Gender-neutral language, a new code of player conduct and a bowler-friendly alteration to the Mankad rule are among a range of changes confirmed by the MCC in their updated laws of the game, to take effect in October 2017.
Changes to the so-called Mankad rule mean the non-striker now risks being run out if he or she leaves his or her ground before the bowler would normally be expected to release the ball. “It is often the bowler who is criticised for attempting such a run out but it is the batsman who is attempting to gain an advantage,” the MCC said in an explanation of the change.
“The message to the non-striker is very clear – if you do not want to risk being run out, stay within your ground until the bowler has released the ball.”
Alterations throughout the 42 laws of the game mean they are “now written in language applying to all persons, regardless of gender”, though “batsman” remains. More likely to spark debate is the introduction of a new code of behaviour, which will lay down in-game consequences for “poor on-field behaviour” – the first time since 2000 that a new code has been introduced.
The code is covered in law 42 (player conduct), a new law which, for the most serious offences, could result in temporary or permanent removal of a player from the field of play. It grants the umpire four levels of sanctions of increasing severity to impose on the offending player, and the option of awarding the match if a captain refuses to comply with the sanction.
Level one is a warning then five penalty runs to the opposition for a repeat offence. Level two is a five-run penalty awarded to the opposition. Level three results in the offending player being suspended for a number of overs, depending on the length of the match, plus five penalty runs to the opposition. For the most series offences, a level four penalty will result in the offending player being removed from the field for the rest of the match, with five penalty runs awarded to the opposition.
The 2017 law changes formalise limits on the the thickness of edges and overall depth of bats. The maximum dimensions will be 108mm in width (unchanged from the previous rules), but 67mm in depth with 40mm edges. Deliberate front foot no balls will be treated the same way as deliberate full tosses, and Law 30 (Batsman out of his/her ground) has been amended to protect a running or diving batsman whose bat bounces up after having been grounded beyond the popping crease.
In good news for wicketkeepers, substitutes will now be allowed to keep wicket at the discretion of the umpire and the concept of penalty time when the primary keeper is off the ground injured will be amended. A new law will allow mechanisms tethering the bails to the stumps, has been introduced to avoid the risk of eye injuries like that suffered by former South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
The handled the ball law has been deleted altogether and merged with the obstructing the field law, and likewise the more obscure lost ball law, which is now covered under dead ball.
Fraser Stewart, the MCC’s laws manager, explained that the changes are reflective of need to establish clarity for all players, umpires and fans, and came after three years of consultation between the club’s laws sub-committee and the professional and amateur game.
“MCC has left no stone unturned in researching and redrafting the new laws of cricket and has done so in order to make the laws work in a way that makes sense to players, umpires and spectators,” Stewart said.
“The laws are applicable worldwide so they need to be as simple as possible to understand and inclusive to all. The club hopes to encourage interest in the game at all levels and believes these new laws are reflective of the present time and easier for cricketers and umpires to interpret.”