Cricket: Shillingford, Samuels and 15 degrees

The International Cricket Council has announced that West Indian off spinner Shane Shillingford has been suspended from bowling in international cricket as a result of failing a biomechanical test after a report made last month during a test match in Mumbai against India. The testing found that his standard and quicker deliveries both exhibited an elbow extension in his bowling action that exceeded the 15 degree level of tolerance allowed under the ICC regulations.

This is the second time Shillingford has been banned from bowling, having been reported and failed a biomechanical test in November 2010. He resumed bowling after remedial work in June 2011.

Marlon Samuels was reported at the same time as Shillingford and was found to have a suspect action when bowling his faster ball only and thus he is now restrained from bowling that faster ball in international cricket. He too has been banned from bowling before by the ICC having been reported in February 2008 and resumed bowling in September 2011.

There are two astonishing aspects to this case:

1. Shillingford has been allowed to play in the first two tests of the current West Indian series in New Zealand. He played a significant role in the first test match in reducing the New Zealanders to 4/79 chasing 112 to win. Whilst that match ended in a draw, what would have been the position now if he have managed to bowl the West Indies to victory? That victory would be tainted by the use of a bowler with a banned action and, arguably, if it had have happened, the New Zealanders would have every reason to feel very hardly done by. Surely this situation, being a player being allowed to play in test matches whilst under investigation, must be looked at. I am all for people being innocent until proven guilty but where a player has the ability to materially effect the course of a test match I am of the view that the player must be stood down pending the completion of the investigation rather than being allowed to blithely play on.

2. Samuels’ ban is only related to his faster ball and is only in international cricket. It was obvious to all who watched him in domestic T20 competition this year that his elbow was past the 15 degree limitation and yet neither the IPL or Big Bash League administrators did anything to stop him from bowler. It is seems incongruous to allow a bowler to keep bowling despite one of his two delivery types having been found in breach of the laws. The ICC needs to look closely at this result and the cricket community more broadly needs to look at the imposition of an ICC penalty applying across all domestic cricket as well.

I feel sorry for any player found to have fallen foul of the ICC’s regulations when it comes to the angle of their bowling arm because there are few more difficult stigma’s to shake in cricket than being called a chucker. Nonetheless, the fact that players under investigation and one found in breach continues to play despite that finding makes a mockery of the rules and the ICC’s enforcement of them.