How New ICC Rules Will Affect Dhoni, Virat, Warner & World Cricket
MS Dhoni’s bat size and Virat Kohli’s aggression will both need some reigning in, w.e.f. 28 September.
Generally, rule changes in sport are greeted with suspicion and perhaps, even resistance. They spark raging debates among fans and while some gain acceptance with time, most are usually so complicated that even commentators take time to understand them.
On September 28, the ICC will introduce a slew of new rules that, in the normal course of things, would lead to confusion galore. But this time, things promise to be different. Most of these rules are designed to make life simpler for anyone who follow this complicated game.
Bat Size Regulations
- Restriction have been put in place on the size of the edge and thickness of bats.
- The permitted size of the bat is now defined, with the width and length unchanged, but with added restrictions on the thickness of the edges (40mm) and the overall depth (67mm).
- Umpires will be issued with a new bat gauge, which they can use to check a bat’s legality
The size of bats has been a talking point for several years now and nowhere was this more starkly demonstrated than when a photograph of the great Barry Richards came out. As seen below, in his right hand, he’s holding the bat with which he scored 325 in one day at the WACA. While on the other hand he’s looking monster bat that is currently used by David Warner.
Now, the ICC has decided to limit the size of bats. The thickness of the edge has now been capped at 40 mm, while the entire bat can’t be more than 67mm thick. While it doesn’t quite reduce the size of modern bats, it is aimed at preventing them from getting any bigger than they already are. It is hoped that the balance between bat and ball, already skewed, in most people’s opinion, won’t be further disturbed.
The new rule may not affect most batsmen, though MS Dhoni, whose bat has a 45mm edge, will have to change it for the next game. Also affected are Chris Gayle, Keiron Pollard, Steve Smith and David Warner, who plays with a bat that has a 50mm edge and a depth of a massive 85mm.
The power that comes from modern bats has seen some umpires donning helmets, while Bruce Oxenford has pioneered the use of a shield-like arm-guard, purely to keep themselves safe from the power of modern bats.
- A player can now be sent from the field for the rest of a match for serious misconduct.
- This will apply to most Level 4 offences, with Level 1-3 offences continuing to be dealt with under the ICC Code of Conduct.
One rule that has generated much debate is the ability of umpires to now send off players for serious offences. While it is hoped that the need for this will not arise, the introduction of a deterrent for serious offences is probably a welcome addition. Level four offences as per the ICC are:
- Threat of assault on an umpire or referee.
- Physical assault of another player, umpire, referee, official or spectator.
- Any act of violence during play.
- Using language or gestures that seriously offends race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.
In essence, instances such as when Colin Croft deliberately shoulder charged New Zealand umpire Fred Goodall in 1980 or when Dennis Lillee famously kicked Javed Miandad, prompting the latter to threaten Lillee with his bat, will see players being ejected from the field of play. Anything less than that, though, will only earn the player a sanction, as has been the case earlier. So all those fearing the worst for the exuberant Virat Kohli can rest easy.
DRS Rule Changes
- Not losing a review on Umpire’s Call. Any decision that remains unchanged, solely as a result of an Umpire’s Call, will not result in a Review being lost.
- In Tests: No more top-up reviews after 80 overs. Each team will have 2 unsuccessful reviews available each innings.
- In T20Is: DRS can now be used in T20Is. One unsuccessful review per team per innings. Third umpire to be a host Board appointment.
Another massive change is the tweak to the DRS rules. Earlier, if a team reviewed an on-field decision, and the call went against them on the dreaded umpire’s call’ - a margin given to the umpires on the basis that technology is not fool-proof - they would lose their review.
Now, while the decision will still stay with the ‘umpire’s call’, the team will not lose its review. This is definitely a very sensible tweak, that had been demanded by many within the game. Consequently, teams in Test matches will not see their reviews restored after 80 overs. Also, for the first time, DRS will be applicable to T20s as well.
Update in Run Out Rule
Other rules aimed at simplifying the game include an amendment to the run out rule. If a batsman makes his ground while taking a run, where his bat or some part of his person is grounded behind the popping crease, he will be declared not out, even his bat or body bounces up subsequently, while still behind the crease.
This will reduce the time taken for the third umpire to give decisions where he has to take into account the fact of whether the bat or body is raised at the exact point the bails have been dislodged.
Again, this was a rule nobody was quite sure why it existed. Once the batsman had made his ground and wasn’t trying to steal another run, why should it have mattered whether he was in contact with the ground when the bails came off?
Another change that comes in is that now, if a batsman hits the ball straight onto a fielder’s helmet, and a fielder catches the rebound, the batsman will be declared out.
Earlier, the ball was declared dead the moment it hit the fielder’s helmet. Consequently, since the ball stays in play, the batsman can also be run out if he is out of the crease.
For boundaries, airborne fielders making first contact with the ball will need to have taken off from inside the field of play, failing which a boundary will be given. That would also be the case for catches, where a fielder could earlier position himself outside the boundary, jump, catch the ball in the air, throw it up and then catch it within the boundary. That would now count as a six.
Another interesting rule change is that when a T20 innings is reduced to less than 10 overs, the maximum quota of overs that a single bowler can bowl may not be less than two.
In other words, if an innings is reduced to just five overs (the minimum limit for a T20 game to happen), two bowlers could conceivably bowl four of those five overs, thereby reducing the advantage for the batsmen.
There is also a tweak to the no-ball rule. Now, byes and leg byes will be counted separately from the no ball. So if a no-ball goes to the boundary off the pads, it will count as one no ball and four leg-byes. Similarly with byes. That is good news for bowlers, who had all these extra runs reflected in their own figures earlier.
Also, if the ball bounces more than once before reaching the batsman’s popping crease, it will be declared a no ball.
The contentious “handled the ball” dismissal has now been removed and included under the obstructing the field’ law. So, if the batsman were to now pick up the ball and hand it over to the fielder or bowler, he would not be in any danger of being declared out, unless he were to obstruct the field while doing so.
And finally, while it isn’t quite a rule, the ICC is looking at having bails tethered to the stumps in order to prevent injuries from flying bails, such as the one that prematurely ended Mark Boucher’s career.
(Hemant Buch is broadcaster and writer who's worked for over two decades in this field. Cricket is his profession, and racket sports, his passion. He tweets @hemantbuch)
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