With very little fuss, the International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced new changes to the laws of cricket that came into full effect around the world on 1 October this year. The changes cover all levels of the game.
The new Code of Laws, issued by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) (amazing to think that after removing all vestiges of colonialism in cricket, the ICC still entrusts the laws of the game to the MCC), are the first major changes to the game’s laws for almost two decades. The 2017 Code is the sixth of its kind written by MCC since the first Code was drawn up in 1788. The other four Codes were published in 1835, 1947, 1980 and 2000.
The new Code followed a three-year project overseen by the MCC’s laws sub-committee, which involved numerous trials and widespread global consultation throughout the professional and amateur game.
In total the game (still) has 42 laws. Two were removed but two new ones were added. The most significant of these law changes are:
- For the first time in the history of the game both sexes are treated equally under the laws of cricket. The new Code is written in language applying to all persons. There is an increased use of generic nouns like “fielder” and “bowler”, as well as using “he/she” when it would be apt to do so.
- For the first time in almost 230 years the maximum sizes of the depth and edges of cricket bats are now regulated. From now on the edges of a bat may not exceed 40 mm and the depth of the bat (i.e. the ridge or spine down the middle) may not be thicker than 67 mm. Whether this will lead to fewer mistimed shots flying for sixes only time will tell.
- A favourite pub quiz question has always been how many methods of dismissal are there in cricket? 10, of course. Wrong! The dismissal “handled the ball” has been removed from the laws and is now covered by “obstructing the field”. A new law regarding players’ conduct has been added to supplement the ICC’s Code of Conduct. The latter code defines four levels of offences, with Level 4 the most serious. Threatening to assault an umpire, making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with an umpire and physically assaulting a player are some examples of Level 4 offences. After the new law changes a player can now be sent off the field for the rest of the match for a Level 4 offence. Threatening to assault a player is a Level 3 offence and for that a player can now be suspended for 10 overs. The decision review system (DRS) for Test matches has also been revamped. A review is now not lost if the decision remains unchanged solely as the result of an ‘umpire’s call’. To counter-balance this law change in Test matches there will be no more top-up reviews after 80 overs of an innings, meaning that there can only be two unsuccessful reviews for the entire innings. DRS will now also be allowed in T20Is.An important change with respect to run outs is that if a batsman is running or diving towards the crease with forward momentum, and has grounded his/her bat behind the popping crease but subsequently has lost contact with the ground at the time of the wickets being broken, the batsman will not be run out. The same interpretation will also apply for a batsman trying to regain his/her ground to avoid being stumped.
- A batsman can now be out caught, stumped or run out even if the ball bounces off the helmet worn by a fielder or wicket-keeper.