Cricket umpires at all levels of the sport will soon be given the power to eject players from the field of play for threats or acts of violence as part of a raft of recommendations announced by the MCC World Cricket Committee on Wednesday that also included a restriction on bat sizes.
Marylebone Cricket Club, the guardians of the game, have become concerned about the rising number of incidents in recent times – particularly in the recreational game – and now subject to approval from its full committee, an amendment to the Laws will come into effect from 1 October 2017 that will see, for the first time in their 229-year history, an enshrined deterrent.
While technical aspects of how the new law will be implement are yet to be decided upon – the actual brandishing of red cards, for example, remains just one idea – it has been determined that “threatening an umpire, physically assaulting another player, umpire, official or spectator; or any other act of violence” will now be a sending off offence and see a team reduced to 10 players for the remainder of the match.
“This is to cover the most extreme cases of violence on the pitch,” said the former England captain, Mike, Brearley, who chaired the committee’s two-day meeting in Mumbai.
“We had a survey of umpires and 40% said they’d considered giving up because of abuse and anecdotal evidence from league cricket is that behaviour has got a lot worse. Umpires have to be respected and given the best possible chance of doing their jobs.”
Violent ball-striking informed another topic of discussion among the MCC World Cricket Committee – the independent advisory panel that is made up of 12 former cricketers – with restrictions on the size of bats to also be introduced in a bid to counter mis-hits clearing the rope for six in the current era of power-hitters.
Bats will be limited to edges of 40mm and a depth of 67mm under the new regulations, in line with what the committee believes are the average blades currently used in the game (Australian opener David Warner uses a bat with reported 50mm edges) and will be policed with a metal gauge like those used by umpires to determine whether a ball is out of shape.
“Over 60% of current players surveyed were concerned by where the bat sizes were going,” said Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain who is also on the committee. “It’s the balance between bat and ball. We feel it’s gone too far in favour of batsmen. Top-edges might travel over fine leg or third man – that’s not the issue – it’s mis-hits off the toe or the leading edge that are clearing the boundaries. We can’t make the grounds bigger.”
While a further change to the Laws will see catches and stumpings being permitted after the ball has struck a close fielder’s helmet, there was no will to make any amendments to the wording of the clause relating to ball-tampering, despite the recent furore that followed South Africa’s Faf du Plessis being fined for applying sugared saliva from a mint in his mouth to the ball during the Hobart Test against Australia last month.
In addition to its recommendations, the MCC World Cricket Committee also urged the International Cricket Council to push forward with an application to have the Twenty20 format of the sport included in the 2024 Olympic Games but could not reach a consensus on the idea of introducing four-day Test matches in a bid to speed up the longest form of the game and ease fixture congestion.
The key findings of the committee are:
Bat size edges and depths set to be limited at 40mm and 67mm respectively
Sending off in cricket close to inclusion in Laws of Cricket for first time
Ball tampering law will not be changed
Committee split on possibility of introducing four-day Test Matches
ICC urged to continue to work towards introducing a World Test Championship and presenting the case for cricket at the Olympic Games
Law on ball striking a fielder’s worn helmet to be changed