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Marsh calls for return to back foot No ball Law

Rod Marsh has used his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture to call for a return to the back-foot No ball Law in order to protect umpires from potential injury or even death in the future.

Speaking at the annual keynote address at Lord's, the former Australia wicket-keeper and current National Selector said: "it's only a matter of time before an umpire in an International or first class match is seriously hurt, if not killed.

"I can't see why we ever went to the front foot law and just quietly I can reveal there are a few umpires out there beginning to wish it would revert back to the back foot law."

The Law was changed from No balls being called by judging the position the back foot lands in relation to the Return crease to the front foot and the Popping crease in 1963, as it was felt that taller bowlers were able to gain an unfair advantage.

But recent evolutions in the quality of bats, as well as more aggressive strokeplay brought on by the advent of T20 cricket, has, in the opinion of Marsh, made the Umpire's role more dangerous.

He added: "You put yourself in their position when a batsman with a massive weapon runs at the bowler and smashes a straight drive at about chest height.

"I for one would want to be standing back as far as possible and by reverting to the back foot law the umpire has a chance to stand at least two metres further back.

"If I happened to be umpiring right now I'd be wearing a baseball catchers helmet, a chest pad, shin guards and. an abdominal protector.

"Maybe we have to make this safety gear for umpires compulsory for all international and first class games."

Marsh also addressed the issue of bat sizes at the very top level of the game - a topic which came under intense scrutiny during the recent ICC Cricket World Cup.

Several former players have called for there to be a limit introduced for the thickness of bats, and MCC - the owners of the Laws of Cricket - is closely monitoring the situation.

And Marsh offered the suggestion that limits could come into play for international cricket - but not the recreational game.

He added: "Maybe we can limit the size of a cricket bat for international and first class cricket but still allow those who play the game every weekend can use whatever they like.

"I would put a restriction on the width of the edges because I will never condone a player being totally beaten and yet the ball travels 70 or 80 metres for four or six off the fat edge. That's just wrong!"

Marsh also touched on the issue of Running out the non-striker, the future and marketing of Test cricket and participation in the game during a tought-provoking and entertaining address, which was followed by a panel discussion hosted by Mark Nicholas and featuring Alastair Cook and Mahela Jayawardene.

The MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture is an annual event, which offers prominent figures in the game the opportunity to air their thoughts on the game's past, present and future.

Previous lecturers include Sir Ian Botham, Richie Benaud, Kumar Sangakkara and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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