Regional cricket umpires must be fearless and red-flag bowlers with suspect actions from an early age, says former West Indies fast-bowling all-rounder Vasbert Drakes.
This forthrightness, he explained, would help coaches in taking young bowlers out of the game early in their careers and giving them the rehabilitation work necessary to correct any defects in their bowling.
Last December, young West Indies fast bowler Ronsford Beaton was reported during the second One-Day International between the West Indies and New Zealand while he was on tour. Beaton, a former West Indies Under-19 player, made his first-class debut in 2011 for Guyana. Since then he has taken 64 wickets in 33 first-class matches, 43 wickets in 30 List A games and dismissed 42 batsmen in 46 Twenty20 games.
Earlier this month, Cricket West Indies (CWI) acknowledged that Beaton had failed an independent assessment of his bowling action conducted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and will not be permitted to bowl in international matches.
The 25-year-old bowler was drafted into a bowling camp for young fast bowlers currently being conducted by CWI in Antigua as part of his remedial programme. Following this, Beaton will undergo a reassessment process, if it is successful, he will be able to resume bowling in international matches.
He is the third West Indian bowler to be suspended from bowling by the ICC in the past three years. Off-spinner Sunil Narine was suspended in 2015 after an independent assessment concluded that all variations of his deliveries exceeded the 15-degree limit. Narine was cleared to bowl again five months later after remodelling his action.
In 2015, Marlon Samuels who also bowls off-spin was banned from bowling in international cricket after his action was found to be illegal for the second time in two years. Samuels was given the go-ahead to bowl again earlier this year.
Previously, Jamaican speedster Jermaine Lawson’s promising Test career came to a screeching halt in 2005 at age 23 following issues with the legitimacy of his bowling action. Lawson had come through age-group cricket with the same action and had not been called for throwing by Caribbean umpires.
Last week, Guyanese cricketer commentator and journalist Sean Devers expressed shock at the number of bowlers he saw with suspect actions in Zone B of the regional Super50 Tournament earlier this year.
Drakes told Barbados TODAY that umpires had a key role to play in the initial steps leading to correcting any defects in a bowler’s action.
“Umpires must be fearless and call bowlers from an early age if they detect any defects in their bowling action. This will give coaches the opportunity to stop these bowlers from playing competitive cricket and rehabilitate their action. I can recall the late umpire Vere Miller calling Dale Elcock [Barbadian fast bowler] even though he was seen as an exciting fast bowling prospect at that time. In this modern age, coaches got to use the technology available to them to spot any chinks in the technique of our bowlers. It is devasting on a bowler to pass through the various age group levels, play regional cricket only to have a fault detected in his action after he is playing international cricket”, Drakes said.
He suggested there was a need for a consistent programme for bowlers after they were called for having a suspect action.
“Going forward, there has to be a consistent programme set up by CWI which includes three or four coaches who are paid a similar salary to that of the current bowling consultant Mushtaq Ahmed to assist in the rehabilitation of these bowlers. The rehabilitation of a bowler with a suspect action is a difficult process. It takes about six months to correct the fault in the bowler’s action. There are several corrective measures a coach has to take to eliminate a fault from a bowler’s action. After the fault has been corrected, the coach has to take the bowler through several steps to ensure his new action is automatic and the bowler would not break down after he returns to competition,” Drakes, who is a level three Australia-qualified coach, explained.
He stated that there were several coaches in the region who were capable of assisting players who are suspended with faulty actions and gave a detailed account of the role he played in the rehabilitation of Shane Shillingford after the off-spinner was suspended from bowling for a second time during the West Indies tour of New Zealand in 2013.
“Shillingford’s flexion was over 27 degrees when he bowled the off-break and 22 at the point of delivery of his arm ball; the ICC’s stipulation is 15 degrees. I supervised the remedial work on his action at Kensington Oval and brought his flexion to the degree that was accepted by the ICC. Eventually, his action was cleared and Shillingford returned to international cricket in 2014,” Drakes said.
According to Drakes, while the remedial work on bowlers with illegal actions can be done in the region, there are no testing stations approved to validate the remedial work done on the bowler’s action after the faults have been ironed out.
“The labs are located in England, South Africa, India and Australia. We, however, have the coaches in Barbados and the rest of the region who can do the work with these players. In Barbados, Henderson Springer, Corey Collymore, Dexter Toppin, Ezra Mosley and Sherwin Campbell among others, have the capacity to do the rehabilitation on the action of these bowlers. Recently, several former Test and first-class cricketers and club cricketers passed their level three coaching examinations, so we now have a number of local and regional coaches who have the technical expertise to assist in the development of our cricketers and take the game forward,” Drakes said.