A player found guilty of ball-tampering can now be banned for up to six Test matches or 12 ODIs. This is among the consequences of the ICC approving significant changes to its code of conduct during its annual conference over the weekend in Dublin.
Changing the condition of the ball, previously a Level 2 offence, is now a Level 3 offence. Sanctions for Level 3 offences have also been hardened: where they would have earlier earned a player eight suspension points - leading to a maximum ban of four Tests or eight ODIs - it will now earn 12 suspension points. Level 4 offences, meanwhile, will earn a minimum of 12 suspension points.
Harsher punishments for ball-tampering have been on the cards ever since the issue reared its head during the Newlands Test in March. The ball-tampering controversy led to Cricket Australia banning Steven Smith and David Warner from international cricket for a year and Cameron Bancroft for nine months. The ICC's code-of-conduct sanctions were far less severe: a one-Test ban for captain Smith and three demerit points for Bancroft, the player who attempted to alter the ball's condition using a foreign object.
After that rancourous series between South Africa and Australia, the ICC cricket committee, headed by former India captain Anil Kumble, recommended that the ICC take a harder view of code-of-conduct violations. At the time, ICC chief executive David Richardson, who sits on the cricket committee, told ESPNcricinfo that Kumble's panel "came hard" at personal abuse and ball-tampering specifically.
The upgraded sanctions are a result of the ICC board approving the cricket committee's recommendations.
Four new offences have also been included in the code of conduct. These are: attempting to gain an unfair advantage (cheating, other than ball-tampering - level 2 or 3), personal abuse (level 2 or 3), audible obscenity (level 1), and disobeying an umpire's instructions (level 1).
The match referee will now hear all Level 1, 2 and 3 charges as well as appeals, with a judicial commissioner only hearing Level 4 charges and appeals. This is significant, because it reduces the scope for players to get sanctions overturned. For example, the judicial commissioner hearing Kagiso Rabada's appeal against a Level 2 sanction overturned a two-match ban for making physical contact with an opponent, ruling that there wasn't enough evidence to say if Rabada's contact with Steven Smith matched the "inappropriate and deliberate" definition covered by the code of conduct.
The ICC has also introduced an appeal fee, which players or members of support staff will have to lodge before appealing a code-of-conduct charge. The fee will only be refunded if the appeal is successful.
The ICC Board has also agreed to look into how member boards can be made accountable for its players' behaviour, whereby boards can be penalised if its players' offences add up to "exceed certain thresholds".