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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Uncertain future
By Oliver Brett

There is nothing more distressing for a bowler than to have the legality of his action called into question.

James Kirtley
Kirtley's action was questioned on the Zimbabwe tour of 2001

And it is a situation James Kirtley must now deal with for the second time in his career.

In a blunt e-mail on Monday evening, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced the Sussex seamer had been suspended forthwith and indefinitely.

Until, that is, he "has submitted to a fresh independent analysis in which it is concluded that he has remedied his action."

BBC Sport spoke to the expert at the National Academy in Loughborough who assessed Kirtley and found him to exceed the permitted 15 degrees of flex.

But Dr Mark King said all inquiries about the detailed findings must go through the ECB.

A spokesman there said: "We are not going to go into the findings. The findings are confidential."

What is absolutely key is whether Kirtley is exceeding the 15 degrees all the time, or just with certain deliveries - say the bouncer, or extra effort balls.

He has a condition called hyperextension - which means his elbow flexes in both directions beyond the horizontal - but that does not entitle Kirtley to any special dispensation.

The Pakistani bowler Shabbir Ahmed was reported to the International Cricket Council on three occasions earlier this year and suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board in July.

But barely two months later, the PCB gleefully announced that the paceman had been cleared for the home series against England in November and the ICC has upheld those findings.

PCB director Salim Altaf said: "The experts have recommended that he should continue to bowl side-on. The problem is when he bowls chest-on."

When Muttiah Muralitharan was referred to the ICC's bowling review group last year - not for the first time in his career - the 'doosra' was blamed.

Muttiah Muralitharan
The great Muttiah Muralitharan is no stranger to controversy

The doosra is the off-spinner's secret weapon, turning the opposite way from what the batsman expects, and Muralitharan is its finest exponent.

In both cases then, a specific instance was isolated - with Kirtley we do not know.

As it happens, due to the ICC's two-stage referral process, Muralitharan continued bowling because Sri Lanka Cricket chose not to ban him.

It is only after being reported again within 12 months of the first instance that a mandatory year-long ban is imposed.

Therefore, the ECB and the PCB were not forced to impose bans on Kirtley and Shabbir when they did.

At least Sussex are fully behind Kirtley's attempts to bounce back.

The 30-year-old potentially has around six years left at the top and Mark Robinson, cricket manager at Hove, said, "James has been here before and has cleared his name.

"We have every confidence that he can do it again and continue his successful cricketing career."

So, what now for Kirtley? Crucially, he is close to Robinson, who, he says, "knows me as a person and bowler probably as well as anyone."

Meanwhile, Academy director Peter Moores is a former Sussex player and coach.

Kirtley said: "There's a sympathetic ear there. We'll look to use Peter and the facilities they've got.

"We'll go up to Loughborough, have a chat with them, pick their brains on ways to improve my action and then a lot of the work will be done at Sussex in the indoor school three or four mornings a week."

It all sounds like Kirtley's winter will be rather more arduous than he would have hoped.




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Interview: Sussex's James Kirtley


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