How some new ICC playing conditions fly in the face of history

image-l8jfb9flCharlotte Dean was run out by Deepti Sharma using the Mankad law (PC: Twitter)

If only Deepti Sharma had waited just a few more days, her Mankad dismissal of Kate Cross would have been formally moved from the category of “unfair play” to “run out”, under the new ICC playing conditions which come into effect from October 1st. This change is one of a number announced by the ICC, the objective for which, I can only assume, is to speed the game up, make it fairer, or make it more entertaining. Whether Sourav Ganguly and his ICC Committee have achieved that is open to question, overturning in some cases many years of history. Here is a quick look at those new rules and some of the stories that lie behind the soon to be updated previous versions. 

1. Batters returning when caught: When a batter is out caught, the new batter will come in at the end the striker was, regardless of whether the batters crossed prior to the catch being taken.

Put simply, whether the batsmen crossed no longer matters. I can’t see that that this will save time or increase entertainment, but it may be considered a simplification. It might take non strikers and incoming batsmen time to adapt though. The first Laws of cricket were published as a code in 1744. The batsmen crossing law has been there for over one hundred years and in over 50 years of playing and watching I’ve yet to meet anyone who is confused by the law as it was. 

2. Use of saliva to polish the ball: This prohibition has been in place for over two years in international cricket as a Covid-related temporary measure and it is considered appropriate for the ban to be made permanent.

image-l8jfx97mJames Anderson and Joe Root (PC: Twitter)

My dear old mum used to whip out a hankie, apply a bit of spit and then rub my face from time to time. Didn’t everybody’s? Highly embarrassing and the world was blissfully unaware of Covid at the time. Still, better safe than sorry and most bowlers will tell you sweat does the job too. Unless it’s a chilly March or October of course, when sweat may come at a premium for some seamers in English county cricket. 

3. Incoming batter ready to face the ball: An incoming batter will now be required to be ready to take strike within two minutes in Tests and ODIs, while the current threshold of ninety seconds in T20Is remains unchanged.

The current Law allows an incoming batter a generous three minutes and a player has yet to be timed out in any form of international cricket, although only Graeme Smith’s tolerance saved Sourav Ganguly himself (rarely a man to be hurried) after a six-minute delay at Newlands in 2006. Two minutes would certainly not have been enough for David Steele (famously dubbed “the bank clerk who went to war”) when at Lord’s in1975, his silver rimmed spectacles aglint, he set of from the home dressing to do battle with the Australia’s fearsome Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. At the precise moment of England’s call to action, he became discombobulated by winding down the pavilion’s stairs in an unfamiliar direction from the home corridor, trotting on down them until he found himself in the basement by the gent’s toilet. What a way to go that would have been: timed out on debut. But he was quick enough on his heels to make it back to ground level, across the Long Room, down the steps and through the gate with seconds to spare.

image-l8jfk6zjSourav Ganguly in action (PC: Twitter)

Spare a thought too for Harold Heygate, victim of the first ever timing out in first-class history. Back then it was a two-minute limit, rather than the three we are about to abandon. Poor old Harold, suffering from rheumatism and war injuries to his leg, was only a spectator at Taunton when Sussex played Somerset on May 22nd 1919, but was drafted in to a Sussex side that had found themselves a man short. The limping war hero shuffled his way bravely but slowly to the pitch wearing his street clothes. The Somerset players appealed that he was taking too long and umpire Alfred Street agreed and raised his finger. The match ended in a tie. Sussex appealed, but the umpire’s decision was upheld by the MCC, although they added that his innings should be marked as ‘absent hurt’ rather than ‘out’.

4. Striker’s right to play the ball: This is restricted so as to require some part of their bat or person to remain within the pitch. Should they venture beyond that, the umpire will call and signal dead ball. Any ball which would force the batter to leave the pitch will also be called no-ball.

This would appear to address when the ball slips from the bowler's hand or goes badly wrong, in which case, the batter can no longer step out and blast it from off the cut strip as Jos Buttler recently did. I can’t see a good reason to argue against this change.

5. Unfair movement by the fielding side: Any unfair and deliberate movement while the bowler is running in to bowl could now result in the umpire awarding five penalty runs to the batting side, in addition to a call of dead ball.

This has always been a Law as far as I know, but the penalty is new. And fair enough too, although what do you decide is unfair? And who decides? Can the batters draw attention to it, or do we rely on the square-leg umpire and the all- seeing third umpire? Time will tell. But fielders had better avoid any undue stretching, scratching or other extraneous movement from now on.

6. Running out of the non-striker: The Playing Conditions follow the Laws in moving this method of effecting a run out from the “unfair play’ section to the “run out’ one.

This one should be music to the ears of R Ashwin, who has long argued in favour of “keeping the non-striker honest”, as Jos Buttler can testify. But perhaps the real beneficiary is the late, great Vinoo Mankad, whose achievements as one of the greatest ever all-rounders are too often obscured by his association with the act that bears his name. Mankad famously did it twice to Australian opener Bill Brown at the SCG in 1948. Even more galling for Vinoo Mankad was that he wasn’t actually the first to do it. It had happened to the England batsman, Joe Hardstaff during a tour game against Sindh in 1937, where the English papers reported that the wicket “evoked the displeasure of the crowd” who “continually barracked” Khadim Hussain for doing it. It may be considered a run-out from October 1, but I’ll wager it will still be referred to as a Mankad. To misquote Oscar Wilde: “There is only one thing in life worse than having a dismissal named after you and that is not having one named after you”.

7. Bowler throwing towards striker’s end before delivery: Previously, a bowler who saw the batter advancing down the wicket before entering their delivery stride, could throw the ball to attempt to run out the striker. This practice will now be called a dead ball.

image-l8jfq8ggShoaib Akhtar (PC: Twitter) 

I must confess I had to read this one twice as I had no idea that this was a rule in the first place. The likes of Michael Holding, Dennis Lillee, Sir Wesley Hall, Bob Willis or Shoaib Akhtar had such long run ups, would they have known the batsmen had stepped out of his crease from so far away? The notoriously short-sighted Devon Malcolm certainly wouldn’t have and Morne Morkel’s pre run-up turning circle, has him facing in the wrong direction anyway. 

This one definitely seems like inventing a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I did note that Joel Wilson was the umpire’s representative on the ICC committee. Your might want to overturn your decision on that one Joel. 

Also Read: Ben Stokes reacts to comparisons of 2019 World Cup incident with Deepti-Dean saga