Kirtley takes on winter of work to amend action

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The Independent Online

James Kirtley, the former England fast bowler, is determined to amend his bowling action after failing an independent assessment on it at the end of the 2005 season. Kirtley was ordered to undergo biomechanical testing at Loughborough by the England and Wales Cricket Board after twice being reported by umpires during the summer.

The tests concluded that Kirtley's right arm straightened by more than 15 degrees, the maximum level of extension permitted by the International Cricket Council, and he has been suspended from bowling until the problem has been corrected.

Kirtley must now prove to the ECB that he has done so before he is allowed to bowl for Sussex in 2006. The 30-year-old will work on his action during the winter at the National Academy in Loughborough with Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach, and will be re-examined once the pair feel the problem is rectified.

If Kirtley passes this test he will be free to play for his county. Yet should he fail he will have to undergo further coaching and pass a subsequent test before being allowed back in the game.

It is not the first time Kirtley has been in this position. Throughout his career there have been murmurings about the legality of his whippy action, and his England debut against Zimbabwe in October 2001 was overshadowed when he was reported by the match referee at the end of the one-day international.

"I'm frustrated to find myself in this position again," said Kirtley. "We just have to go about the right process and be confident of clearing my name. I know what's involved and that'll put me in good stead. The last time I did it I had a very successful summer so I can hopefully look forward to a successful 2006.

"At any time we can ask for a second analysis and if I am cleared I can continue to bowl. Would this break a lesser man? It might well do. The thought of jumping on a plane and going off with a one-way ticket somewhere is quite appealing but you can't do that.

"I've had a very successful career that I'm very proud of and I don't want something like this to put a slur on all that I have achieved."

Since the ICC introduced a 15-degree tolerance level in 2004 several bowlers have been reported. Each spent time working with a coach, changed their bowling action and returned to the game. Very few, if any, bowlers throw deliberately but this has not prevented it from becoming a taboo subject in cricket. Batsmen become paranoid about the actions of bowlers, and being called a "chucker" is, for a bowler, akin to being called a cheat.

Eradicating the problem for good will be almost as hard as losing the unfavourable tag that comes with being reported. When a bowler is strong and fresh his action tends to remain pure, but once the body becomes tired bad habits creep in. Timing can go awry, and in an effort to bowl at the same pace more balls are likely to be thrown.

All bowlers straighten their arm to some degree, but the amount can also vary depending on which type of delivery is bowled. Indeed, when Kirtley was tested after being reported in 2001 it was found that his arm straightened more when he bowled a yorker.

Research has found that there are basically two types of bowling action. There are the javelin throwers - bowlers who bowl with an open-chested action and drop the left shoulder as the arm comes over - and discus throwers, bowlers who start side on, lock their arm out straight at an early stage and swing it through.

Those bowlers whose actions resemble a javelin thrower, of which Kirtley is one, consistently straighten their arm more than those with a technique that resembles a discus thrower.

Heath Streak is set to retire from international cricket after accepting an invitation to captain Warwickshire in 2006. The former Zimbabwe all-rounder replaces Nick Knight who stood down from the job at the end of the 2005 season.

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