Cricket Umpires to get new powers

Barbados Today:-International cricketers may soon be liable to being sent off the field of play by umpires for specific acts of indiscipline.

Today the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) confirmed that umpires would have the authority to send cricketers off for serious breaches of behaviour under updated laws of the game which will be used from October 1, 2017. It is expected the new rules will also be adopted by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

They have also laid out the restrictions on bat sizes and there will be an amendment to the run out law to protect a batsman whose bat has bounced in the air once they have crossed the popping crease.

These new laws follow the recommendations of the MCC Cricket Committee from their meeting in Mumbai in early December.

An attempt to stamp out poor on-field behaviour at the lower levels of the game has led to a decision to bring in four levels of offences which the umpires can judge. The most serious, levels three and four, include temporarily or permanently removing a player from the game alongside a five-run penalty.

“We felt the time had come to introduce sanctions for poor player behaviour and research told us that a growing number of umpires at grass roots level were leaving the game because of it,” John Stephenson, the MCC’s head of cricket, said. “Hopefully these sanctions will give them more confidence to handle disciplinary issues efficiently, whilst providing a deterrent to the players.

A level one breach will begin with a warning, followed by a five-run penalty for a second offence, while level two will come with an immediate five-run penalty. Level three breaches such as intimidating an umpire or threatening to assault another player, team official or spectator can lead to the sending off of the offender for a set number of overs, depending on the format.

Level four breaches that include threatening an umpire or committing any act of violence on the field can lead to the offender be sent off for the duration of the match. If he or she were batting at the time, the offender will be deemed ‘retired out’.

Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the development, cricket legend Sir Everton Weekes supported any measure which encouraged or promoted discipline in the sport. “If it is still a gentleman’s game, then I believe there should be standards of discipline,” he said.

However, Sir Everton, the only surviving member of the famed Three Ws [Sir Frank Worrell & Sir Clyde Walcott the others] noted that sometimes umpires were a problem in cricket too and the cause of confusion in the middle. He suggested umpires should be taken into the equation when authorities look to tighten up on discipline in the sport.

“The authorities should perhaps have a special committee that reviews not only cricketers but also the umpires and how they act on the field. They create issues as well,” he noted.

Sir Everton, who turned 92 last month-end, had no problems with authorities seeking to regulate bat sizes.

“The bats have no edges these days, some are almost as broad as the face of the bat,” he said, noting the game must be fair to bowlers as well.

Veteran cricket administrator and West Indies Cricket Board director Conde Riley told Barbados TODAY he had no problems with any new disciplinary measures which might eventually come into the international game.

He explained that any recommendations on discipline, including sending off players, would have been arrived at through research and due consideration.

“A cricket committee would have been set up and an evaluation would have been done that included players and others in the sport before recommendations were made. As I always say, once you know the rules of your sport, abide by them and you will have no problems,” he said.

Riley said with respect to the dimensions of bats he also had no issues with the new stipulations, provided there were fairly implemented across the board and in every cricket-playing nation.

Speaking last December, MCC Cricket Committee member Ricky Ponting said focus had to be given to the lower levels of the game. “The reason we are talking about making significant changes to lower level cricket is because it has got completely out of hand down there,” he said. “We have got to the stage that something had to be done to prevent these things happening.”

However, if the International Cricket Council accepts all the law amendments for the international game – which MCC said they expected them to do – an international cricketer could, in theory, be sent off the field.

Of more immediate consequence to some international players could be the stipulation relating to bat sizes. They have been set at 108mm in width, 67mm in depth with 40mm edges. Ponting said in December that some bats have edges up to 50mm which is what was causing concern. A bat gauge will be used at professional level while a moratorium period – which will vary between governing bodies – will allow amateur players to continue with bats that breach the new limits.

“The bat size issue has been heavily scrutinised and discussed in recent years,” Stephenson said. “We believe the maximum dimensions we have set will help redress the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing the explosive, big hitting we all enjoy.”

In the batsman’s favour is a change to the run out law to mean they will not be given out if they have grounded the bat over the crease and it subsequently bounces in the air prior to the stumps are broken.

The MCC has also amended the law regarding running out the non-striker – more commonly referred to as Mankading – to mirror the ICC playing conditions, to say that the bowler can attempt a run out at any point until they release the ball.