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.

The Ashes: Charges against Johnson and Stokes dismissed

It has been announced that the charges laid against Mitchell Johnson and Ben Stokes for contravening Section 2.2.4 of the ICC Code of Conduct have been dismissed by match referee Jeff Crowe. No details of the basis of the dismissal have been released albeit one suspects that he determined that the contact between the players was unintentional (section 2.2.4 contains an intent element). Both players are now available for the third test match at Perth.

Cricket: time to ban the drinks waiters!

I wrote during the Ashes in England earlier this year of some changes I would like to see made to the laws of the game of cricket at the top level of the game. One of the areas in which I was proposing change was in the area of the running onto the field of drinks by 12th, 13th and 14th men.

I was astonished to see live just the number of interruptions to the flow of the game by such “drinks waiters” during the first three days of cricket at the Gabba during the first test match. The accountant in me decided to tally up the number of interruptions during one hour of play, specifically the third hour of play on day 3.

During the hour in question, in which the only wicket to fall was one in the final over of the hour, there were no less than eight incursions onto the field by drinks waiters to provide members of both teams with a drink and, in the case of the batters, a change of gloves. Most astonishingly was the call onto the field by the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, for a change of gloves and a drink exactly four minutes or one over before 1:40pm, being the time an actual drinks break would have taken place.

Now I concede that it was a warm and steamy day in Brisbane on the third day of the test match when I undertook this exercise of counting the number incursions by drinks waiters on the field but in an hour when 14 overs were bowled can it really be justified by either side that greater than half of the breaks between overs in the hour in question were punctuated by a break for a drink? Put differentialy, was it really necessary for the drinks to be on the field every 7.5 minutes during the hour of play?

I understand that the ICC has directed its umpires to stamp out this practice in the interests of speeding up play, however, if Messrs Dar and Dharmasena received that message from their pay masters they obviously decided to ignore it because, aside from the occasion I complain of immediately before drinks when Mr Dar did approach Clarke, ostensibly I assume to speed things along, they did nothing to stop the drinks waiters entering the field of play seemingly at the whim of the players.

Of course, every incursion onto the field creates a delay and every delay means that play has to go into overtime to allow for all of the overs required (90 in a day) to be bowled. I just don’t understand why these constant incursions into the field of play are continued to be allowed. At the top level of the game, cricketers are professional athletes and surely they have the necessary level of fitness to continue in the middle without the need to have a drink every 10 minutes (or more to the point every 7 minutes). Club cricketers the world over are called on every weekend to wait for the full hour between drinks so why do the “professionals” get special treatment?

It is a black mark on the game of cricket and I again maintain that it is time for a change in the laws to be made because that is the only way the practice is going to be stamped out. I concede that there are bigger issues in the game that require amendment to the laws but having seen the delays caused by these ongoing disruptions it is the one that is at the forefront of my mind at present.