MCC is to embark on a global consultation on whether the Law relating to short-pitched deliveries is fit for the modern game.
As Guardian of the Laws of the game, it is MCC’s duty to ensure that the Laws are applied in a safe manner, which is a viewpoint consistent across all sports. With research into concussion in sport having increased significantly in recent years, it is appropriate that MCC continues to monitor the Laws on short-pitched bowling, as it does with all other Laws.
The Laws currently permit bouncers up to head height. Anything above head height is a No-ball under the Laws. With the number of helmet-strikes on the rise compared to pre-helmet days, the Club is keen to consult with a wide range of stakeholders from all levels of the game to help it assess whether any changes should be made to the Laws.
There are important aspects to consider in the consultation, namely the balance between bat and ball; whether or not concussion should be recognised as a different injury to any other sustained; changes which are specific to particular sectors of the game - e.g. junior cricket; and whether or not lower-order batsmen should be given further protection than the Laws currently allow.
Any proposed changes to the Law as a result of the consultation would have to pass through the MCC Laws sub-committee, and be ratified by MCC Cricket committee, with the ultimate decision resting with the MCC Committee if and when one is made.
The timescale on this is not an immediate one. The consultation process will begin with a survey that is due to be distributed in March 2021 to the specific groups identified to partake in the exercise. Data is to be collected from these stakeholders by the end of June 2021, after which the results will be debated by various committees and sub-committees within the Club as mentioned above, as well as the International Cricket Council (ICC), during the latter half of the year.
The final proposal and recommendations, whether for a change of Law or not, will be decided by the MCC Committee in December 2021, with any decision to be publicised in early 2022.
If a decision to change the Law is to be made, the MCC Laws sub-committee would work on the drafting of the new wording in early 2022 and it would come into effect on 1 October 2022 - the usual date in the year for Law changes to be introduced.
It is commonplace for the Club to launch consultation processes with various groups before changing Laws. For the major re-draft of the Laws, published in 2017, MCC consulted with various national governing bodies to gain feedback from all levels of the game.
Another more specific example would be the Law relating to the bat. Changes to this Law were made in 2008, when the materials permitted in the handle and the blade were more strictly defined, and again in 2017, when the thickness of the edges and the depth of the bat were limited. Both of these changes required a robust and rigorous consultation process such as the one being conducted for short-pitched bowling.
The Club works closely with the England and Wales Cricket Board, ICC and various other boards to not only refine the Laws, but also to ensure that the sport is played in a safe manner, and the forthcoming consultation process is part of this commitment to the game.