Getting it right LIVING CRICKET
By Imran Khan
Stabroek News
January 19, 2004

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Late last week a report came out in the Jamaican media that West Indies fast bowler Jermaine Lawson was cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for his suspect bowling action and was now free to return to international cricket. I took heart and silently wished the young paceman well on his expected return.

Upon hearing the report and the fact that Lawson had learnt of the clearance from the media, a number of passionate couch critics went on the attack, particularly on the Internet, lambasting the West Indies Cricket Board for the shoddy manner in which the matter was apparently handled.

Shortly after, I was in contact with Dr. Michael Seepersaud the Chief Cricket Develop-ment Officer of the WICB on other matters and asked him about the issue.

He expressed utter surprise and sought to clarify, what was for me, a grave misunderstanding.

What Dr. Seepersaud ex-plained was indeed shocking. Lawson, contrary to popular belief, was never 'banned' or prevented from playing international cricket by the ICC. Therefore the ICC could not have 'cleared' him to play international cricket as suggested by the media report.

Lawson, you will remember was reported after the fourth Test match between the West Indies and Australia last year after he had rocked the visitors with a seven-wicket haul.

Dr. Seepersaud, a Guyanese, noted that with regard to illegal bowling action there are two stages as stipulated by the ICC. Stage One is exclusively under the purview of the local board while if the matter progresses to Stage Two then, and only then, would the ICC take over.

Lawson being reported for the first time last year is still at Stage One and this is being handled exclusively by the WICB.

What confused the whole matter was at the same time when Lawson was reported for a questionable bowling action he sustained an injury to his back. The widely held view at that time which was further perpetuated and bolstered by the media was that Lawson was out of action as a result of him being reported to the ICC for his action. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The young Jamaican, even though he was reported could have continued playing international cricket and it is only because he had a back injury that he did not. For a period of six weeks after he was initially reported, the WICB was obligated to review his bowling action using one of the ICC recommended experts. This review had to be done with Lawson bowling at normal speed. As a result of the injury the assessment could not have been done until some time after.

For all this time though, if Lawson was not injured he could have been on the field for the West Indies and no umpire could have reported or 'called' him a second time. Upon completion of Stage One, the WICB will make a report to the ICC and a fit Lawson can return to playing for the Windies.

The danger in sending Lawson back into international cricket with a kinked action is that should he then be reported or called for a second time the process will move into Stage Two. At such time the WICB would have no involvement with the ICC taking over.

Currently the WICB Bowling Review Committee is waiting for Lawson to regain full fitness so that they can assess him in a match situation and then submit a report to the WICB. Once the report confirms that whatever problems Lawson may have had are gone then the WICB can feel comfortable with him returning to playing for the West Indies.

At the moment it is his back injury, and not any questions with his bowling action that is preventing him from taking the field for Jamaica in the Carib Beer Series.

So for a report to come from any source suggesting that the ICC has 'cleared' Lawson to return to international cricket can mean one of two things. It is a misunderstanding of the processes or it is a complete and mischievous fabrication.

Where their handling of the corrective measures that Jermaine Lawson has to go through, the WICB is spot on. Rare, but true.

The WICB deserves some criticism though for their negligence in not spelling out the issue in fine detail for the West Indies fans. But that is nothing new.


Stage One

1. Bowler is reported (to the ICC) or called for suspect action.

2. Home board has six weeks to do an assessment to determine whether there is merit in the report.

3. If it is found that there is merit in the report then the home board is exclusively responsible for taking remedial action.

4. After remedial action the player can return to international cricket.

During the entire Stage One the player at no time is 'banned' by the ICC.

Stage Two

1. If the player is called or reported for a suspect action after completing remedial action as outlined in Stage One the ICC has their bowling experts examine the player

2. If it is found that there is merit in the report the ICC will assign an expert (or team of experts) to work with the bowler to correct his action.

3. Once such remedial work is completed satisfactorily the bowler may return to international cricket.