Break the laws

With MCC set to change a few of the rules of the game, we look at 11 that could do with tweaking, or scrapping altogether, to make cricket more interesting and fair

Martin Williamson and Sriram Veera

May 20, 2010

Comments: 162 | Text size: A | A

"Stop scratching your balls" reads a flag held up by two spectators, a light-hearted comment over the alleged ball-tampering allegations, England v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Cardiff, August 30, 2006
Legalise tampering © Getty Images
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Ban leg-byes
Few other sports reward participants for failure, but that's what leg-byes do in cricket. It is incongruous that a batsman who is not good enough to get bat on ball can still benefit because the ball hits him on the pads or body. Too often in limited-overs games batsmen swing wildly knowing as long as they get something, anything, in the way, the odds are they will be able to scramble at least a single. A ban would immediately help address the horribly uneven balance between bat and ball.

Disallow backing up
The running out of a non-striker was, for some odd reason, always deemed unsporting, but attempts by the batsman to steal ground on the fielding side are not? In baseball, the closest similar sport, a runner can try to steal ground but knows he risks being run out if he goes too far. As Gideon Haigh noted: "For a sport that relies on the third umpire to make decisions based on millimetres and split video frames, it is utterly inconsistent to allow the non-striker to gain an advantage of this magnitude."

When the MCC decided the non-striker could not be run out it inadvertently legitimised cheating. In last weekend's World Twenty20 final more than once the non-striker was so far down the track that he was almost home when running a bye before the keeper, standing back, had gathered the ball. A bad law change not thought through. Reverse it and let the umpire decide if a batsman has genuinely been hard done by.

Give lbws on balls hitting outside off stump
Why should a batsman who is beaten all ends up not be out simply because the ball strikes him fractionally outside the line of off stump? What's the difference between a delivery on off stump and outside it if the ball is going to hit the stumps? The leg-side law makes sense, introduced to prevent bowlers coming round the wicket and firing the ball in at the batsman's pads with a packed leg-side field. But the off side? Another law designed to mollycoddle the batsman. Pads are there to protect not to defend.

Don't offer players the light
Something that bemuses the uninitiated is the sight of players trooping off for bad light; something that infuriates spectators is umpires waving around light meters. In a world where cricket vies for entertainment dollars, bad light is an anachronism. When batsmen had a bat, a box and little else to spare them, it made sense. But now they are protected from head to foot and so they ought to be made stay out and play unless it is raining or, in the view of the umpires, it's downright dangerous. Karachi in 2000-01 showed what can be done when the will is there. Unfair? Not really. Like a wearing pitch, the forecast will feature in the captain's decision at the toss.

Legitimise ball-tampering
Possibly cricket's single most contentious on-field subject, and one that has tarnished careers and even caused a Test to be abandoned. Whatever people say, tampering is as old as the game itself. So stop spending years trying to legislate, do away with the hypocrisy and double standards and legitimise it. No foreign objects such as bottle tops, but otherwise anything goes, and it's the same for both sides. The one proviso would be the fielding side lose the right to gripe endlessly about the ball - another bonus for spectators - and only the umpires can order it to be changed if it disintegrates. Richard Hadlee has said, "As long as the bowlers or fielders use whatever means they have on their persons, I don't see anything wrong with it."

Permit more bouncers in ODIs
It's a man's game. Or so they say, but they constantly wimp out with the laws. A classic example is the rule that allows only one bouncer per over in ODIs. How about at least allowing one bouncer per batsman in an over, permitting the bowler to have a pop at both opponents in an over?

Be consistent in the use of substitutes and runners
Either you allow them on all occasions or ban them altogether. Clarity is needed. A fielding captain can refuse a batsman a runner for cramps, but when he's on the batting side he can't do anything when a substitute is used for a batsman who has already batted and doesn't field. The reverse is not allowed. Graeme Smith fielded for 50 overs and then had cramps in the 40th over of a chase in the last Champions Trophy and Andrew Strauss refused him a runner. Perhaps in the case of a batsman resting after batting, his team should be asked to field with only 10 men. Sanjay Manjrekar reckons there is no place for a runner in modern sport. "Besides giving batsmen an unfair advantage, having runners presents cricket as a soft sport to outsiders. You are saying, 'Oh, you are hurt, are you? We will get someone to run for you.' I think that's ridiculous in this day and age."

Allow the fielder to touch the boundary rope
Why should a fielder be penalised for being athletic? Why should he not be allowed to lean over the boundary, using the boundary as an aid, as used to be allowed - and as is still allowed in baseball - as long as his feet are in the field of play? It will also save time spent on endless replays to determine whether the fielder touched the rope while trying to save a boundary.

Ban overthrows for direct hits
A pet peeve of Sunil Gavaskar's. Why should a fielder pay for a direct hit, a show of excellence?

Also, rewrite the laws so a batsman can't take an overthrow when the ball ricochets off his bat while he is trying to slide it into the crease. Why appeal to his spirit of sportsmanship and hope he doesn't take the run? As of today, some do, some don't, and it sometimes leads to conflicts among players. Would the batsman who refuses to take the extra run in most situations do the same if he requires that run off the last ball to win a World Cup final?

Allow two bowlers 12 overs apiece in an ODI innings
There is no stipulation that a batsman must retire after he gets a hundred, so why not two more overs for two bowlers? Four more quality overs will only add more drama to the contest, especially on flat tracks.

Don't give a batsman out if he is in but his bat is in the air
As things stand today, if a batsman dives to get inside the crease and his bat has touched the ground beyond the line but has jerked up into the air at the moment the bails come off, he is given out. This is clearly unfair as the batsman is being given out after having made his ground.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Sriram Veera is a staff writer

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Posted by aarpee2 on (May 22, 2010, 19:09 GMT)

If the game is all about fairplay then the third umpire needs to be pro-active when it comes to blatantly poor umpiring decisions especially 'caught behinds'.Fielders hurl themselves in desperate dives to save a run on the boundary and yet we find endless replays to check whether he has touched the rope. Penalised for supreme effort.When it comes to 'caught behinds' the bowler is wrongly rewarded,batman wrongfully victimised and vice versa which may cost the match or a career. In my view the Third Umpire must recall the batsman and not jusitify poor umpiring."See no Evil' on the part of the third umpire in this day and age with technology available not being used amounts to unfairplay which often changes the course of a match. Remember Harper ruling Symonds on a clear caught-behind 'not out' off Ishant in Australia. It amounts to mockery.

Posted by muhmmad7676 on (May 22, 2010, 17:45 GMT)

the changes mentioned above are all rubbish.

Posted by CricketisMyPassion on (May 22, 2010, 17:02 GMT)

I agree with pj3000's question. Of the rest, ball tampering must not be legalised. But make sure batsmen are also not allowed have too heavy a bat or misshapen bat like the mongoose. 'bat tampering'? :) Allow 2 bouncers per over regardless of who the batsman is. (Theoretically, it is possible now to bowl 6 bouncers in an over of 4 of the batsmen get out!) Let leg byes stay but limit to one run per leg bye else we will have many more Jimmy PAdams! Primarily runs must be scored off the bat.

Posted by anant_gupta on (May 22, 2010, 14:17 GMT)

Give lbws on balls hitting outside off stump: Are you Kidding!!! imagine Muralitharan bowling on a turning pitch. Batsmen will be forced to play each ball with bat. With 5/6 players around the bat. I wonder which of the batsmen will survive. Author has totally missed the rational behind this rule which was to allow batsmen a way out from each delievery

Ban leg byes: Again while the rational seems fine to not allow batsmen runs for their imcompetency, think about the implication. Most of the ball games are designed to keep the ball in the play. In lawn tennis,table tennis if the ball hits the net, it is not deemed out of play but still kept in play. In football if the ball hits the pole and goes in the net it still is goal. Same is with cricket.Leg byes are same

Also, the umpire will have to decide whether the ball came off bat/body. Another trouble for the umpire. Now he thinks seriously only for catches, then he will have think for each ball as it will cause difference in runs!

Posted by tfjones1978 on (May 22, 2010, 14:01 GMT)

CHANGES TO RULES 1. Disallow backing up (as above). 2. Give lbws on balls hitting outside off stump (as above). 3. Don't offer players the light (as above). 4. Be consistent in the use of substitutes and runners (allow on all occasions). 5. Allow two bowlers 12 overs apiece in an ODI innings (as above). 6. Double Play: When a batsmen is out the ball isnt considered concluded until the other batsmen is in his crease (no extra runs can be scored). This allows both batsmen to be out from the same delivery, from bad calling or other mishaps. 7. Super Six (T20s only): When the ball is hit for Six, 1 extra run is given for every 10 metres over 60 metres to max total of 120 metre hit. Short boundaries and longer boundary grounds will give the same scored (roughly). Thus hit over rope for 0-69 metres 6 runs, 70-79 7 runs, 80-89 8 runs, 90-99 9 runs, 100-109 10 runs, 110-119 11 runs, 120+ metres is 12 Runs. 8. Tests Sessions: Swop teams after @ session I disagree with any other changes

Posted by   on (May 22, 2010, 13:38 GMT)

D/L should be completely removed. Does not make sense. Why should a chasing team's run rate match the team batting first , certain teams have ways of building an innings, look at the Aus v/s Pak match recently, if D/L had to come into play in the 10th over Aus would have lost. D/L is wrong.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2010, 13:36 GMT)

The only suggestions here that make any sense or have any merit are permitting bouncers and allowing backing up. The rest go against the evolution of the laws from 150+ years of cricket e.g. banning leg byes - think bodyline. In comparison, allowing ball tampering would be like allowing all swimmers to take any performance enhancing drugs they can find. A player who attempts a direct hit has to take into account thay a ricochet may go for runs. Playing in bad light makes no sense, its just mightily unfair. I think that whilst the author is trying to introduce some rules which help the bowlers, they are actually thinking of rules which will make the game unbalanced.

Posted by KnowledgeSeeker on (May 22, 2010, 12:28 GMT)

Now I see my comment. Thnx. @VisBal, you are right about the leg byes. I was trying to emphasize the need for the law because of Body-Line. Although, I haven't grown up watching hard-core test series and 60 over ODIs, I like most of the law changes in place already. Yes there are laws that need to be altered, but let's focus on the ones that overtly taxes the batsmen, bowlers or fielders unequivocally. 1. Umpiring errors that can turn a match on its head; 2. Sledging / name calling - why do we encourage bickering and culminate nasty feelings towards humans? It is stupid to say that it is "all part of the game". It isn't part of acceptable human behaviour, then why should it be part of a gentleman's game? Should we "coach" our kids at young age to hone their sledging skills, if we want them to be a professional? 3. Mathematicians / statisticians required to interpret D/L system (does not allow on-the-fly tactic changes by players); and there are many more.

Posted by Kirk-at-Lords on (May 22, 2010, 12:09 GMT)

Tweaking the rules is important, especially to eliminate nagging, timewasting matters such as touching the boundary rope, and the direct hit penalty. Favouring bowlers over batsmen in general makes sense too, though care must be exercised with leg-byes and bouncers to avoid too much "Body Line" behaviour. There are larger issues not addressed here that need a major rules rewrite. ODIs need to be injected with new life while at the same time being given more of the flavour of Test matches. One proposed solution is to have a 40-overs ODI composed of two 20-over innings for each side. This utilises the now-proven T20 format and places it in a context that draws on the strategies and tactics of Tests. Let's not lose track of this very important big-picture change while making necessary adjustments in the Laws of Cricket.

Posted by KnowledgeSeeker on (May 22, 2010, 12:03 GMT)

I guess it is too much to expect decent criticism to be allowed as comment (my previous comment on the article). keep up the good job.

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