MCC to vote on rule changes
The MCC members are set to vote on a number of changes to the Laws of Cricket at the annual general meeting at Lord's on Wednesday and, if passed, the changes will come into effect on October 1.
The major amendments concern the umpires offering light to batsmen, rules on boundary fielding, run outs where the batsman loses his bat after making his ground, and penalties on batsmen who damage the pitch. The MCC members will also be asked to cede authority on passing new Laws of Cricket to the MCC Laws sub-committee and main committee.
The main change to the law relating to umpires suspending play as a result of the fitness of the ground, weather or light, is that they will no longer "offer the light" to the batting side, but decide to suspend play themselves when they consider it to be "unreasonable or dangerous".
In view of the increasing frequency of athletic saves on the boundary, the MCC has created a law to clarify when the ball is beyond the boundary. The Laws sub-committee felt "it would be wrong to allow a fielder, seeing a ball flying over his head and over the boundary, to retreat beyond the boundary and then to jump up and parry the ball back towards the field of play." The change will require the fielder's first contact with the ball is when he is grounded within the boundary or, if he is in the air, his final contact with the ground before touching the ball was inside the boundary.
With regards to run outs, the change proposed is that a batsman will be not out if, having grounded some part of his foot behind the crease, he loses contact with the ground at the time the stumps are broken; for example, if his bat gets jammed in a bowler's footmark and he drops it after having entered the crease.
Explanation of the proposed changes
The changes to laws 3.8 and 3.9 relate to the umpires suspending play as a result of the fitness of the ground, weather or light. The main change is that the umpires will no longer offer the light to the batting side. It was felt that, at present, the decision to stay on or come off the field was often made on tactical grounds based on what best suits the batting side, rather than on grounds of safety or visibility. In bad light, umpires will now only suspend play when they consider it to be unreasonable or dangerous. Unreasonable is to be regarded as being inappropriate, rather than conditions simply not being very good. The new law should result in less playing time being lost. This concept has been trialled by the ECB in county cricket with generally positive feedback.
The changes to laws 12.4 and 12.5 involve the toss. In law 12.4, it was felt that it would be good practice to say that the toss should be made in the presence of one or both of the umpires. Law 3.1 already states that the umpires shall be at the ground at least 45 minutes before the scheduled start of play. Furthermore, laws 1.2, 3.3 and 3.4 lay down a number of points that need to be agreed between the umpires and the captains before the toss and the laws sub-committee thought having at least one umpire at the toss would help formalise the whole process. Some people have expressed concerns over this new law for certain games at amateur level where there are no formal umpires but the laws must set out what is best practice. Laws 1.2, 3.3 and 3.4 have been in since 2000 without drawing complaints. The new 12.5 forces the captain winning the toss to notify his decision to bat or field to the other captain straightaway. The current law states the notification could be delayed until 10 minutes before the scheduled start of play. The sub-committee heard of examples where this law was being exploited as a means of gamesmanship to give the other team less time to prepare.
Law 17 concerns practice on the field. Law 17.1 has clarified the area that can never be used for practice as being the pitch and the two strips either side of it. Laws 17.2 and 17.3 clearly outline when and what practice may take place on the rest of the square (17.2) and on the outfield (17.3). A ban has been placed on fielders partaking in practice with a coach or 12th man during play. The club has noticed that such practice is becoming more prevalent and felt it should not be allowed. With slow over rates becoming an increasing problem, the fact that practice should not waste any time is reinforced more strongly than before. It is also clarified that deliberately bowling the ball into the ground in practice will contravene Law 42.3 (The match ball - changing its condition).
A new 9.4 has been created to clarify further when the ball is beyond the boundary. In recent years, increasingly athletic pieces of fielding on the boundary have brought this area of the law into the spotlight. The laws sub-committee felt that it would be wrong to allow a fielder, seeing a ball flying over his head and over the boundary, to retreat beyond the boundary and then to jump up and parry the ball back towards the field of play. Consequently, law 19.4(i) requires that the fielder's first contact with the ball must be when some part of his person is grounded within the boundary or, if he is airborne, that his final contact with the ground before touching the ball was within the boundary.
Law 24.5 (fair delivery - the feet) has been amended in relation to the landing of the bowler's front foot. It became apparent that some slow bowlers were bowling with their front foot going right across to the other side of the stumps. This meant that a bowler could, for example, say that he was bowling over the wicket but release the ball as though bowling round the wicket. The Laws sub-committee felt that this is not fair, particularly taking into account the positioning of the sight-screen, and consequently altered the Law so that the bowler's front foot must land with some part of his foot, whether grounded or raised, between the return crease on the side on which he runs up past the wicket and an imaginary line joining the two middle stumps.
Law 28.1 (wicket put down) has been amended so that any part of the striker's bat is capable of putting the wicket down. Although it is a rare occurrence, the Club is aware of situations where the bat has broken while hitting the ball and a part of the bat has hit the stumps, putting the wicket down. The Laws sub-committee felt that, whilst this would be an unfortunate method of dismissal for a batsman, a part of a bat that has broken off should be treated in the same way as a bat that has fallen out of the batsman's hand.
Law 29.1 (When out of his ground) has been amended so that a batsman who has been running to make his ground will be considered to be in his ground if, having grounded some part of his foot behind the popping crease, and still with continuing forward momentum, he loses contact with the ground. This will particularly be useful in televised games where a player has clearly made his ground but, at the moment that the wicket was put down, he is not in contact with the ground because he is running and, for example, his bat has flicked up off the ground after passing through a bowlers' foothole. It is in the nature of running that in every stride, both feet are simultaneously not in contact with the ground. It would therefore be unjust if a batsman were to be out in such circumstances.
Law 42.14 (Batsman damaging the pitch) has been amended so that the batting side receives one less warning than under the current Law. Currently, on the first offence the side is warned; on the second offence, there is a further warning and any runs scored are disallowed; on all subsequent offences, any runs scored are disallowed, 5 penalty runs are awarded to the fielding side and a report is lodged with the appropriate Governing body. In the proposed new version, there is a warning on the first instance of the batsman damaging the pitch, but any repetition will see any runs scored disallowed, five penalty runs awarded to the fielding side and a report being lodged with the appropriate governing body. This is consistent with law 42.13 (fielder damaging pitch), where there is only one warning before penalty runs are issued.