Club Cricket Conference

Sunday, 16th December 2018

ECB preparing clubs for new dawn in umpiring

By Charles Randall

19 March 2018


Club cricket starts in April with new routines to think about.  The ECB  winter umpiring courses have seldom been more intense while studying changes in Law 41 and the thrust of the new Law 42 covering player conduct, all designed to clamp down on unsporting behaviour.

For example, sanctions are now enshrined in the Laws that forbid wilful damage to equipment and even to the dressing room if umpires find any evidence.  Bat throwing after dismissal could rebound on a furious batsman with a stern warning for the entire team. That means that any further such Level One infringement by anyone immediately incurs a five-run penalty. 
 
All waist-height and higher full tosses are now no-balls, however slow, assessed as though the batter is standing upright at the popping crease. In grassroots cricket the height of impact can be difficult to adjudge, and the 'no-ball or caught' dilemma can be critical to the match. That is the price of consistency. The decision rests with the bowler's umpire, though the two umpires might possibly confer in the event of doubt.

It is worth emphasising that only two of these high deliveries will result in a bowler being suspended whether the ball flies wide of the batsman or not. This Law does seem harsh for the lower levels of club cricket, where there might be mediocre skill. Even before the latest changes,  an opening fast bowler' s first over of looseners could be his last over of the day.  League rules can vary the Laws as written, for example by citing only full tosses directed at the batsman, considered dangerous.

And in the field, pretending to stop the ball and similar deceptions in the hope of running out a batsman or preventing a run might well be deemed illegal, with a non-playing umpire calling dead ball and immediately awarding five penalty runs without warning. Yes, that's right.
 
These are relatively rare examples of the sharper focus in the Laws to halt the deterioration of on-field behaviour.  Starting with Level One offences, the mildest, the act of "aggressive appealing" is defined and ruled illegal. This means "running towards the umpire, sustained appealing from a single delivery or using aggressive language or gestures while appealing." Two offences by a side in the match will result in a five-run penalty.
 
Level Two offences include using language or gesture that is obscene or of a seriously insulting nature  directed at any individual. The Law attempts to define foul language and gestures so that a player can be sent from the field for  "using language or gesture that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion or belief, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or background."  
 
This level covers inappropriate and deliberate physical contact, meaning "intention to cause a collision or tripping, barging or pushing another player, throwing the ball at someone when in the umpire’s opinion, a ball is deliberately aimed at someone or is inappropriate or dangerous. " This includes even gentle underarms that might be considered inflammatory.  All Level Two offences carry a five-run penalty.
 
Level Three deals with a worsening and upsetting trend in cricket - intimidation of the umpire short of actual violence. Sanctions include suspension of a player, on the instruction of a non-playing umpire, by the captain for one-fifth of the innings in a limited overs match or 10 overs. "Examples would be moving threateningly into the umpire’s personal space, moving towards an umpire in a threatening manner, or using language which is aimed at intimidating the umpire," say the ECB.  This level also covers threatening to assault a player or any other person, for example a spectator or club member
 
Level Four offences include threats to assault an umpire, making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with an umpire, physically assaulting a player or any other person, committing any other act of violence. Seriously offensive language falls into this group. A non-playing umpire would be entitled to instruct the captain to remove a player for the remainder of the match. If a captain refuses to comply, his team forfeit the match. If both captains fail to comply, the match is to be abandoned.
 
Behaviour bad enough to warrant Level Four action is very rare, but unfortunately not unknown. The sanctions should be sufficient to calm boiling tempers. All the authorities in the game, from league committees to the national governing bodies will be hoping Level Four sanctions are never required while no doubt conceding that matches can occasionally turn ugly.
 
The ECB have released reminders about the new Laws on their website, assembling a well made video outlining the changes. To illustrate problems in the game at professional level they have posted clips of bad hehaviour that many cricket lovers would find truly shocking.

ECB video summary
https://www.ecb.co.uk/be-involved/officials/resources?utm_campaign=1121731_New%20Laws%20%26%20Player%20Behaviour%20-%20March%202018%20-%20Leagues&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=Email_Clubs&utm_content=New%20Laws%20Video&dm_i=2SWP,O1J7,3U5LQZ,2GWQ6,1

Law 41 unfair play
http://playerbehaviour.ecb.co.uk/?utm_campaign=1121731_New%20Laws%20%26%20Player%20Behaviour%20-%20March%202018%20-%20Leagues&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=Email_Clubs&utm_content=Player%20Conduct%20Online%20Tool&dm_i=2SWP,O1J7,3U5LQZ,2GWQ7,1#/list/yC2VGXBVcYGOUZQk5u4-qNwsSt6az9bn?_k=0iyg03

Player conduct
https://www.lords.org/mcc/laws-of-cricket/laws/law-42-players-conduct/