MCC cricket committee calls for restrictions to bat depth
The MCC World Cricket Committee has recommended the introduction of further limitations to the size of cricket bats within the laws of the game
The MCC World Cricket Committee has recommended the introduction of further limitations to the size of cricket bats within the laws of the game.
The committee, concerned that the balance between bat and ball "has tilted too far in the batsman's favour", has proposed that the thickness and depth of bats be limited and added that further discussion is required over the weight of bats.
The committee, which has no powers but is respected as an independent voice in world cricket, makes recommendations to the MCC and has included David Richardson
, the ICC chief executive, among its number. The committee also welcomed the ICC's suggestions for greater context in Test cricket, called for cricket to be included in the Olympics and called for a change in Law 42.15, sometimes referred to as the Mankad Law, to ensure clarity over the issue of running out the non-striking batsman who leaves the crease before the point of release. As far as the committee is concerned, such a batsman "is either taking an advantage or acting carelessly and runs the risk of being legitimately run-out".
But it was perhaps the call for an amended law over the size of bats that might have the greatest ramifications for the game. While at pains to make clear that the committee was not trying to reduce the number of boundaries hit in the modern game, Mike Brearley
, chairman of the committee, did express concern that mis-hits were carrying for six and that, if current trends went unchecked, the dominance of bat over ball would only become more pronounced.
"The time has come to restrict the size of bat edges and the overall width [depth] of bats," Mike Brearley, chairman of the committee, said. "It was pointed out to us that, in 1905, the width of bats was 16mm and that, by 1980, it had increased to 18mm. It is now an average, in professional cricket, of 35-40mm and sometimes up to 60mm. That shows how fast the change has been."
"The one thing we don't want to see is batsmen unable to hit fours and sixes," Rod Marsh
agreed. "That's so far from what will happen. We just don't want to see the bat sizes get bigger. But when you see a guy try to hit the ball through midwicket and it flies for six over cover, you know something is wrong."
While the committee's view was not unanimous - Ramiz Raja
was one who had reservations about a proposed restriction - it proposed that "further consultations will be held with bat manufacturers and scientists to finalise the exact measurements and to investigate the viability and need for a weight limit". If progress is smooth, it is possible that an amended law could be ratified by the MCC's main committee as part of a new Code of Laws scheduled to be introduced on October 1, 2017.
"The overwhelming (but not unanimous) view of the committee was that it has become too easy for batsmen to clear the boundary in all forms of cricket, even with mis-timed shots," a statement read. "Furthermore, it was felt that there is a clear safety concern for close fielders, bowlers and umpires, whilst the recreational game is also suffering, as balls are flying into nearby residential properties with increasing frequency, thus threatening the existence of some smaller cricket clubs.
"The committee agrees with ICC's cricket committee that, beyond the limits that have long been in place regarding the width and length of a cricket bat, further limitations to the edge, depth and possibly to the weight should now be introduced. One proposal would be for the maximum thickness of the edge to be between 35mm and 40mm, and the overall depth of the bat to be between 60mm and 65mm (some bats in current use have edges of 55mm and can be up to 80mm deep)."
Other recommendations from the committee included:
- An insistence that "cricket must embrace the concept of playing T20 in the Olympic Games by applying to become a participating sport for 2024". Suggesting that such a development would represent "the single most effective move ICC could make" to realise their ambition of making cricket "the world's favourite sport", the committee reasoned that it was an opportunity "to inspire and reinvigorate the sport at the grassroots level and encourage its growth in new markets".
- A call for promotion and relegation in Test cricket, as well as "a pinnacle event between the top two teams" - effectively a final - to be contested every two years. While the committee welcomed the ICC's attempt to add context to all formats of the international game, it expressed concern over the future of Test cricket. It accepted that staging a final presented significant practical challenges, but suggested it may present the best way of "captivating an audience".
- An offer to take "one or two" of the most promising young cricketers from Pakistan into the MCC Young Cricketers programme "in future years" in recognition at the extraordinary challenges faced by Pakistan cricket, not least having to play "home" matches in a neutral country where costs are high and the lack of bilateral series against India.
- A call to change Law 42.15. "The World Cricket Committee's unanimous view was that there should be a change in the Law to mirror the current ICC playing condition," the statement reads, "that requires the non-striker to remain inside the crease before the point of release of the ball. A non-striker who is out of his crease before the point of release is either taking an advantage or is acting carelessly, and runs the risk of being legitimately run out."
The committee also expressed delight at the apparent change of character at the ICC since Shashank Manohar
was elected chairman.
"The committee believes that governance changes brought about by ICC in February 2014 were bad for the game," their statement says, "and is delighted that, under the leadership of Shashank Manohar and David Richardson, the game's global governing body has come to the view that many of the decisions taken at that time need to be reversed."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo