The game of Cricket has been governed by a series of Codes of Laws for over 270 years. These Codes have been subject to additions and alterations recommended by the governing authorities of the time. Since its formation in 1787, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has been recognised as the sole authority for drawing up the Code and for all subsequent amendments. The Club also holds the World copyright.
The basic Laws of Cricket have stood remarkably well the test of time. It is thought the real reason for this is that cricketers have traditionally been prepared to play in the Spirit of the Game, recognised in the Preamble since 2000, as well as in accordance with the Laws.
The changes made in this 2017 Code reflect views following a global consultation with players, umpires and administrators at all levels of the game, including the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body. The game has evolved quickly, requiring six Editions of the 2000 Code to be published in only fifteen years. A new Code was necessary to rationalise these amendments and to list the Laws in a more logical format and order. The guiding objectives behind the changes, evidenced from the consultation, have been to maintain a fair balance between bat and ball, to make the Laws easier to understand, to safeguard players’ welfare, and to give umpires more mechanisms to address instances of poor behaviour by players. For the first time, the Laws are written in a gender-neutral format, reflecting the rising popularity of the game amongst women and girls.
The MCC Laws of Cricket provide the framework around which all cricket matches are based. Individual leagues and governing bodies then add their own playing regulations on top, amending the Laws to suit the differing needs of, for example, matches in junior cricket, T20 matches and Test matches. In almost all cases, the fundamentals of the game, such as scoring runs and taking wickets, remain unchanged in such regulations.
Significant dates in the history of the Laws are as follows:
1700 Cricket was recognised as early as this date.
1744 The earliest known Code was drawn up by certain “Noblemen and Gentlemen” who used the Artillery Ground in London.
1755 The Laws were revised by “Several Cricket Clubs, particularly the Star and Garter in Pall Mall”.
1774 A further revision was produced by “a Committee of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and London at the Star and Garter”.
1786 A further revision was undertaken by a similar body of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and London.
1788 The first MCC Code of Laws was adopted on 30th May.
1835 A new Code of Laws was approved by the MCC Committee on 19th May.
1884 After consultation with cricket clubs worldwide, important alterations were incorporated in a new version approved at an MCC Special General Meeting on 21st April.
1947 A new Code of Laws was approved at an MCC Special General Meeting on 7th May. The main changes were aimed at achieving clarification and better arrangement of the Laws and their interpretations.
1979 After five editions of the 1947 Code, a further revision was begun in 1974 with the aim being to remove certain anomalies, consolidate various Amendments and Notes, and to achieve greater clarity and simplicity. The new Code of Laws was approved at an MCC Special General Meeting on 21st November, coming into effect in 1980.
1992 A second edition of the 1980 Code was produced, incorporating all the amendments which were approved during the intervening twelve years.
2000 A new Code of Laws, including a Preamble defining the Spirit of Cricket, was approved on 3rd May, 2000.
2007 MCC established the Laws sub-committee, replacing the Laws Working Party.
2010 A fourth edition of the 2000 Code was published. MCC members agreed at a Special General Meeting on 5th May that the MCC Committee is entitled to change the Laws of Cricket without seeking the approval of the members.
2017 After six Editions of the 2000 Code, a new 2017 Code came into effect on 1st October, 2017.
Many queries on the Laws are sent to MCC for decision every year. MCC, as the accepted Custodian of the Laws, has always been prepared to answer the queries and to give interpretations. However, MCC reserves the right not to answer queries which it considers to be frivolous or connected in any way with a bet or wager.