The so-called Guardians of Cricket have settled on a new code of laws that will limit the thickness of bats and provide penalty runs for bad behaviour, with the changes set to be introduced October 1.
After lengthy debate over the increasing dominance of bat over ball, the Marylebone Cricket Club on Monday released regulations on the width and thickness of the bats. The changes will start at the professional level and be phased into amateur cricket.
It means the likes of Australian opening batsman David Warner will have to rely on a bat with a significantly thinner spine than he has been using in recent seasons. The size of bats has become more of an issue since the advent of Twenty20 cricket, where batters attack the ball from the first over of the game.
The maximum dimensions of a cricket bat will be set at 108 millimeters for width, 67 millimeters in depth and 40 millimeters for the edges.
A bat gauge will be used to ensure that the new limits are adhered to in the professional game. Umpires already have small gauges to test the shape of the ball, which must be a certain weight.
The new edition of the Code of Laws, the first since 2000, will be formally released on March 20.
John Stephenson, the MCC’s head of cricket, said the game had evolved significantly over the last 14 years and it was time to rewrite some laws rather than keep making amendments.
“We felt the time was right for a new code to tidy up many of the piecemeal changes made since 2000,” Stephenson said. “The bat size issue has been heavily scrutinized and discussed. We believe the maximum dimensions we have set will help redress the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing the explosive, big hitting we all enjoy.”
The MCC, based at Lord’s in London, is responsible for the laws of the game, while the International Cricket Council is responsible for the administration of the sport.
Other law changes involved the handling of run outs and gave umpires more discretion to penalize players for poor on-field behavior, including excessive appealing, making contact with players or officials or intimidation.
A batter will no longer be deemed run out if he or she has touched down across the crease and the bails are dislodged while the bat bounces. Changes will also make it easier for a bowler to run out a batter at the non-striker’s end before the ball is bowled.
Umpires will have increased power to sanctions players immediately depending on the severity of the bad behavior, with levels of punishments ranging from a warning, to the awarding of five penalty runs to the opposing team or temporary or permanent removal of a player from the game.
“We felt the time had come to introduce sanctions for poor player behavior,” Stephenson said. “Research told us that a growing number of umpires at grass roots level were leaving the game because of it.
“Hopefully these sanctions will give them more confidence to handle disciplinary issues efficiently, whilst providing a deterrent to the players.”
Changes to bat dimensions in the Code of Laws have been foreshadowed for months by the MCC’s cricket committee, which contains former international cricketers including former test captains Mike Brearley of England and Ricky Ponting of Australia.
In December, the espncricinfo.com website quoted Brearley as saying the time for change was overdue, and players, manufacturers and administrators had been consulted.
“It was pointed out to us that, in 1905, the width of bats was 16 millimeters and that, by 1980, it had increased to 18 millimeters. It is now an average, in professional cricket, of 35-40 and sometimes up to 60 millimeters. That shows how fast the change has been.”
Ponting also told the cricket website that the overwhelming feedback from players “was a need for the restoration of a balance between bat and ball.
“We feel that in the last few years that it has actually gone a little bit too far in the favor of batsmen, and it is more about mis-hits going for a six,” Ponting said in the article. “One thing we know is we can’t make the grounds bigger, so certainly one of the concerns was the middle of the bat, because of the shape of the bat is increasingly getting bigger and bigger every year.”
The summary of the news laws was released while India is hosting Australia in a four-test series, South Africa is in New Zealand, England is in the West Indies and Sri Lanka is hosting Bangladesh.
Noting that the changes would come into force a month before Australia hosts England in the Ashes, The Australian newspaper reacted with the headline: “Warner’s bat cut down to size before Ashes.”
The newspaper also illustrated some previous bats that had been banned, including one that was with the width of a set of stumps in the 1770s, a metal version trialed by Australia fast bowler Dennis Lillee in the 1970s and a graphite-backed bat tried by the likes of Ponting in 2006.