Hi-tech study launched to detect illegal bowling action
by Janet Langan
The International Cricket Council (ICC) and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) will fund Griffith University and Australia’s elite sporting bodies to develop a wearable, real-time electronic sensor to record and monitor the bowling action during delivery.
The device will be mounted on a bowler's arm to assess the legality of the bowling action instantly by measuring the degree of elbow extension between the time the bowling arm reaches a horizontal level and the release of the ball.
Current ICC regulations stipulate a 15-degree tolerance threshold for elbow extension in the bowling action. This is accepted as the point at which any elbow extension begins to become noticeable to the human eye.
Sports and electronics engineers at Griffith's Centre for Wireless Monitoring and applications will work with Cricket Australia's Sport Science Sport Medicine Unit and the Australian Institute of Sport's Biomechanics department to perfect the tiny electronic device.
Cricket Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport have researched bowling actions for the past 20 years, with much of their recent work used by the ICC to develop procedures to assess doubtful bowling actions.
Griffith University project leader Dr Daniel James said the device was designed as a development tool for up-and-coming bowlers.
It will help coaches assess arm action early on in training as a means of injury prevention, performance improvement and as a corrective aid for suspect actions. It may also be helpful in competition he said.
He said current best practice relies on frame-by-frame video analysis or in-laboratory motion analysis and this new technology would be another tool available to coaches.
There are only a few specialist sports laboratories in the world able to accurately monitor the bowling action. As well as being prohibitively expensive for athletes from remote areas and early-career athletes, this requires the athlete to go into the lab and bowl in an unnatural setting he said.
This can have a psychological effect on performance and critics say it doesn’t necessarily reflect what is happening on the field.
He said the team would take advantage of advances in microelectronics to develop light-weight devices with comparable precision to laboratory based systems.
Working with the Queensland Academy of Sport and the AIS we have had a lot of success developing similar devices to assess the serve of a tennis player and the stroke of an Olympic swimmer he said.
It's now a matter of tailoring the technology and developing software to obtain the sort of information the ICC requires.
The technology will utilise a combination of accelerometers, rate gyroscopes and other wireless inertial sensors. It will be able to record minute position changes in linear and radial directions with technologies such as magnetometers and GPS to ensure a high level of accuracy.
ICC’s General Manager – Cricket David Richardson said this research was crucial in the battle to uphold the regulations around illegal bowling actions.
One of the difficulties of testing bowlers’ actions in laboratory conditions is that it cannot always replicate match conditions successfully said Mr Richardson.
In other words, whether on purpose or unintentionally, the bowler might bowl differently in the lab than when he is out in the middle in the heat of a match when fatigue and greater effort are a factor he said.
That is why a device that a bowler can wear during a match is something we are very excited to be developing.