Sri Lankan ergonomist offers scientific resolve
in Murali case
By Sonali Samarasinghe - Back
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Sri Lankan scientist and ergonomist Dr. Ravi Goonetilleke
now based in Hong Kong has offered his services to resolve the Muralitharan
dilemma once and for all.
Constant dithering by the ICC and Australian authorities has made
this fiasco into a recurring nightmare for a young player hailed
as a world class spinner of the ball.
The chucking controversy has degenerated into a circus act with
West Indies captain Richardson and all-rounder Carl Hooper who were
facing Muralitharan during a three-over spell when he was no balled
seven times by umpire Emerson, being mystified at the decision.
Dr. Goonetilleke is a Professor of Ergonomics at the Department
of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management in the Hong
Kong University of Science and Technology in Clear Water Bay. Dr.
Goonetilleke has set up a world class Human Performance Laboratory
to enhance the science of Ergonomics during his 16 month stay in
Hong Kong. He has been practising in this specialised field for
over 14 years in the United States and Hong Kong. Prior to his present
position in Hong Kong, he headed the Ergonomics Research Division
at the NIKE Sports Research Laboratory at their Headquarters in
Oregon USA. He has been constantly involved in various research
activities and projects with world class athletes and sportsmen
and women while working at the world class fitness company, NIKE,
Inc. Ergonomics is the science that deals with the interactions
between humans and the tools and equipment they use. In simpler
terms, it deals with various human-machine interactions. One primary
component of this science is the measurement of posture during work
or sports activity. Dr. Goonetilleke is confident that with his
expertise and the internationally utilised equipment he possesses
in his lab in Hong Kong he can accurately and objectively determine
Muralitharan's bowling action which has so far only being based
on subjective opinions of Australian umpires.
Dr. Goonetilleke who has also served as an Ergonomics consultant
in the US dealing with occupational injuries and sports biomechanics
for the Biomechanics Corporation of America in New York, may be
just the expert Sri Lanka needs to put the Murali saga finally to
rest. According to Dr. Goonetilleke, there are a number of techniques
available today to measure dynamic posture using computerised equipment.
One of them is an electrogoniometer which weighs no more than a
few games, and which is attached across the elbow joint using adhesive
or tape. Dr. Goonetilleke explains that postural measurements taken
using this electronic equipment, during Muralitharan's bowling action
and performed under normal field conditions would accurately determine
the three dimensional elbow angles during the bowling action. The
information collected of the elbow angles at sampling rates of over
25 angles per second can be downloaded directly to a portable computer.
However, in a field setting he possesses a data logger of the size
of a computer mouse which can be carried around in one's pocket
in a very noninvasive manner. These data logger's are so powerful
that they can store more information than one can ever think of.
At the end of a recording session, or an actual playing session
to be precise, the information in the data logger can be downloaded
into a computer for further analysis to determine the elbow angles
throughuot the bowling action to make an unbiased decision of the
throwing controversy now existing.
In Dr. Buddy Reid's welcome analysis of Murali's action, he is
diagnosed to have a fixed deformity of 32 degrees at the elbow on
his right arm and 26 degrees on the left elbow at birth. His analysis
also reported that as Muralitharan's shoulder rotates the arm, and
the arm continues forwards, and downwards, the forearm then becomes
straight in line with the arm, giving an impression of a straightening
of the elbow although no actual straightening occurs. The only unfortunate
points in these arguments are (which some Australians were quick
to point out) that the measurements were taken in a clinical setting
in static conditions and the inability to support the impression
of a straigthening. The method proposed by Dr. Goonetilleke will
reveal the elbow angle in a dynamic situation which will critically
determine whether the Sri Lankan spinner has indeed a chucking action.
Dr. Goonetilleke who is in Sri Lanka on a short holiday at the
moment has already communicated his willingness to scientifically
investigate this issue, directly to the Minister of Sports, Youth
Affairs and Rural Development, and to the Cricket Lovers Association
(CLA) through Dr. Hemamal Jayawardena.
Cricket has changed over the years to now include match umpires
and a third umpire who determine decisions on slow motion video
replays where the field umpire is unable to make a judgement due
to the inability of the naked eye and determine information precisely.
It may be time that the ICC utilised state-of-the-art equipment
such as electro-goniometers to quantitatively determine and evaluate
bowling actions. Bowlers should be scientifically monitored rather
than called subjectively, based on umpire opinions which are normally
made on perception which can give rise to significant perceptual
illusions, especially since the umpires angle of view can be as
large as 30 degrees from the longitudinal pitch axis at point of
ball delivery. In this decade of computerisation, it is a pity that
ICC countries are unaware of state-of-the-art technologies to resolve
subjective opinions using more objective measurements.
It is to be hoped that all this, will in the end prevent a crucifixion
of one of the world's best off spinners. Meanwhile the unassuming
23-year-old seems reasonably well balanced to handle the psywar
practised on him.
The Minister of Sports, Youth Affairs & Rural Development S.
B. Dissanayake, is to be commended for taking prompt action to present
Sri Lanka's case together with a full report from Prof. Ravi Goonetilleke,
to the ICC through the Board of Control for Sri Lanka, and the handling
this highly volatile situation with the greatest of efficiency and
concern for the spirit of the game. (Daily News issue of 11.01.96)
Source : Daily News
courtesy of Prof. Ravi Goonetilleke