Bad light, playing conditions and bats also discussed May 6, 2006

ICC gives guarded endorsement of technology trial

The ICC's cricket committee has given a guarded endorsement to a trial of the extended use of technology during its two-day meeting in Dubai.

The committee recommended that players be allowed a limited number of appeals to the third umpire if they feel a decision made by the on-field umpire is incorrect during this year's Champions Trophy in India. But they expressed reservations about the implications such a process would have on the Spirit of Cricket, the fabric of the game and the authority of the on-field umpires.

The committee also recommended that the equipping of umpires with earpieces connected to the stump microphones be mandatory in all international matches.

It agreed playing conditions for the Champions Trophy, next year's World Cup and for international Twenty20 matches, sought to establish new standardised criteria for the measurement of bad light, and a sub-committee appointed last year reported back on the Laws governing what constitutes a cricket bat. All the recommendations made by the committee have to be approved by the Chief Executives' Committee and if that approval is forthcoming then the decisions can be ratified at the ICC board meeting, with both meetings set for London in July.

Technology
The committee agreed to recommend players be allowed three appeals per innings to the third umpire if they feel a decision made by the on-field umpire is incorrect. The recommendation was for the measure to be trialed at this year's Champions Trophy in India and then be reviewed after that tournament.

The recommendation was, however, made by the narrowest possible margin (six votes to five) with reservations expressed over what it will mean for The Spirit of Cricket, the fabric of the game and the role and authority of the on-field umpire. The appeals system has been used in American Football for several years and, earlier this year, was trialed in an event on the professional tennis circuit.

Explaining the decision, Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive, said: "Ever since the Champions Trophy of 2002, the ICC has been keen to explore the possibilities offered by technology. What we have consistently sought to do is to increase the already-high numbers of correct decisions made by umpires while, at the same time, not diminishing their on-field role and authority.

"This measure has the potential to do that but, at the same time, the committee was mindful of the possible downside with its implications to the Spirit of Cricket, the fabric of the game and the authority of the on-field umpires.

"However, if the recommendation is approved it will offer the chance to see how the concept works in practice and leave us better able to make a decision on its longer term merits."

Explaining how the new appeals system might work, Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager - cricket, said: "Each team will be allowed three appeals to the third umpire per innings. If the appeal is successful they will retain the right to three appeals but if not, then it is lost. Only the captain from the fielding side will be entitled to make the appeal by approaching the on-field umpire making the sign of a TV with his hands. For the batting side, only the batsman involved in the decision would be able to make the appeal, which he would do in the same way."

The trial would not include the use of technology such as Hawkeye or the Snickometer but would include the LBW mat, the solid line super-imposed on the screen between the two sets of stumps and used by broadcasters to determine where the ball pitches and the point of impact on the batsman's pads.

"The main point of the trial would be to see how much this use of technology may impact on the Spirit of Cricket," Richardson added. "What we hope the trial will do, if approved, is to help eradicate the very few obvious errors that may be made by umpires, who already get between 94 and 96% of decisions right at international level."

The committee recommended umpires should be equipped with earpieces in all international matches to allow them to listen to the stump microphones, something that will help them hear edges much more easily. That has already been trialed during the Champions Trophy in 2004 and the Pakistan-India Test series in 2005, and the ICC will now assess the financial implications ahead of a decision by the Chief Executives' Committee.

Bad light
The committee heard evidence that artificial lights are of limited use in improving conditions on dull days and that they are only truly effective when a contrast exists between the ball and the sky, as is the case at night with a white ball. On that basis it was decided to recommend that the use of artificial lights during Test matches be discontinued.

At the same time, the committee agreed umpires should be issued with a directive that play should be maximized wherever possible. It was also agreed that light meters should be utilized to a greater degree to establish a bench mark of what constitutes unacceptable light. By doing that, it would remove the possibility of umpires being unduly influenced in the decision to offer the light as, over time, an accepted norm for bad light would be created.

Playing conditions
The playing conditions for this year's Champions Trophy and World in the Caribbean were discussed and recommended for approval. The Committee also recommended that the current field restrictions that apply to ODI cricket ("Powerplays") should remain in place up to and including the World Cup and be reviewed after that event.

Reflecting on the fielding restrictions, which have been in place since July 2005, former Australia captain Allan Border, a member of the ICC cricket committee, said: "When it comes to promoting alternative tactics in the one-day game, I think we are on the right track with these restrictions. It is still early days for the captains as they get used to them but our hope is that, as time goes on, those captains start to show more initiative and innovation in the way they use them."

The issue of the finish time in a so-called "dead" Test match, where a result was not possible was discussed. It was recommended that in such matches, stumps could be drawn after 75 overs on the final day or at the commencement of the final hour, whichever was the later. Currently matches can only be called off after 30 minutes of the final hour.

Standardized playing conditions for international Twenty20 matches were discussed and the committee recommended the following:

  • Boundaries should not be reduced below the minimum requirements for ODI matches - 140 yards square of the wicket from boundary to boundary with each straight boundary measuring 60 yards from the centre of the pitch.
  • The maximum time available to bowl 20 overs should be set at 80 minutes, not 75 as in domestic Twenty20 competitions.
  • Failure to bowl the required overs in the allotted time should be punished by fines rather than the docking of runs, as in domestic Twenty20 competitions.
  • Players should not be wired up to communicate with commentators and commentators should not be allowed in the player dug-outs.

Bats
Last year's cricket committee appointed a sub-committee, made up of Sunil Gavaskar, Arjuna Ranatunga, Angus Fraser, Tim May and Dave Richardson to work with the MCC Laws Working Party to produce a series of recommendations on the Law governing the bat.

Those recommendations, which will be submitted to the MCC, the custodians of the Laws of Cricket, are:

  • The balance that exists between a wooden bat and a leather ball should be retained.
  • The Law governing the bat should be the same at all levels of the game.
  • The current dimensions should remain the same although the area from the top of the handle to the end of the splice should not make up more than 50 per cent of the length of the bat.
  • The handle can be made of any material.
  • There is no need to define what a conventional shape of bat is.
  • It should be made of a single piece of wood.
  • The issues of "corking" and bat covers should be investigated further by the sub-committee.
  • Toe caps for bats should be covered in the Laws.
  • Bats should be the colour of wood except for permitted logos.

Five members of the cricket committee are nominated by all the players from Full Member teams, five are nominated by all the Full Member boards, one member is nominated by the players from the Associate members and one is nominated by the boards of the Associate members. The player representatives must have represented their country as a player at full international level. The board representatives shall have either represented their country as a full international player or have been an international umpire within the last ten years.

The chairman of the cricket committee must be a former international cricketer who has played a minimum of 30 Test matches or has captained his country and must have a current link with the game. The chairman has a casting vote only.

The cricket committee is made up of the following personnel:

  1. Chairman - Sunil Gavaskar
  2. Tim May
  3. Faruque Ahmed
  4. Mansoor Ali Khan ("Tiger") Pataudi
  5. Angus Fraser
  6. Allan Border
  7. Majid Khan
  8. Errol Stewart
  9. Arjuna Ranatunga
  10. Roland Holder
  11. Kevan Barbour
  12. Roland Lefebvre

One of the Associate representatives, Scotland's Craig Wright, was unable to attend the meeting due to playing commitments. The meeting was also attended by Speed, Richardson, cricket operations manager Clive Hitchcock and Doug Cowie, the umpires and referees manager.