India’s Anil Kumble and several other former Test players on an International Cricket Council (ICC) committee have urged the sport’s lawmakers to bring in new restrictions on the size of bats amid concerns over a glut of run-scoring.
Following a two-day meeting at Lord’s, the headquarters of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the ICC cricket committee chaired by Kumble issued a statement saying it wanted MCC, which still has overall global responsibility for cricket’s Laws or rules, to instigate a clampdown.
While there are limitations on bat length (when the lower portion of the handle is inserted it shall not be more than 38 inches/96.5 cm) and width (4.25 inches/10.8 cm at its widest part), none currently exist on depth.
Modern manufacturers have become increasingly skilled at making bats with larger ‘sweet spots’ that do not feel as heavy to pick up as the blades that were once only the preserve of 1980s power hitters such as West Indies great Clive Lloyd and England hero Ian Botham.
The balance between bat and ball has become especially loaded against bowlers in limited-overs games where the innovations brought in by Twenty20 cricket, allied to increasingly short boundaries, have led to an orgy of run-scoring.
Last year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand witnessed 38 hundreds, nearly one every game, and 463 sixes, an average of one every nine overs.
West Indies’ Chris Gayle struck 16 sixes in racing to the fastest one-day international double hundred during a World Cup match against Zimbabwe at Canberra’s Manuka Oval, while New Zealand’s Martin Guptill hit a six measured at 110 metres in the course of his 237 against the West Indies at Wellington.
Thursday’s statement from the ICC cricket committee, whose members include several former Test batsmen in England’s Andrew Strauss, India’s Rahul Dravid and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, said: “MCC sought the committee’s guidance on the desirability of making changes in order to redress the balance between bat and ball.
“The committee received a research paper from MCC citing a wealth of scientific and statistical evidence showing bats have become more powerful in recent years, primarily due to having larger ‘sweet-spots’.”
It added: “The committee’s view was that MCC should strongly consider limiting the dimensions of cricket bats to help achieve a better balance between bat and ball.”
South Africa batting great Barry Richards, speaking during last year’s World Cup, said restrictions were urgently needed to bring modern-day bats into line with the kind of relatively slim models he used in his 1970s heyday.
“The pressing of cricket bats has to be controlled and the thickness in their edges. Maybe there can also be a designated sweet-spot area for bats,” Richards told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
“Ours used to be about the size of a 50 cent piece but now they are much bigger... These are just a few of my ideas, because batsmen have it too easy.”