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ICC scraps soft-signal rule for contentious catches

According to the revised playing conditions, the on-field umpire will simply consult with the TV umpire to rule on contentious catches

Umpire Richard Illingworth offers a soft signal on a caught behind appeal against Virat Kohli - which was overturned by the third umpire, India vs New Zealand, World Test Championship (WTC) final, 2nd day, Southampton, June 19, 2021

File photo: Umpire Richard Illingworth gives a soft signal against Kohli - which was overturned by the third umpire  •  Getty Images

On-field umpires will no longer be required to give a "soft signal" while referring contentious catches to the TV umpire, according to the revised ICC playing conditions that will come into effect from June 1, 2023.
The on-field umpires will now simply consult with the TV umpire before a final decision regarding a referred catch is made, without any soft signal having been made. The change was recommended by the ICC's Men's Cricket Committee, endorsed by the Women's Cricket Committee, and ratified by the ICC's Chief Executives Committee.
While the soft signal was scrapped by the IPL in 2021, it continued to be used in international cricket, and the TV umpire had to find conclusive evidence of a catch being clean or not to overturn the soft signal, irrespective of whether the on-field umpires had a clear line of sight to the catch while making the soft signal.
"The committee deliberated this at length and concluded that soft signals were unnecessary and at times confusing since referrals of catches may seem inconclusive in replays," Sourav Ganguly, the head of the Men's Cricket Committee, said.
There was brief confusion about the Free Hit rule with the ICC saying a "minor addition" had been made to it. That tweak deemed that runs scored off a free hit when the batter is bowled would count as runs towards the batter, as opposed to byes. The most high-profile recent incident was in the last over of India's epic win against Pakistan at the MCG in the T20 World Cup last year. Kohli was bowled by Mohammad Nawaz off the free hit, but as the ball went to deep third, the batters picked up three runs.
Soon after the release, however, the governing body clarified that was not the case and that the rule, when a batter is bowled, remains the same: runs scored after a batter is bowled off a free hit will continue to be categorised as extras and will not be credited to the batter.
In the revised playing conditions, the ICC also made it mandatory for players in "high-risk" positions to wear helmets. This includes batters facing fast bowlers, wicketkeepers standing up to the stumps, and fielders standing close to batters in front of the wicket.