ICC biomechanics tests disputed by UWA

The University of Western Australia (UWA), whom the International Cricket Council (ICC) relied upon for the last 20 years to develop models to test illegal bowling actions, has raised serious doubts over the reliability of the recent biomechanics tests that have seen several international bowlers suspended from the game.

To date Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson have been banned while West Indies’ Sunil Narine, Pakistan’s Mohammad Hafeez and Adnan Rasool were reported for suspect actions in the Champions League T20.

UWA, which withdrew its services from the ICC in March this year because of a dispute over its intellectual property, claimed the ICC was using their methods ‘unsatisfactorily’.

“We have withdrawn our services,” Jacqueline Alderson, an associate professor in biomechanics at UWA told ESPNcricinfo.

“We were initially aggrieved by the ICC leveraging our research without our knowledge or permission. However that is now compounded by the lack of transparency surrounding the current testing.”

In particular, UWA expressed concerns about the monitoring of Ajmal’s action after it had cleared the off-spinner in a previous test in 2009.

Alderson said that in tests conducted on Ajmal in 2009, the ‘frame of ball release’ was crucial in establishing the legality of his bowling 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”.

The university highlighted four areas of concern in the current tests conducted by the ICC: (A) The method of judging the moment of ball release (B) The repercussions of placing markers in different places (C) The influence of both elbow ‘flexion’ and ‘extension’ (D) The continued use of 2D imagery in testing

In an interview to local media in August, Alderson had also cited a lack of “an independent” review as the biggest question mark over the ICC tests.

“The testing of bowlers should be independent, and it’s not.

“Any scientific procedure that can impact on the ability of a player to play the game has to be an independent process and the procedures by which those decisions are made must be open to peer review, and must be available to bowlers and their boards to ensure that process is open and fair. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of cricket.”

Commenting on the issue former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja said the ICC needed to make the procedures behind the tests public otherwise doubts over their reliability would remain.

“It’s a new process. The cricket boards are not privy to it. From 15 degrees to 17 degrees…we were told that his [Ajmal’s] was a minor fault. Now it’s gone up by 100 per cent more. They’ve got to make the process public,” Raja said.

Responding to the latest developments, the ICC said the methods being currently used were “more scientifically advanced than the previous methods.”

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