A look at action re-modelling
06 Dec 2005
By: Harry Warwick
Action remodelling is often a controversial matter and, when an action is reported, is usually at the forefront of much discussion in cricketing communities. But do bowlers really recover after their action rehabilitation, or do they fall victim to this controversial matter?
I can speak on a personal note regarding this problem; having had my action re-modelled three times in the last three years, I can empathise with the international cricketers who have had their actions under scrutiny. It's very hard in correcting things that come so naturally and that you have been doing for such a long time, and a bowler's action is certainly something that becomes second nature after a while.
My action was re-modelled through constant injuries that I sustained whilst bowling and I found it hard to correct these defaults that were set in my mind. To change from having a tight, compact action to a Harmison-esque one requires a lot of time and effort, as well as requiring a great deal of coaching. You can imagine that a professional who has bowled successfully in their own style for a good number of years more than I have would probably find it twice as difficult to re-model.
Below I will attempt to summarise and analyse some of the major action changes, and the repercussions of the action rehabilitation that has taken place in the unfortunate bowler's careers.
Let's start with one of the greats, Dennis Lillee. Lillee was, at first, a wild, runaway fast bowler, but his lack of a correct technique eventually ruined his back, giving him stress fractures. This resulted in Lillee missing quite a large chunk of his career whilst he re-modelled his action and received intensive physiotherapy.
But Lillee returned rejuvenated and was back playing for Australia in the 1970s. From then onwards he tore up helpless batting attacks with his strike partner, Jeff Thomson, recording his best bowling figures against the West Indies - 7-83, including the prize scalp of Vivian Richards. In this time he also overtook Lance Gibbs' test wicket tally and powered his way to 355 test wickets, then a world record. From this evidence, it is clear that action re-modelling definitely worked for Lillee, and turned him into one of the all time greats.
On a more recent note, Shabbir Ahmed, the Pakistani pace bowler, has been reported yet again to the ICC with a suspect action. His action was initially suspected in his first ODI, where he was called for throwing, but he soon returned to action after working hard with Michael Holding, the former West Indian pace bowler.
Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the Ahmed was in the spotlight again for chucking. He was reported once in New Zealand and has been again in England's current tour to Pakistan. This has put him out of action in the series, with captain Inzamam Ul Haq not risking playing him again.
So where will Ahmed go from here? His action has already blighted his career twice, and it remains to be seen what steps are to be taken next. In this case Ahmed's re-modelled action is still not legitimate enough for test cricket.
Jermaine Lawson is another pace bowler who has recently undergone action rehabilitation. After making a brilliant start to his test career, including a hat-trick versus the Australians, Lawson was reported to the ICC with a suspect action.
Lawson changed his action and was promptly cleared by the ICC, but it was not long before he had to change again. Unfortunately a spinal problem put him out of the ICC Champions Trophy at the end of his comeback season. Thankfully Lawson has recovered, and is now back playing test cricket. With his new action however, things haven't been going as well as they were, and Lawson struggled against the Australian batsman.
Lawson's action is still not without controversy although he has been given the all-clear by the ICC.
Another West Indian whose action was deeply criticised was Charlie Griffith. Many coaches who worked with Charlie suspected that he threw the ball, especially his bouncers and yorkers (two of the most dangerous weapons in his armoury).
Griffith didn't make his run up quicker to achieve the yards of extra pace on his bouncer and yorker alike many bowlers, in fact there seemed to be no difference with his body or approach to the crease at all. The extra pace was generated from his bent arm, which exceeded acceptable limits.
There were examinations into Griffith's action whilst he was in the commonwealth team touring Pakistan. His coach, Alf Gover, noticed that it all seemed to go wrong when he landed at the crease after his bound. As Griffith went very wide of the crease and angled the ball into the batsman's body, his right foot angled unnaturally towards the batsman, and his left even more unnaturally towards second slip. From this position he could only 'fall over' in his delivery stride, so therefore his chest was not front on, but pointed towards first slip.
From this position Griffith could only do two things: fall away towards the off side and throw. As his body went over, the weight balance had to be compensated by an opposite force; in this case it was the elbow, which ended up pointing toward mid wicket leaving the ball by Griffith's face. From this position the arm must be bent when the ball is released. There is no way that he can straighten his arm.
Griffith was lucky to escape being called for throwing during that series, and many put this down to the fact that the Pakistani umpires were relatively inexperienced and new to the international scene.
Griffith is a fine example why the throwing rule is so eagerly pounced on by umpires and officials these days. It is likely that he would not have been the bowler he was if he'd been called for chucking; he would have been without his deadly yorker and bouncer, and without the express pace that made him feared by many of the batsmen around that time (a bouncer that he bowled once hit Indian Nari Contractor over the head, and caused Contractor to require life-saving brain surgery).
From looking at the above examples, it is clear to see that action rehabilitation has claimed the careers of some, but has aided the careers of others. It will be interesting to see how Shabbir Ahmed will come out of his re-modelling, and whether he can really get around his throwing problem. Also it will be interesting to see what the future holds for bowlers plagued with constant injuries, as from the brief look in this article, they seem to have come back stronger than the throwers. I may be able to prove this further once I have a chance to test out my new action next season.
Unfortunately the trauma caused by the questionable action is still out there and claiming wickets as we speak, but as of yet the human race has not found a cure without side effects.