The ICC's executive board has ratified the recommendations of the ICC Chief Executives' Committee including the abolition of runners, the usage of new balls from each end in one-dayers, and regulation of when the batting and bowling Powerplays can be taken. In addition to approving the rule changes to ODIs, the board also gave their nod to two interesting amendments to run-out laws: From October 1, batsmen can be dismissed obstructing the field if they change their course while running to prevent a run-out chance. Additionally, bowlers will be allowed to run out a non-striker backing up unfairly, a rule that has not been in force in recent times.
The amendments were made on the sidelines of the more high-profile announcements pertaining to the implementation of the Decision Review System, and the format and composition of the next two World Cups and World Twenty20s.
Runners have been an established part of cricket for more than a century, though there have been several recent disagreements over their usage. In the 2009 Champions Trophy, Andrew Strauss had denied the cramping Graeme Smith a runner leading to controversy. Earlier this year, Michael Clarke had also questioned the need for runners for batsmen suffering from cramps.
The ambiguity surrounding the 'obstructing the field' amendment is likely to spark debate in the coming days. Currently, batsmen are allowed to come in between a throw and the stumps, though they are disallowed from purposefully obstructing a fielder from collecting, catching or throwing a ball. The ICC has not clarified as to what constitutes a 'change of course' for a batsman running between the wickets, or whether the batsman can use his bat or some other part of his body to obstruct the ball without physically changing course.
Running out the non-striker for backing up too far, also known as 'Mankading' the non-striker, was a part of cricket's rules for long, though considered an unsporting thing to do. Courtney Walsh made the headlines in the 1987 World Cup for graciously abstaining from running out Saleem Jafar who was backing up, potentially costing West Indies the game. Kapil Dev's run-out of Peter Kirsten after repeated warnings in Port Elizabeth in 1992-93 was the last such dismissal in international cricket. The rule was scrapped in recent years, allowing non-strikers to get a head-start even as the bowler got into his delivery stride.
The committee also made a series of proposals to spruce up the one-day game, foremost among them being the decision to use new balls at each end. The white ball loses colour as the innings progresses, making it hard to sight for the batsman, a problem the ICC had tried to address by replacing the ball after 34 overs. The most high-profile occasion so far where two new balls were used was the 1992 World Cup. The new ruling means bowlers will be able to get the ball to swing for longer periods, giving them more of a say in an increasingly uneven battle with batsmen.
The other major decision regarding the one-day game was to allow teams to take the batting and bowling Powerplays only between the 16th and 40th over. While the idea of introducing Powerplays is generally seen to have added an element of unpredictability to the format, bowling sides have usually stuck to taking their Powerplay between the 11th and 15th over, while the batting team has saved theirs for late in the innings. This has meant the Powerplays didn't address the familiar criticism of the middle overs of a one-day game being predictable, something the new proposal aims to correct.
The committee also decided to impose tougher penalties against slow over-rates. While captains were previously suspended for three over-rate breaches within a year, they will now be docked after only two offences in the same format within a 12-month period.
ICC chief Haroon Lorgat backed the changes suggested. "Even though the success of 50-over cricket played during the World Cup 2011 was universally acknowledged, the CEC rightly supported the enhancements recommended by the ICC Cricket Committee to strengthen the format further, including encouraging Members to trial some specific innovations in their domestic cricket."
Some ideas the committee recommends for domestic trials include changing the maximum number of overs a bowler is allowed, increasing the number of bouncers permitted in an over from one to two, making it optional to have close-in catchers and restricting the number of fielders outside the circle to four in non-Powerplay overs.
Another big issue to be addressed when the full council meets on Thursday is whether to continue with the rotational system of choosing ICC presidents. Pakistan and Bangladesh - the two members who are to put up the next candidates for president and vice-president - are both believed to be opposed to changing the current procedure.