NEW "wearable" technology is to be introduced by the ICC to settle doubts about illegal actions, a problem that still occasionally hurts cricket, especially at international development level.
The ICC announced from Dubai this week that they had entered a second phase of an agreement with a consortium of high profile Australian cricket, sports science and sports engineering institutions to test the legality of bowling actions in match and training conditions.
In the past umpires have reported doubtful actions, and players have been suspended for remedial work, but borderline cases have not been satisfactorily settled by the ICC's use of relatively crude technology. Muttiah Muralitharan in exasperation used his own 'technology' in 2004 -- a plastercast on his right arm -- to prove he could bowl his doosra and those huge off-spinners stiff-armed without a hint of a throw. This was not in the ICC street, effective though it was at silencing sceptics. The Sri Lankan achieved his turn with a strong shoulder action and double-jointed wrists. He looked as though he threw without actually doing so, hence the controversy.
The ICC have been working with experts to produce a process capable of measuring bowlers’ actions in a match environment. Known as inertial sensors, they employ similar technology to that used in iPads, mobile phones and car crash impact detection systems.
The ICC are expecting the technology to be light, cost effective and wearable on the bowler’s arm, not hindering performance while still allowing information about the throw-like features of an illegal action to be assessed in near real time in both match and training environments.
Bowlers under report for a suspicious bowling action are currently required to attend an ICC-approved biomechanics laboratory to assess the amount of elbow extension in their bowling action.
It seems as though, from the ICC news release, that the technology will eventually become widely available so that individual countries and elite centres can monitor their own players. Actions can be scrutinised and adapted without too much fuss and cost.
The research team comprises sport scientists and engineers from Griffith University’s centre for wireless monitoring and applications in Brisbane (Engineers Dr. Daniel James and Dr. Andrew Wixted), the Australian Institute of Sport’s biomechanics department in Canberra (Cricket Biomechanist Mr. Wayne Spratford) and Cricket Australia’s centre of excellence in Brisbane.
The project is being managed on behalf of the ICC by Praxis Sport Science Pty Ltd, an Australian-based sports science consultancy company headed up by Dr Marc Portus. Dr Portus was involved with the original research behind the 15 degree tolerance threshold for illegal actions when he worked as a Biomechanist for the Australian Institute of Sport and Cricket Australia.
The second phase of the three-phase project will conclude in late 2013 and is concerned with the technology’s measurement methods and precision against current laboratory protocols. In 2014 phase three will focus on making the technology more comfortable for players as well as maximising wireless data transmission and battery life.
ICC chief executive, David Richardson, said: "The ICC is keen to see this technology implemented in elite cricket and believe it will be a significant stride forward in detecting illegal bowling actions in match conditions.
"We would also like to see the technology used in training environments as a tool to help bowlers correct their flawed bowling action. We are encouraged by the progress made so far by the Australian research team and also acknowledge the MCC, who have made a significant financial contribution to the project."