ICC calls for clampdown on bat size

LONDON: India’s Anil Kumble and several other former Test players on an International Cricket Council committee have urged the sport’s law-makers to bring in new restrictions on the size of bats admid concerns over a glut of run-scoring.

Following a two-day meeting at Lord’s, the headquarters of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the ICC cricket committee chaired by Kumble issued a statement saying it wanted MCC to instigate a clampdown. The MCC still has overall global responsibility for cricket’s Laws or rules.

While there are limitations on bat length (when the lower portion of the handle is inserted it shall not be more than 38in/96.5cm) and width (4.25in/10.8cm at its widest part), none currently exist on depth and weight.

The balance between bat and ball appears to have become especially loaded against bowlers in limited overs games.

However, whether it is modern bats, the innovations brought in by Twenty20 cricket, increasingly short boundaries or a combination of factors that have led to an orgy of run-scoring is open to debate.

Last year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand witnessed 38 hundreds, nearly one every game, and 463 sixes, an average of one every nine overs.

West Indies’ Chris Gayle struck 16 sixes in racing to the fastest one-day international double hundred during a World Cup match against Zimbabwe at Canberra’s Manuka Oval, while New Zealand’s Martin Guptill hit a six measured at 110 metres in the course of his 237 against the West Indies at Wellington.

‘Better balance’

Thursday’s statement from the ICC cricket committee, whose members include several former Test batsmen in England’s Andrew Strauss, India’s Rahul Dravid, Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, and current Australia coach Darren Lehmann said: “MCC sought the committee’s guidance on the desirability of making changes in order to redress the balance between bat and ball.

“The committee received a research paper from MCC citing a wealth of scientific and statistical evidence showing bats have become more powerful in recent years, primarily due to having larger ‘sweet-spots’.”

It added: “The committee’s view was that MCC should strongly consider limiting the dimensions of cricket bats to help achieve a better balance between bat and ball.”

Modern manufacturers have become increasingly skilled at making bats with larger ‘sweet spots’ that do not feel as heavy to pick up as the blades that were once only the preserve of 1980s power-hitters such as West Indies great Clive Lloyd and England hero Ian Botham.

Developments in ball technology, save for a white ball in one-day matches and the pink ball used in last year’s inaugural floodlit Test between Australia and New Zealand, have been far less drastic.

Bat changes have come about despite an insistence by MCC that the blade remains solely made of wood, as it has been for centuries.

Other sports such as tennis and squash, where wood racquets were once the norm, have allowed the use of modern materials such as graphite.

But cricket chiefs specified bats must be made of wood after play was held up in a 1979 Ashes Test at Perth by Australia fast bowler Dennis Lillee’s use of an aluminium bat before he reverted to a traditional model.

However, former England opener Mark Butcher, under the hashtag ‘#bigbatguff’, argued against fresh size restrictions.

“Don’t forget: mis-cue straight up & caught=batsman error. Repeatedly hit out of park=bat maker’s error!,” Butcher said.

But South Africa batting great Barry Richards said last year that modern-day bats should be brought into line with the relatively slim models he used in his 1970s heyday.

“The pressing of cricket bats has to be controlled and the thickness in their edges. Maybe there can also be a designated sweet-spot area for bats,” Richards told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

“Ours used to be about the size of a 50 cent piece but now they are much bigger… These are just a few of my ideas, because batsmen have it too easy.”-AFP