Onus on umpires to protect batters, but outright ban would ‘materially change’ game
Marylebone Cricket Club has opted not to make any alterations to the existing Laws governing the use of bouncers, after reaching the conclusion that to do so would cause too great a change to the way the game is played.
MCC, the custodians of the Laws of Cricket, recently commissioned a global consultation into short-pitched bowling in response to growing concerns about the dangers of concussion in sport.
In 2014, the Australian batter, Phil Hughes, died after being struck on the back of the neck by a short ball during a Sheffield Shield fixture for New South Wales, while more recently, the Derbyshire wicketkeeper Harvey Hosein was forced to retire at the age of 25 after suffering a series of concussions.
However, in a statement, MCC said that it would focus its efforts on educating players about the dangers of concussion, but would stop short of instigating any Law changes.
Instead, the onus will be on umpires to make greater use of the existing Law 41.6, which permits them to call a no-ball in the first instance, and withdraw the bowler from the attack thereafter, to protect lower-order batters from “dangerous” bowling.
The provisions of the Law permit the umpire to take “into consideration the skill of the striker, by their speed, length, height, and direction they are likely to inflict physical injury.”
Such a scenario could, in theory, have applied at Lord’s last summer, where England’s No.11, James Anderson, was subjected to a ten-ball over featuring numerous short balls. Under the existing interpretation of the Laws, only balls above head-height are deemed to be no-balls.
“The results of the consultation show that short-pitched bowling, within the Laws, is an important part of the makeup of the sport and in fact, to change it would materially change the game,” Jamie Cox, MCC’s Assistant Secretary for Cricket and Operations, said.
“Given that the Laws allow for umpires to intervene should they believe that there is a safety consideration with the batter on strike, we encourage them to use their discretion and ensure that any risk of injury is minimised,” Cox added. “We will also continue to educate players and officials about the risks of concussion.”