Karachi - The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has taken a step towards establishing a biomechanics facility in the country by forming a partnership with Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and giving them $460,000 worth of equipment for three years.

The equipment had been lying unused at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for the last eight years but will become operational from June. Pakistan has had severe issues with suspect bowling actions in the recent past. Saeed Ajmal has become a diminished force after he rectified an illegal action, and M Hafeez is presently serving a one-year suspension before he can have his action retested.

The project would be a move in the right direction towards preventing such problems, but a drawback is that LUMS - like most other institutes in Pakistan - has no experience in sports sciences and biomechanics studies. The PCB and the university are hoping to break new ground in the country.

“As you are aware the equipment has been unused for the last eight years and giving it to LUMS is for the sole purpose of making it functional rather than leaving it to become obsolete,” the PCB said on Saturday. “There is no agreement but a memorandum of understanding, which was vetted by PCB and LUMS’ lawyers. The MoU allows the transfer of equipment to LUMS and its use by faculty. It retains the PCB’s ownership of the equipment, which can be taken back whenever PCB so requires. The MoU allows both organisations to benefit mutually - PCB through operationalising a biomechanics laboratory and LUMS through the enormous research potential the lab holds.”

The project will be driven by LUMS engineering laboratory director, Ahmed Kamal Nasir, a PhD in mobile robotics, and Mian M Awais, a professor of artificial intelligence. “We know our limitations but LUMS is very well placed with extensive connections with other universities - both local and foreign,” Awais said and added: “Therefore, this consortium will act as a magnet for those wanting to do research in biomechanics and will ensure a wide catchment area for experts.

“Just because the lab is based in LUMS it does not mean that experts from elsewhere will not be able to come and use the equipment and provide their expertise. Eventually, not only PCB will benefit but our educational system will also grow in this field,” he added.

There are presently five ICC accredited labs - in Brisbane, Chennai, Cardiff, Loughborough and Pretoria - where bowlers can go to test their actions and work on them. These labs are centres of biomechanical studies with expert personnel, with some offering a range of courses in sports sciences, motion analysis and biomechanics. LUMS, however, does not have this expertise as yet.

Pakistan could have been the first Asian country to have a high-profile biomechanics facility had the equipment procured when Nasim Ashraf was PCB chairman been installed as planned by December 2008. The project, however, was put on hold by Ijaz Butt during his term as PCB chairman because an audit revealed financial mismanagement. As a result, the construction of the laboratory where the equipment was to be housed was suspended.

Zaka Ashraf, during his term as PCB head, attempted to make the NCA a centre of excellence for cricket and also brought Pakistan’s only renowned biomechanist at the time - Hafsa Zaneb - on board. But the legal tussle between Ashraf and Najam Sethi in 2013 stalled the building of the facility.

“When I contacted them in 2012, they had the equipment but not the physical facility. Biomechanics lab construction was halted,” Zaneb said. “So initially we only discussed the possibilities about the functionality of a future lab, and how we could use the lab and equipment commercially too. They thought that construction will take about a year, and by then we can get other things such as human resource and training component ready.

“After this understanding was achieved, my contact was with Dr Sohail Saleem [PCB former head of sports medicine] only. Dr Saleem may know better why PCB cut off that contact but one reason could be that the lab was not ready then till late 2014,” she added.

The construction had begun and was meant to be finished by March 2015 but hit more hurdles related to alleged financial fraud and was not completed. In the meantime the equipment, which was said to be state of the art when purchased, remained unused and it was revealed that two of the 18 cameras sustained damage, while others had software that had become outdated. The decision to try and revive the lab was made after a number of bowlers on the domestic circuit were suspected to have illegal bowling actions.