criticizes the 15 degree rule to come and have a look at the high speed camera, the footage and the angles. The camera doesn't lie and the computer data doesn't lie. That's what basically biomechanics is. It can analyse any movement. Technique is biomechanics in a nutshell. It's a new buzz word."