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ICC response to recent articles regarding ICC suspected illegal action testing

Bowlers are not being targeted depending on which region they come from

ICC response to recent articles regarding ICC suspected illegal action testing - Cricket News
In its attempt to eradicate illegal bowling actions, the ICC is committed to ensuring the game’s integrity is maintained.

In June this year, the issue of illegal bowling actions reached a tipping point within the cricket community, when the ICC Cricket Committee expressed the view that there were a number of bowlers operating in international cricket with suspected illegal actions and that they needed to be scrutinised more closely. The ICC Cricket Committee consists of some of the most respected people in cricket, and their views are always presented in the best interests of the game. 

Their comments were consistent with views that had been expressed by teams, players, umpires and referees. Since that time, umpires have shown more confidence in reporting their concerns relating to suspected illegal actions, and judging by the results of the testing, their concerns have been vindicated. The ICC rejects any suggestion that bowlers are being targeted depending on which region they come from - the concerns of umpires relate solely to the bowling action of the player.

ICC Strategy to deal with Illegal Actions
The ICC’s illegal bowling action procedures are straightforward. The umpires report a bowler with a suspected illegal bowling action to the ICC. That bowler is then tested at an ICC accredited centre. 

However, there are two differences from past practices: (i) the location of the testing centre; and (ii) the protocol used in assessing the legality of a bowler’s action. Both the changes were necessitated following the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) decision to withdraw its testing services in March 2014.

The ICC’s current approach to testing bowlers with suspected illegal actions is to have its own protocol that belongs to the ICC and its Member Boards, and to have that protocol consistently used at different testing centres across the cricketing world. The ICC’s testing protocol is available to institutions that have the required equipment, facilities and personnel to test bowlers using the protocol, and that have the support of the Member Board in the territory in which the institution is based.

Development of ICC Testing Protocol

The ICC’s team of human movement specialists has developed the ICC testing protocol from first principles, using the published research in this area, the recommendations from the ICC’s expert panel that looked at the issue of testing protocols in 2010 (recommendations that were not implemented by the UWA), and particularly the expertise and research of the ICC’s lead biomechanist, Dr Andrea Cutti, much of which was completed before he started working for the ICC.

Dr Cutti is a Board member of the International Shoulder Group, a sub-group of the International Society of Biomechanics, who has well over 70 peer-reviewed scientific journal and conference publications in the field of human biomechanics, many of these in the area of shoulder and elbow motion. His first involvement in cricket was in 2010, when he was nominated by the UWA to be an independent assessor in the ICC review of testing protocols. 

In the background of the above, the ICC strongly refutes any inference that it has copied the UWA’s methods, or misused the UWA’s intellectual property in developing its testing protocol. Furthermore, the recent articles present no evidence to support this contention, and instead include a number of points that contradict this assertion.

ICC Accredited Testing Centres

The ICC’s initial aim is to accredit a testing centre in each of its five regions. With the ICC in discussions with a university in South Africa, the next task will be identify a potential testing centre in the Americas. Facilities in several other countries have shown interest in earning ICC accreditation to assist them with screening bowlers from their domestic competitions.

To be accredited, a facility needs to have the following;- an indoor area large enough to allow a player to bowl off his or her normal full run-up; a motion analysis system with a minimum of 12 high speed cameras capable of producing three-dimensional data, suitably qualified personnel, experienced in using such systems, and implementing the ICC testing protocol.

The ICC is fortunate to have a number of experienced biomechanists in the global team it has assembled to address the issue of illegal bowling actions in elite cricket.

In particular, the Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai and the Cricket Australia National Cricket Centre in Brisbane were recently accredited by the ICC, with both having world-class facilities and highly-qualified staff. The team in Chennai has now tested dozens of bowlers using the ICC testing protocol, as have the experienced biomechanical staff that run the testing programme at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.

The ICC strongly defends the qualifications, skills and integrity of the members of this team that have been unfairly maligned by comments by representatives of the UWA.

Peer Review
There have been a series of accusations made by a UWA representative that the ICC has not subjected its testing protocol to peer scrutiny. 

The ICC has provided its testing protocol to a number of highly-credentialed biomechanists associated with five different tertiary institutions across the world who are working with the testing protocol within the cricket industry.  As the UWA ended its relationship with the ICC, the ICC’s testing protocol has not been provided to representatives of UWA, or third parties that have approached the ICC to obtain the testing protocol on behalf of UWA. 

The ICC has also commenced the process of having the protocol externally reviewed by world-renowned upper limb biomechanists who are not directly involved in cricket. Research conducted using the protocol will also be submitted for publication in scientific journals in the near future. 

Recent Testing of Bowlers

There have been questions raised about the consistency of the ICC’s testing and the impact on the future of the bowlers that have recently been reported and suspended.

To ensure consistent application of the ICC testing protocol, each bowler who has been reported in international cricket and tested since June has had his test conducted by the same people - the ICC’s lead human movement specialists, who were responsible for developing the ICC’s protocol.

The ICC is confident that the standardised protocol, quality control procedures and extensive training that has been undertaken with staff at the accredited facilities will allow this level of consistency to be maintained. 

The five bowlers tested since June have all exhibited illegal actions during testing. Their actions are characterised by a high degree of elbow bending (flexion), and then straightening (extension), between the upper arm horizontal and ball release positions of the action. Video footage taken from multiple angles during the tests have demonstrated elbow postures that correspond to the official elbow angle measurements obtained using the three-dimensional motion analysis testing system. 

Prior to testing, the ICC reminds the bowlers that in order for the test to be valid they must replicate the action displayed in the match footage obtained from the spells cited by the umpires in their report. During the tests, bowlers are provided with comparative high speed video feedback and if a bowler appears to be using a different action during the test, they are encouraged to replicate their match action. The ICC makes no apology for this.

Advancing Illegal Action Testing

It is widely known that the ICC has invested in an ongoing project to develop sensors to detect suspected illegal bowling actions in a match situation. The ICC is also aware of the work of researchers and technology providers who are looking at alternative methods to measure suspected illegal bowling actions in match situations. 

As none of these methods have been developed to the stage of being ready to use in an international match, the ICC continues to use the tried method of laboratory testing to assess the legality of a bowler’s action, with a focus on ensuring the bowler replicates his match action in the laboratory. 

The ICC will continue to address the issue of illegal bowling actions and are encouraged by the ongoing support of the cricketing community.