What is suspect action? Why does Narine’s future come into question?

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Sunil Narine with KKR captain Dinesh Karthik
Courtesy: India TV

KKR mystery spinner Sunil Narine was reported for suspect action following his match-winning spell against the Kings XI Punjab on Saturday. While it is not the first time that the West Indian has been caught for his action, the proceedings surely bring his future in this year’s IPL into question. According to the guidelines set by the International Cricket Council (ICC), Narine will be allowed to play and bowl even now but will be closely monitored. Another violation of rules however, might follow with abandonment according to the ICC Illegal Bowling Regulations.

“The report was made by the on-field umpires according to the IPL’s Suspected Illegal Bowling Action Policy. Mr Narine will be placed on the Warning List and is permitted to continue to bowl in the tournament.”  – The statement issued by IPL

What is a Suspect Action?

The bowlers, while bowling, are only allowed to extend the elbow by a maximum of 15 degrees. An extension in excess of 15 degrees is termed illegal and the consequent bowling action is reported to the ICC. This monitoring of bowling actions is done by both, the on-field umpires as well as the match referee. Even the official domestic cricket leagues and tournaments in cricket playing nations are required to monitor the bowlers.

A bowler primarily generates his pace from his action. The dynamics of one’s body while delivering the ball are key to the direction, pace as well as the induced spin or deviation on the ball. Therefore, tapping the bowling actions to ensure a fair game is important within the spirit of the sport. An illegal action is referred to as throwing the ball rather than bowling the ball by the ICC. It is defined by the angle by which a player’s elbow extends between their arm reaching the horizontal and the ball being released. A report is submitted by the match officials for further verification, given their knowledge of naked eye and experience.

The player is then tested at an ICC Accredited Testing Centre, using state-of-the-art technology and supervised by experts in the science of human movement. The bowler is asked to bowl all kinds of variations in his arsenal and the legality is verified. If the action is found illegal, they will be suspended from bowling until they have modified their bowling action and undertaken another test successfully.

Official ICC video: https://www.icc-cricket.com/video/327390

The case of Sunil Narine:

Sunil Narine reported for suspect action, allowed to continue bowling for KKR
Courtesy: India Today

The West Indian spinner was first suspected for illegal action in 2015. A certain set of deliveries caused Narine the problem as he was banned from international cricket after testing. However, Narine bounced back in early 2016 with a renewed approved action. The pressure one faces after undergoing correction is immense but Narine had been fairly successful in T20 leagues even post 2016. There have been no further altercations with regards to his actions since then, but one believes his action is one of the prime reasons for being away from international cricket.

“We are hopeful that there would be an appropriate resolution quickly. We appreciate the cooperation being extended by the IPL in expediting this matter.” -Kolkata Knight Riders said in a statement

The incident on Saturday though would have surely brought back the hauntings of 2015 for Sunil Narine. Despite bowling a match winning spell in the death against KXIP, Narine is arguably on the edge of suspension. The entire team dynamics for the Kolkata Knight Riders depend on the availability of Narine and this unexpected development is sure to raise few concerns.

Influence of the past:

Muralitharan's bowling action
Courtesy: Sportskeeda

Over the years, there have been many instances where bowlers have been accused or even proved of illegal actions. The likes of Mohammad Hafeez, Ambati Rayudu, Shikhar Dhawan, Saeed Ajmal and others have all found themselves stuck in the net for longer periods. The topic was first raised when the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan first ventured into international cricket. An apparent deformity in his elbow made it impossible for him to bowl with a straight arm. Similarly, the bowling arm of a Shoaib Akhtar or an RP Singh extended backwards involuntarily while bowling (hyper-extension). The modern rules referring to the change in extension of the elbow or the neglecting of hyper-extensions if any, were therefore introduced for the same considering possible physical barriers.

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