Howzat for simple law changes?

South Africa's bowler Vernon Philander (L) celebrates the dismissal of Pakistan's batsman Shan Masood (R) during the first day of the third Cricket Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg on January 11, 2019. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

South Africa's bowler Vernon Philander (L) celebrates the dismissal of Pakistan's batsman Shan Masood (R) during the first day of the third Cricket Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg on January 11, 2019. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

Unlike the rugby changes, the cricket ones are simple, and easy to understand. They also make sense.

There’s hardly a rugby match that goes by, without fans arguing about the interpretation of some law or other.

You’ll hear the same disagreements whether you are at the local pub, at the stadium or even at halftime around the braai. It usually involves the breakdown or at scrumtime. In short, the rugby laws have been tweaked – albeit not as regularly nowadays as in the past – so many times, we don’t have a clue who is in the right and who is in the wrong when the whistle is blown.

Trying to keep up with all the rule changes every season is virtually impossible. They are just too complex. I doubt every player knows all the rules, and judging by the inconsistency dished up by the referees each week, I would go as far as doubting whether all the officials truly understand all the rule changes.

But in fairness to the authorities, often their heads are in the right place and the main reasoning for the changes are for safety purposes and making the game as free-flowing as possible.

However, rugby’s not the only sport that is looking to adjust their format or move with the times to make it more appealing. Fifa want to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams, golf made a number of rule changes at the beginning of the year and Formula One is toying with the idea of adding more teams to the grid.

And then there’s cricket … the gentleman’s game. This week the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the guardians of the laws and spirit of the game, put forward some changes for the ICC to consider. While there is still a long way to go until the proposals are actually adopted, the MCC usually get their way if the past is anything to go by.

Countdown timer clocks to speed up the pace of play, free hits for no-balls in Tests and the use of a standard ball in the longest format of the game are just a few of the changes put forward. Unlike the rugby changes, the cricket ones are simple, and easy to understand. They also make sense.

The main reason for change? The MCC cited a survey in which 25% of fans from England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa listed slow over rates when asked what were the main challenges facing Test cricket, which in turn puts them off attending five-day cricket.

Now if the ICC can just wake up and rethink the banning of Test captains for slow over rate when the game is finished inside four days, then we’re on the right track.

Trevor Stevens

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