Three existing Laws: 40.4 Movement by wicket-keeper, 41.7 Movement by fielders and 41.8 Definition of significant movement have been rationalised and redrafted into two new Laws: 40.4 Movement by wicket-keeper and 41.7 Movement by fielders other than the wicket-keeper, so that the existing Law 41.8 is deleted.
These Laws came into force on 1st October 2015, as part of the 6th Edition of the 2000 Code of Laws, and are the only changes from the 5th Edition from 2013.
It was felt that separating the wicket-keeper from the other fielders would allow for a distinction to be made between the two when legislating for allowed and disallowed movement, and would clarify and simplify the Law.
Here is the wording of the new Law 41.7:
Law 41.7 Movement by fielders other than the wicket-keeper
Any movement by any fielder, excluding the wicket-keeper, after the ball comes into play and before the ball reaches the striker, is unfair except for the following:
(i) minor adjustments to stance or position in relation to the striker’s wicket.
(ii) movement by any fielder, other than a close fielder, towards the striker or the striker’s wicket that does not significantly alter the position of the fielder.
(iii) movement by any fielder in response to the stroke that the striker is playing or that his actions suggest he intends to play.
Notwithstanding (iii) above, in all circumstances Law 41.5 (Limitation of on side fielders) shall apply.
In the event of such unfair movement, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball.
Note also the provisions of Law 42.4 (Deliberate attempt to distract striker). See also Law 40.4 (Movement by wicket-keeper).
(Note – the existing Law 41.8 has been deleted.)
The purpose of the existing Law was to prevent a fielder significantly altering his position as the ball comes into play, until the ball reaches the striker (e.g. running back from square leg to deep square leg as the bowler runs in); this being seen as deception and/or distraction of the striker.
Close fielders were only allowed minor adjustments to stance or position, whereas outfielders were permitted to ‘walk in’ normally towards the striker or the striker’s wicket; anything other than slight movement off line or away from the striker was disallowed.
The intention of the redrafted Law is to retain all of the thrust of the existing Law, but to allow a fielder to move significantly, before the ball has reached the striker, if it is in response to the stroke the striker is playing or that his actions suggest he is intending to play.
It is felt that such movement is ‘intelligent fielding’ in response to a stroke, and should therefore be allowed: for example when Steve Smith moved from slip to leg slip to catch Fawad Alam in an ODI in Abu Dhabi in 2014.
Fielders (e.g. cover or short-leg) have altered their position in response to strokes being played as long as cricket has been played, so to an extent, the Law change is acknowledging existing practice. However, ‘deceptive movement’ which is intended to distract or deceive the striker should not be allowed – mid-on running back towards long-on as the bowler is running in, for example.
It is also felt that the principle that the striker should be protected from significant movement by a fielder is correct, up to the moment that he moves in preparation for his stroke; thereafter the fielders should be allowed to move in reaction to how the striker is shaping to play. In particular, if the striker sets up a position for a ‘switch-hit’ or ‘reverse sweep’ before the bowler has released the ball, then the fielding side may move in response.
However, it was felt that the above principle should not override the restriction of no more than two fielders, other than the wicket-keeper, behind the popping crease on the on side at the instant of delivery (Law 41.5), since otherwise the fielding side might try to move fielders into close-catching positions for bouncers, potentially leading to them being bowled more frequently.
After the ball has been released, however, a fielder may move to this position if it is in reaction to the batsman’s intended shot.
As in the existing Law, either umpire will call and signal Dead ball immediately he detects ‘illegal’ movement, since it will most frequently occur before the bowler has released the ball.
Here is the wording of the new Law 40.4:
Law 40.4 Movement by wicket-keeper
After the ball comes into play and before it reaches the striker, it is unfair if the wicket-keeper significantly alters his position in relation to the striker’s wicket, except for the following:
(i) movement of a few paces forward for a slower delivery, unless in so doing it brings him within reach of the wicket.
(ii) lateral movement in response to the direction in which the ball has been delivered.
(iii) movement in response to the stroke that the striker is playing or that his actions suggest he intends to play. However, the provisions of Law 40.3 (Position of wicket-keeper) shall apply.
In the event of unfair movement by the wicket-keeper, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball.
The existing Law was designed to prevent the wicket-keeper stealthily moving up to the stumps from a standing-back position, after the ball comes into play and before the ball reaches the striker, in order to effect a ‘surprise’ stumping; there was a concession of a few paces in adjusting to a slower delivery.
The aim of the redraft is to continue the thrust of the existing Law, but also to tackle three additional situations:
(i) It was felt unfair for a wicket-keeper who was standing back within say 5 yards of the stumps, who in moving forwards for a slower delivery, came within reach of the stumps to effect a ‘surprise’ stumping with the ball in his gloves. Hence the redrafted Law does not allow the wicket-keeper to move forward for a slower delivery if by doing so it brings him within reach of the stumps.
(ii) It was felt unfair for a wicket-keeper who initially takes his position on the off side to be able to move to the on side before the ball is delivered to effect a ‘surprise’ stumping (having agreed with the bowler to bowl a ball outside leg stump). It was felt that this tactic falls into the same category as significant fielder movement and deceives the striker. Hence the wicket-keeper should be allowed to move laterally in response to the direction of the ball once it has been delivered, but not before. The exception to this being clause (iii). A wicket-keeper may start by standing on the leg-side, if he so wishes, but may not then move towards the off side until the ball has been released.
(iii) It was felt that the wicket-keeper should have the same concessions concerning movement before the ball reaches the striker as a fielder, provided that he does not contravene Law 40.3 (Position of wicket-keeper), which restricts him to remaining wholly behind the wicket whilst the ball is in play until the ball misses the stumps, unless it has hit the striker’s bat or person, or the striker attempts a run.
As in the existing Law, either umpire will call and signal Dead ball immediately if the wicket-keeper transgresses this Law, since the ‘illegal’ movement is likely to occur before the bowler has released the ball. He will call No ball as soon as applicable after the delivery of the ball if the wicket-keeper transgresses Law 40.3.
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