Mumbai: A red-card penalty is set to be introduced into the Laws of Cricket for the first time. The MCC, custodian of the laws, will receive a recommendation from its world cricket committee to give umpires the power to send off a player in the most extreme cases of on-field breaches of discipline.
The move, which will apply to all levels of competition from Test to village green, is expected to come into effect as of next October. It was announced in a press release issued by the world cricket committee on Wednesday, following its meeting in Mumbai.
Committee chairman Mike Brearley and colleagues including his fellow former Test captain Ricky Ponting made it clear that the introduction of a red-card system for “threatening an umpire, physically assaulting another player, umpire, official or spectator, or any other act of violence on the field of play” is specifically targeted at addressing increasingly poor standards of behaviour in recreational cricket, rather than at the professional level.
It will, however, apply in all international and professional domestic matches. The committee statement explained its reasons for recommending the power to send a player off for the entire remaining duration of any match – be it over 20 overs, or five days.
It read: “The committee believes that the game must now include a mechanism to deal with the worst disciplinary offences during the match, and not subsequent to it as is presently the case.
“If approved, the ability to send a player off would therefore come into effect at all levels of the game from October 1 2017.”
Other lesser punishments, such as run penalties or ‘sin bins’, were discussed but ruled out as a universal measure because the committee judged “it would be harder to achieve consistency of application around the world”.
Cricket is currently just one of two team sports to have no in-built measure to send a player off.
It is not, however, envisaged that the change will lead to regular instances of players being eliminated – as, for example, in football – but that it will be used only in the rarest circumstances, when behaviour is entirely unacceptable. Brearley said: “This is to cover the most extreme cases of violence on the pitch really.
“In a survey done with umpires, 40 per cent of them said they’d considered giving up the game because of abuse.
“Anecdotal evidence from people who are familiar with leagues in parts of England tells us that the behaviour has got a lot worse.
“Umpires have to be respected, and given the best possible chance.”
Committee member Ramiz Raja emphasised that it is club cricket which appears to be most prone to the worst player behaviour.
He said: “This is a pretty drastic change to the Laws….it is the second or third tier which is causing a lot of stress, the club matches.
“It was felt that something had to be done, at that level particularly. It is just a deterrent.”
The introduction of ‘red cards’ was the most eye-catching of recommendations discussed or agreed at the two-day meeting.
Other topics covered included a reduction in the size of bat edges to 40mm, to help prevent obvious mis-hits going for six, and that too will be recommended as a Law change next year.
No consensus was reached on suggestions that Tests should be reduced from five to four days, but the committee did conclude that no Law change was needed on current ball-tampering regulations following the controversial incident in the Hobart Test which resulted in a fine for South Africa captain Faf du Plessis.
The committee reaffirmed its belief that “cricket should embrace the concept of playing T20 at the Olympic Games” – with participation in 2024 still an objective – and voiced its hope that International Cricket Council full member countries will pursue proposals for a conference-style World Test Championship, and agreed to recommend that catches should in future be permitted even if they are completed after the ball has struck a helmet being worn in the field.