Changes to cricket Laws came into effect on September 28, 2017, for the first time in 17 years.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) provides a framework for playing matches, and sets Laws that apply globally to any game of cricket.
Supplementary to these laws are Playing Conditions that are more specific and written by governing bodies.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) sets these for international games.
Playing Conditions exist to modify, replace or suspend certain MCC Laws to suit the level and type of cricket in question. As an example, MCC Laws allow the use of runners for injured batsmen, whereas ICC Playing Conditions bans such use, forcing batsman to retire hurt in the event they cannot run.
The culmination of the new Laws and Playing Conditions intend to aid bowlers and coaches, and come against a backdrop of amendments over the last decade that have favoured batsmen.
By far the most welcome change has been a restriction on the protuberant nature of custom-made bats with personalised ‘sweet spots’. Many current generation players have opted for bats sporting a thickness of 85 mm. Now, the thickness cannot exceed 67 mm at any point.
A lack of regulation around bat sizes has aided run-making with complementary changes to mandatory power plays, changes to fielding restrictions and use of two balls in fifty over games. Inarguably, these alterations have aided teams in boasting exceptional records with the bat.
Moreover, these have not only enabled batsmen to accelerate the pace and magnitude of runs in all formats of the game, but drastically reshape records in favour of the current generation batsmen.
It did not take long for these new changes to take effect.
First penalty for Labuschagne
On September 30, 2017, Australian Cricketer Marnus Labuschagne become the first player to be penalised for fake-fielding in a domestic game.
Labuschagne dived to stop the ball but, knowing it had already passed him, faked a throw to the bowler, prompting the batsman to turn around mid-way from the run. That was enough to trigger the new Law 41.5 on unfair play. The umpires exercised their discretion to award five penalty runs.
Until now, foxing players had been hailed as an act of ingenuity.
Wicket keepers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who mastered this art, were characterised as clever. Now they face possible punishment.
The unfair rules also state that if a bowler bowls a deliberate no ball, he can be removed from the attack for the rest of the inning.
That may be one alternate method to stop Spot Fixing.
The scope for the Decision Review System (DRS) has also widened to include T20s. Australia admitted to being caught unaware of this until after their first T20 loss against India on 8 October.
Other practical rules also finally made their way into the rulebook.
Some of these are (a) If the ball bounces more than once before reaching the popping crease, it will now be considered a no-ball (b) A batsman running or diving towards his end with a forward momentum with a grounded bat or a part of his body behind the popping crease, before the dislodgement of bails, is now not out. The same concept applies to a batsman trying to make his ground to avoid being stumped (c) A batsman can now be out caught, stumped or run out even if the ball bounces off the helmet worn by a wicketkeeper or a fielder.
In contrast to many such positive changes, other modifications can be considered disappointing.
The introduction of a football-style ‘Red Card’ can potentially have tyrannical misuse at grassroots levels or age-group cricket.
Both the MCC and ICC were concerned with the issue of player indiscipline, particularly in England and New Zealand. They chose to deal with the issue directly and firmly.
Additionally, the new special mechanism to tether bails onto stumps, thereby restricting the distance the bails can fly, seems to be a stretch away from realism.
The change aims to prevent injuries especially to wicketkeepers.
Mark Boucher and Saba Karim’s eye injuries were flaunted as examples.
Shatterproof eyeglasses can solve this problem; especially knowing that there have been less than a dozen such incidents in the game’s hundred plus year’s history.
In 1979, Dennis Lillie infamously capitalised on lack of clear rules by fielding an Aluminium bat during the Ashes.
Laws and Playing Conditions have come a long way since then, and at a broad level the new changes bring some sensibility and control back into this Gentlemen’s Sport.
Ravi Nyayapati is an all-rounder in Sports and an expert in Cricket and Rugby. He is our Sports Correspondent based in Auckland.
Australian Cricketer Marnus Labuschagne became the first Cricket player to be penalised for fake-fielding in a domestic game.
(Photo Courtesy: Queensland Cricket)