The ICC Cricket Committee, headed by Anil Kumble, decided to stick to the coin toss as an “integral part” of the Test match narrative. The two-day meeting that concluded in Mumbai on Tuesday also deliberated on issues like player behaviour and playing conditions for the forthcoming World Test Championship. The panel recommended stricter punishments for ball-tampering.
The coin toss in the long form had become a debatable issue following calls from some former greats to abolish the practice. Ricky Ponting had proposed it during the 2015 Ashes series in England, with an eye to neutralise home advantage. The former Australia captain received support from his predecessor Steve Waugh, while ex-West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, too, backed the radical idea. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) scrapped the toss in the 2016 County Championship.
The ICC Cricket Committee begged to differ though. “The Committee discussed whether the toss should be automatically awarded to the visiting team but felt that it was an integral part of Test cricket which forms part of the narrative of the game,” the press release from the global body said.
Kumble and company, however, acknowledged that the preparation of pitches “could provide a risk to the competitiveness of the ICC World Test Championship” and urged Member Boards to deliver sporting pitches to ensure a fair contest between bat and ball.
The Cricket Committee also recommended a points system for the World Test Championship, set for a 2019 commencement. As per the proposal, points should be awarded for each game – a third of the available points for a draw – and not a series win. This will now be forwarded to the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee for consideration. A reserve day for the nine-team Test Championship final has also been proposed.
Former England captain and current chairman of the MCC’s World Cricket Committee, Mike Gatting, attended the meeting on Monday, along with ex-Australia opener David Boon, who represented the ICC Elite Panel of Match Referees. The Cricket Committee recommended measures for improved player behaviour. Their recommendations include: i) Giving greater authority and support to match officials, ii) Greater leadership accountability for Boards and team support staff, iii) Clear expectations for the treatment of visiting teams particularly around practice facilities, warm-up matches and logistical arrangements and iv) Greater education for all young players on the history and spirit of the game.
The ICC conclave in Kolkata in April had extensively deliberated on the player behaviour issue, especially ball-tampering, in the wake of Sandpaper-gate in Cape Town. The incident eventually saw lengthy suspensions for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, handed down by Cricket Australia. The ICC, however, had banned Smith for one Test and fined the then Australia captain 100 per cent of his match fee. Bancroft had been fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points for a Level 2 offence. Warner went unpunished.
The ICC Board in Kolkata revisited the whole process, with chief executive David Richardson stressing upon moving towards “stricter and heavier sanctions for ball-tampering and all that’s indicative for lack of respect for the game”. The Cricket Committee dittoed. Their recommendations highlighted: i) Raising the sanctions associated with ball tampering, ii) Creating a new offence for personal, insulting, offensive or orchestrated abuse, iii) The consideration of the introduction of a new offence of attempting to gain an unfair advantage, iv) Creating a Code of Respect and v) Match referee to have the authority to downgrade or upgrade a level of offence or sanction.