Cricket’s image as the ‘gentleman’s game’ will be put in perspective if drastic rule changes suggested by the Marylebone Cricket Club, guardians of the game’s laws, are enacted.
In a bid to address frequent breach of discipline on the field, the MCC, in a two-day world committee meeting which ended here on Wednesday, has suggested empowering umpires to red-card players for unruly behaviour. Currently, only the captain can ask the player to leave.
The other major recommendation was to rein in the use of monstrous bats that are leaving bowlers overwhelmed.
The MCC committee also decided not to change the ball-tampering law despite the recent controversy involving South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis. The SA stand-in skipper was fined his entire match fee after being punished during the recent Test series in Australia. He has appealed, raising objections over the rule’s consistency, and it will be heard on December 19.
The MCC recommendations will become law if approved by its main committee. The rules are likely to come into effect in October next year.
CURB THE HITTING
The MCC world cricket committee headed by former England skipper, Mike Brearley, recommended on Wednesday that the width of the bat’s edge be restricted to a maximum of 40mm and depth to a maximum 67mm.
Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, a member of the MCC committee, said the restriction on bat size was due to concerns over even mishits going to the fence.
“Over 60 per cent of the current players were concerned about where the size of the bat is going. We don’t want to take the game into the 1950s or 1960s. The average edge size of the bat is between 38 and 42mm. There are exceptions to this as some players use edge size in excess of 50mm. We were worried about the extremes of it.
“When we talk about bat size, it is about bringing balance between bat and ball. In the last few years, we feel it has gone in favour of the batsmen. It is more about mishits off the toe of the bat or the leading edge of the bat going for six. One of the concerns was that the middle of the bat was increasingly getting bigger and bigger,” Ponting told a media conference.
The MCC decision has already left several batsmen worried.
“I have received a few messages from cricketers about their concerns (over) limiting their equipment. We just want to make the game fairer. Some of the edges which would have gone for a boundary or six might not go as far now. If you are good enough to consistently hit the ball in the middle then you are going to clear the ball easily. The likes of MS Dhoni, Kieron Pollard, they are naturally strong cricketers and have got nothing to worry about. May be guys who are not physically stronger have got away with excessively big bats. It is those guys who will probably face the difference,” the former Australia skipper said.
REIN IN PLAYERS
The committee justified introduction of card to discipline players. Its chief Brearley said: “There was a survey done among umpires and 40 percent of them said they are considering giving up the game or giving up umpiring because of verbal abuse. Anecdotal evidence from people familiar with leagues in parts of England say the behaviour has got worse. Umpires have to be respected and given the best possible chance and I think cricket is the only game in which there isn’t this possibility of an in-match punishment or deterrent.”
Raja said: “It is the second tier and third tier that are causing a lot of stress, the club matches and lower tier games. So, it was felt something had to be done at that level particularly, and the top level as well.”
Ponting, however, does not think the new rules will take away characters from the game. “Those characters would still show on the international stage. The reason we are talking about making significant changes to lower level cricket is because it has gone completely out of hand.”
TAMPERING LAWS STAY
The committee decided not to touch the ball-tampering laws. Du Plessis, fined his entire match fee for using mint-mixed saliva to shine the ball in the Hobart Test against Australia, has vehemently opposed the decision. Some of his team mates have argued that players always chew gum or eat mint.
“The committee was unanimous that we needn’t tinker with the laws. It is pretty clear and straightforward. That case (of Faf du Plessis) has been debated,” said ex-Pakistan skipper and panel member, Ramiz Raja.
Raja, however, unwittingly admitted the Pakistan team did tamper the ball. “Frankly, I was a little surprised to know you can lick the mint and apply the saliva on the ball and reverse swing it. It was new for me because we were brought up just scratching the ball,” said Raja, as the room burst into laughter.