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Bowling faces true test over actions

August 28, 2012

CANBERRA: SIX years after Shane Warne called on the International Cricket Council to test the legality of bowling actions in match conditions instead of laboratories, Australian scientists have unveiled a prototype to do just that.

The biomechanist leading the project, Marc Portus, said he believed the technology, commissioned by the ICC and Marylebone Cricket Club, should be ready for use in first-class matches in about two years and would help rid the game of illegal actions.

Bowlers who competed in the recent under-19 World Cup have tested the technology at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Ultimately, bowlers will wear two sensors, each about the size of a 20¢ piece, one above and one below the elbow, to measure the degree of elbow flexion, with the results transmitted wirelessly to a laptop.

Under the current system, bowlers reported for suspicious actions have their action tested in an ICC-approved laboratory to determine whether they exceed 15 degrees.

One of the drawbacks of this is that they can, deliberately or subconsciously, modify their actions or the amount of work they put on the ball. It can also be difficult for umpires to detect suspicious actions in games when bowlers wear long-sleeve shirts.

”Testing in a lab does bring some limitations and one of them is that it’s very hard to recreate the environment of elite match play,” Portus told The Age.

”That’s always been one of the criticisms, no matter how good the science is, so this is a way to bridge that gap.

”It’s definitely going to help. I’m biased, I believe science has made the issue a little less emotive even though it’s still not without its frustrations. But this is going to help get the issue resolved more clearly in terms of who has an illegal action and what an illegal action looks like.

”Hopefully it helps nip the problem in the bud if there can be more analysis, more identification at junior level so we can do something about it, because once they’re playing international cricket it’s very hard to fix.”

In 2006, Sri Lanka’s Muthiah Muralidaran consented to voluntary testing of his action at the University of Western Australia and was found to bowl with an elbow flexion of 14.4 degrees, just within the legal limit.

At the time, Warne said the testing was flawed because it did not simulate match conditions and called for a new, match-based method in the fight against throwing.

ICC chief executive David Richardson said he was encouraged by the research team’s progress. ”The ICC is keen to see this technology implemented in elite cricket.”



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