Canine Conspiracies, Cricket Spirit and Uninspired Sweating: The New Laws of Cricket




On Tuesday, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) announced changes to the laws of cricket which will come into force on October 1, 2022.

The changes mainly consist of minor clarifications and the removal or modification of redundant provisions. When was the last time you saw a bowler attempt to run out the hitter on the offensive side mid-stroke? I haven’t seen it, but there must have been instances of hitters trying to pinch a run and bowlers attempting an out before their delivery stride.

There are also some interesting changes, including provisions for changing the state of the ball and cropping the infamous Mankad rule.

But first, it should be noted that the MCC has closed a gaping loophole in Law 20 on dead balls that was just waiting to be exploited.

A new provision states that if “either side has been disadvantaged by a person, animal or other object in the field of play”, the umpire must call the ball dead.

(Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

There is an old thread in Australian cricket, possibly apocryphal, about a batting pair running ten after the ball was hit into the outfield and came to rest near a large poisonous snake that the field team was understandably reluctant to approach.

MCC addressed potential reptilian interference and noted that other sources of interference could include land invaders and dogs.

Any budding conspiracy involving close pursuit and a specially trained whippet was nipped in the bud. I’m sure that has been considered.

Let’s move on to more important matters.

Surely there is no more controversial dismissal in cricket than Mankad. Arguments about its validity usually involve invoking the “spirit of cricket”.

This argument fails on the most cursory reading of the laws. The Laws of Cricket require the non-attacker to be in his territory until the ball is released and specifically provide for the possibility of Mankad.

“If the non-striker is out of bounds at any time from the time the ball comes into play until the time the bowler would normally have dropped the ball, the non-striker is liable to be out …whether or not the balloon is subsequently delivered.

It appears that the MCC felt that the inclusion, thus far, of the Mankad rule in the foul play law has created confusion, with some not realizing that the foul play referred to is the non-attacker looking for an advantage. Headlines like this from Fox Sports indicate they were probably right.

A Mankad is now a run out like any other.

Elsewhere, the most interesting change is to Law 41 regarding the state of the ball. Previous versions of the law prohibited the use of “artificial” substances to modify the ball, but did not specify exactly what was permitted. The law now specifies “that the only natural substance used is sweat”.

Cameron Bancroft

(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

There are two issues here.

First, the ban by exclusion of saliva is obviously related to COVID-19. But even in a world where a highly infectious disease was not on the loose, it makes sense to at least discourage such an unhygienic practice. It’s a great way to convey a number of things.

Second, the curious reasoning. The MCC states that “data from international cricket” (source unspecified) indicates that since the use of saliva was banned in response to COVID-19 “players were using sweat to polish the ball, and that was just as effective.”

Technically this is correct, but it omits that neither sweat nor saliva – not even that enhanced by sweets – are very effective at inducing swing beyond very small amounts. Something like sunscreen is much more effective. A friend said to me, you understand.

Indeed, the MCC banned one largely ineffective method and specifically promoted another. It’s a strange approach to law-making.

The MCC would likely argue that the primary purpose of the laws is to discourage ball tampering and unsanitary practices, with swing promotion being a secondary concern.

Fair enough. But I wonder if Bill 41 is ripe for innovation. If cricket is going to prescribe an authorized substance, why not make it an effective substance?

Why not encourage ball manufacturers to upgrade their product with a cream, balm or other substance that would hold one side of the ball instead of body fluids?

The International Cricket Council and the MCC could test and evaluate these products and determine which would be effective without tipping the balance significantly in favor of bowlers. The laws of cricket could prescribe exactly what type of ball amplifier is permitted and how many are available to the team in the field per inning, its application to be supervised by the umpires in the field.

Cricket needs swing and most importantly swing with the old ball in Test cricket. Perhaps it is time to innovate and inspire the laws of cricket.




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