Cricket umpire Derrinalphil from CricketPodcast.com untangles the difference between Laws and rules .
Cricket is the only sport that has both Laws and rules. The Laws come down to us from the Marlyebone Cricket Club (MCC) and all cricket associations (including the ICC) then modify the Laws by having their own rules, which determine their own playing conditions. The Laws are designed to regulate the contest out on the field in all matches while the rules are the regulations that each competition enact for their own games. Examples of rules would be the 20/20 game rules. My own competition, the MCA, has a rule that allows play to be from one end only, if one end is unplayable.
Most readers of worldcricketwatch.com would not be aware that the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) owns the Laws of Cricket. It has copy right over them and has just reviewed all the Laws. I became suspicious that this was afoot when the publishers of “Tom Smith’s New Cricket Umpiring and Scoring” were not printing any new copies. They were awaiting the rewrite of the Laws.
As a park cricket umpire I was looking forward to seeing what they came up with.
In AFL circles (Australian Rules Football) you always get the refrain “leave the rules alone.” Imagine if they had done so in 1971 when Hawthorn left Peter Hudson up one end and packed everyone into the center of the ground. What an unattractive game it was. In cricket, we have changed the laws continually all through the last century; look at the LBW law, the no ball law and the changes implemented to combat “body line.”
Most people would agree with a rule/law change that obeys 4 principles,
1) It makes the game better to play.
2) It makes the game better to watch.
3) Most players are in favor of the change.
4) It protects players from injury.
I want to put forward another principle that very few non umpiring people have ever thought about. Any law change must make the game easier to umpire.
Have you ever thought why, in the LBW law, the point of impact of the ball on the pad has to be between wicket- to- wicket (unless the batsman is not playing a shot)? It is to place the umpire in the perfect position to make his decision .Without this feature of the LBW Law the umpire would have to get behind the bowler’s arm as he delivered the ball. Jump in behind him as he ran past I suppose.
I rarely give a batsman out when he is not playing a shot and the ball hits him outside the line of the stumps as I feel that I am not in a position to “track the ball.” Most umpires tend to give these a bit easier than they should, becoming a “moral umpire”. It is the “have a go ya mug” mentality. In park cricket the bowlers bowl from much further out from the stumps than in first class cricket. This means you rarely have to give an LBW but it makes the ones outside the off stump more difficult to judge.
However there is a Law that I think the MCC has got wrong as it contravenes my principle of easy umpiring. It is the Law that concerns high full tosses where a distinction is made between a slow paced delivery and all others. The essential point of this Law is to outlaw full tosses that are high enough and fast enough to threaten a player with injury. Except for a slow delivery, the ball must be below “waist high” but once the umpire judges that the delivery is a “slow delivery” it only has to be below” shoulder high”. These deliveries are not uncommon in park cricket but rarely seen in first class cricket.
There are three points that I wish to make that I cannot see any answer to and I will make a case for the elimination of this distinction from the Laws of Cricket.
The first is the laws must not require umpires to have to make needless decisions. I use a rule of thumb that if a delivery has some “loop,” it is a slow delivery. This is easier to see at square leg, than at the striker’s end. There is a problem here that has led to some competitions allowing both umpires to adjudicate, some allow only the square leg umpire to decide, and some have left the Law alone. The mere fact of the preceding variation between competitions is an indication that there is a problem with the application of this Law. Now I am not talking about height here, but the speed of the delivery.
The second point is that the Laws must make the game fun to play and this Law is a blot on the enjoyment of our great game. What often happens is that a fast bowler bowls a slower delivery. that is a “slow delivery.” which arrives above waist high and the batsman “bunts’ it to mid wicket where he caught. Now all hell breaks loose. The players don’t know the Law properly and one side thinks they have a cheap wicket and the batsman is really annoyed as he thinks he is not out. I have had a situation where a team wanted to recall a batsman in this very scenario. The fielding captain did not want to claim a wicket because of what he thought was an umpiring mistake. I did not allow the appeal to be withdrawn and had to explain the Law after the match. .All said “that’s a stupid law.” They were right.
NB: Please note the point about withdrawing appeals. A captain can only withdraw an appeal if the umpire agrees to allow him to do so. Once again, the MCC Laws Committee thinks about the game much more deeply than the average cricketer. A captain may not know how the batsman is out (Footnote)
The last point raises the same argument that` Sydney J. Southern made in the 1934 Wisden where he comments on “bodyline” and he makes the following comment “it (fast leg theory bowling) eliminates practically all the best strokes in batting.” Now a slow, chest high delivery does the same. Could you imagine a game where only slow, chest high deliveries were bowled? It would be a bad game of baseball.
I think the Laws would be improved by the elimination of any reference to the pace of the ball. It would be easier to umpire, better fun to play and remove a situation where the umpires get put in an unpleasant situation. I am intrigued by the attention that the ICC special regulations receive in the press. These are only special cases that apply only to international matches. Well woopie do. Compared to the thousands of games played in parks all around the world the ICC matches can look after themselves. The MCC have a much more important role as they write the Laws of Cricket for all cricket matches. When they sit down and review the Laws of Cricket the under fourteen matches in the Eastern Cricket Association are considered. They ask themselves what could be the consequences of this Law change at all levels of cricket?
Finally anyone reading this article should pick up a copy of Tom Smith’s book. I take it to test matches and select a couple of the Laws to study each day. It is well written, easily understandable and the only book that Richie Benaud takes to a cricket match.
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