Sunil Gavaskar discusses laws of cricket

The ICC Cricket Committee meets every summer and decides on the playing conditions and if there is any need for changes.

Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant straps his fingers ahead of play on day two of the third Test against England in Leeds. “The fourth umpire can be tasked to check the wicketkeeper’s gloves as also the fielder’s taping of his fingers to ensure there is no undue advantage taken by them,” says the author.   -  Getty Images

The Laws of Cricket are the property of the Marylebone Cricket Club ( MCC) and the playing conditions of the game are decided by the International Cricket Council. Furthermore, the playing conditions for a particular tour or series can also be decided by the two contesting countries as long as they are not in contravention of the main playing conditions. The conditions that can be decided by the two contesting countries could be regarding the drinks interval or use of the pink ball or when to switch the lights on and suchlike.

The ICC Cricket Committee meets every summer and decides on the playing conditions and if there is any need for changes. The much debated condition of most boundaries in a match winning the game, which resulted in England clinching the World Cup two years back, was one of their decisions. This was a special playing condition for the ICC World Cup. They also brought in the much mocked condition of five penalty runs for fake fielding where a team is penalised if a fielder pretends to throw the ball even though he may not have it in his hands. These playing conditions are separate from the Laws of Cricket which have to be followed by every team.

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The recent warning by the umpire to Rishabh Pant — not to take a stance near the danger area — is one of the laws of the game. While that appears strange to tell the batsman where he should stand, a cooler analysis suggests that it is a law that is needed to ensure a team that has a substantial lead and is still batting does not create a rough on the danger area by taking guard there and then damaging the area by their movements.

Another incident involving Pant in the third Test match at Leeds was him being asked to remove the adhesive tape with which he had stuck the two forefingers of his wicketkeeping gloves. Wicketkeepers do that to their fingers but this taping of the gloves was unusual and while no malafide intent was there in the act of protecting his fingers, the umpires wanted to ensure that he did not get any special advantage of the sticking tape while collecting the deliveries.

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Today, many fielders use a sticking tape kind of protection just below their fingers to protect the inside of their palms. This also is something that the umpires need to look at for that part of the palm is where a lot of catches stick and it’s giving an unfair advantage to the fielder. The best way to deal with this is as it happens in boxing where the referee checks the gloves of both the boxers as soon as they enter the ring before they commence fighting. Similarly, the fourth umpire can be tasked to check the wicketkeeper’s gloves as also the fielder’s taping of his fingers to ensure there is no undue advantage taken by them.

If this practice of taping the palm is not checked and nipped in the bud it will become part of the game just like a bowler who bowls an over and goes to the boundary position and finds a drink waiting for him. He is thus refreshed as he comes to bowl the next over. The argument for allowing this practice is that it does not waste time. That may be correct but if cricket is also a game of stamina then just like the batsmen at the crease the bowler should also get a drink only at the drinks interval. Why have a drinks interval if a bowler is going to avail himself of a drink at the end of every over or the batsman gets a drink every time he asks for a change of gloves or even swapping his cap for a helmet or vice versa. Just like how the umpires in the past did not allow the 12th man to come on to the field without his permission or a drink not allowed without the opposing captain’s permission, the current umpires also must ensure that the so-called supremely fit modern player also has a drink at the scheduled drinks interval and not at the boundary or in between overs. Turning a blind eye to these misdemeanours has allowed them to be a practice and has thus ensured that hardly any game, be it the red ball one or the white ball game, finishes within the time span allotted to it for the day.

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Any transgressions should be penalised with a deduction of runs for that can make a difference to the result of the game and so captains and players will be doubly careful before breaching the playing conditions. A financial penalty hardly makes a difference to today’s players but a penalty that could affect the result of the game will certainly do so.

Is there a will to do that though is the question.

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