The man who helped correct Sunil Narine’s action is confident that tests will find Mohammad Hafeez’s action to be legal. Match officials reported Hafeez for a potentially suspect action after the third ODI against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi. The most-recent instance amounted to the third time in three years that Hafeez has been reported in international cricket.
On Wednesday, in Loughborough, he underwent the ICC test that will determine whether his action is in breach of regulations. Carl Crowe, a former Leicestershire spinner and now a spin-bowling consultant, however, is confident Hafeez’s action will withstand biomechanical scrutiny.
As well as Narine, Crowe helped Hafeez return from a one-year bowling ban, working with him during a brief stint in England last summer. Though he only spent a day or so with him this time before his test, Crowe felt a distinct difference in the faulty action he worked with last year and now.
“He seems more balanced, and is using his body more efficiently, more effectively,” Crowe said. “That’s often an issue with guys who have issues with an arm being flexed. They need to be more efficient with their body, and one or two things we did [last year] helped him do that.
“Did we do any work on his action at the moment? No. There are one or two things we’ve discussed in terms of skill development – not necessarily action development – because we’re confident he doesn’t necessarily really need that.”
Results from the test are expected within a couple of weeks but whatever they show, the frequency with which Hafeez has been reported only to then return represents, in some ways, unchartered territory for the ICC’s approach and protocols in dealing with suspect actions. Twice already his action has been found to be illegal and each time he has rectified it and returned.
At the moment, the first time a bowler is reported and his action subsequently found illegal, he can correct it and, if it passes another assessment, return to bowling immediately. If he is reported and his action found illegal again within 24 months of the first instance, he is automatically suspended from bowling for 12 months. This is what happened with Hafeez in 2015.
At the moment, if Hafeez’s action is found to be illegal – for a third time – he will be treated effectively as a first-incident case. That is, he can rectify his action, pass a test and return anytime. Since the ICC clamped down on illegal actions in 2014, no other bowler has been reported three times.
Additionally, Hafeez was reported once back in 2005 when protocols were different in allowing bowlers to return, and then again in a T20 Champions League game – outside of international cricket – in September 2014.
Crowe once worked with Jenny Gunn, the England bowler whose singularlycomplex bowling action was at least partly responsible for the ICC’s standardization of testing protocols and development of testing labs across the world. But he doesn’t think there is anything in the biomechanic set-up of Hafeez’s action that could be a trigger for umpires.
“Every bowler has different degrees of flex in their arm,” Crowe said. “Many bowlers have idiosyncracies in their action that make it look a certain way. I’m not sure, to be honest, if there is anything particularly wrong about Hafeez’s action.
“When we worked together in 2016, he was very keen to take on board any kind of techniques that would help him become more efficient. My view is that it’s about being a better bowler. It can’t be that I am bowling with a straight arm now but disappearing. I’ve worked a lot with Narine over the years, and the performance has got to be high. Same with Hafeez – last year, when we worked together it was about being a better bowler, not just with a straighter arm.”
Given his importance to their limited-overs revival – they won the Champions Trophy in June and became the number-one ranked T20 side on Wednesday – Pakistan will draw whatever comfort they can from Crowe’s confidence.
“He’s been playing, since he’s remodeled his action, all over the world and I’m confident his action been the same for a while. I’m confident that he’ll go fine, that his flex won’t be a problem.
“To the naked eye, of course, it is difficult to tell, but from what I can tell, I am confident. It’s been a consistent action since I’ve seen him. I’ve played back his action on my phone in slow-mo and am confident.”