The MCC has announced a global consultation on the place of short-pitched bowling in the game. Cricket recently introduced allowances for concussion substitutions to be made, but now the guardians of the Laws will examine whether regulations governing bouncers should also be updated.
The process will begin with an initial survey, to be distributed in March 2021, after which the data will be debated within the MCC. Any move to change the Laws would have to pass through the MCC Laws sub-committee, and be ratified by the MCC Cricket committee. The final proposal would likely be debated by the MCC committee in December, with any changes not coming into effect until 2022.
Under the current MCC Laws, short-pitched deliveries over head height are called as no-balls. Certain playing conditions, such as those for Test or limited-overs international cricket, also limit the number of balls over shoulder height allowed per over.
The focus on bouncers has increased in recent years. Australia's Phillip Hughes died after being hit in the neck by a short-pitched ball in 2014, while the links between concussion and degenerative brain conditions have become a live topic in many contact sports. India's recent tour of Australia saw several players removed from action after injuries sustained facing short bowling.
The MCC said that it had a "duty to ensure that the Laws are applied in a safe manner", and referenced the rising number of "helmet-strikes" within the game.
The press release continued: "There are important aspects to consider in the consultation, namely the balance between bat and ball; whether or not concussion should be recognised as a different injury to any other sustained; changes which are specific to particular sectors of the game - e.g. junior cricket; and whether or not lower-order batsmen should be given further protection than the Laws currently allow."
MCC's world cricket committee, which recently met via teleconference, discussed the possibility of changes to the Laws, but its members "were unanimous that short-pitched bowling is a core part of the game, particularly at elite level". The committee, which is chaired by former England batsman Mike Gatting, agreed to provide feedback during the consultation.
Any changes to the MCC Laws would likely trigger a similar discussion at ICC level about how to implement them within its playing conditions.