UWA’s Issues with ICC’s Current Bowling-Action Testing Methods!

The dispute between the ICC and the University of Western Australia (UWA), which was previously the sole laboratory for testing bowlers with suspect actions, centres around the loopholes that UWA says can be found in current testing procedures, and the impact of technical issues on the bowlers under scrutiny.

The chief concerns, raised by Jacqueline Alderson, associate professor in biomechanics at UWA, are:

The method of judging the moment of ball release – and whether this could disadvantage spin bowlers
The repercussions of placing markers in different places
The influence of both elbow ‘flexion’ and ‘extension’
The continued use of 2D imagery in testing

Alderson says that in tests conducted on Ajmal in 2009, the ‘frame of ball release’ was crucial in establishing the legality of his action. “More than any other bowler we have tested,” Alderson said, a large number of Ajmal’s deliveries would have been illegal in the 2009 testing if the point of ball release was identified to be “1-2 frames or 0.004-0.008 seconds later”.

UWA conducted a study after the Ajmal tests and found that the most reliable way to identify the point of ball release for spinners was by using synchronised high-speed video (with the 3D system). The method developed at the UWA to automatically identify the ball release frame (by identifying a change in the distance between markers placed on the ball and the hand) can reliably be used for fast/medium pace bowlers, but it is not so with spinners. “As spin bowlers release the ball out of different parts of the hand, which may or may not involve the fingers, any automated marker tracking method should not be used to identify ball release,” Alderson said.

Should ball-release parametres and tracking methods be arrived at by “automated” methods of testing, Alderson said, it would “significantly disadvantage spin bowlers”. She added that, “ball release identification would however not affect the legality findings of current ICC reports using the ‘new model’, given the extremely high elbow extension ranges that are being reported.”