The spirit of the game – off the long run, on the high horse

An extract (only the relevant bits) from the Laws of Cricket:

Preamble to the laws

Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.

Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.


3. The umpires are authorised to intervene in cases of:

Time wasting

Tampering with the ball


5. It is against the Spirit of the Game:

To direct abusive language towards an opponent

To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice


Law 42 (Fair and unfair play)

3. The match ball – changing its condition

It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason or to take any other action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball


9. Time wasting by the fielding side

It is unfair for any fielder to waste time.


10. Batsman wasting time

It is unfair for a batsman to waste time. In normal circumstances, the striker should always be ready to take strike when the bowler is ready to start his run up.

(a) Should either batsman waste time by failing to meet this requirement, or in any other way, the following procedure shall be adopted. At the first instance, either before the bowler starts his run up or when the ball becomes dead, as appropriate, the umpire shall

(i) warn both batsmen and indicate that this is a first and final warning. This warning     shall apply throughout the innings.

(b) If there is any further time wasting by any batsman in that innings, the umpire shall, at the appropriate time while the ball is dead award 5 penalty runs to the fielding side.


Flouting the law

In the last two weeks we have seen in international and domestic cricket in Australia:

  • Batsmen and fielders wasting time by having drinks run out between overs – the most extreme example being with five minutes remaining in the day’s play.
  • Batsmen repeatedly wasting time by not being ready when the bowler is at the top of his mark
  • A Big Bash League captain, while being interviewed during live play, admit that his fielders would be throwing the ball into the ground as much as possible in an attempt to alter the condition of the ball.
  • Players repeatedly entering into verbal altercations on the ground. In one case a repeat offender was one team’s captain.
  • A specialist substitute fielder fielding, exceptionally well, at short leg.

With the exception of the last point all are explicitly prohibited under the laws of the game. I would argue that the a substitute fielder (particularly one not in the test squad) fielding in a specialist position should be considered sharp practice and not within the spirit of the game (hence in contravention of the laws).

Yet from the umpires not a peep. Drinks carriers were not sent from the field. I don’t think I’ve seen an unready batsman given a first and final warning, let alone docked five runs.

So when did umpires become so cowed that they are unwilling to enforce the laws of the game? Was it when players became full time professionals? Was it when the umpires did? Was it when the ICC told them they were not allowed to enforce specific rules in relation to specific players? Was it when certain national cricket associations became so powerful that they could influence their players out of penalties for obvious infractions? Should you trust that an umpire, lacking the courage to enforce the laws of the game, will have the courage to make the tough calls?

Even from a complacent and compromised administration, I don’t understand why umpires aren’t encouraged, at the very least, to enforce the rules that would improve the fan experience. Time wasting at the very least should not be brooked. Particularly when overs change like geologic periods.

So should I climb down off my high horse and enjoy the games in front of me or do umpires need to ‘person up’ and enforce the laws of the game?

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Sal Ciardulli says

    Well said Dave,

    The over rates are appalling but the batsmen are as big a problem as the fielding side. Ian Gould’s lily-livered admonishment of the Indians at the end of Day 3 was pathetic. Just send them off!

    Cheers, Sal

  2. I agree about Test Cricket over rates Dave. Something has to be done about that. But scuffing the ball; a bit of verbal; and substitute fielders all seem ok to me. As long as you can’t bat or bowl for as long as you have been off the ground with a sub on.
    Anyway I can’t see what Big Bash has got to do with cricket.

  3. Steve Fahey says

    Excellent point re the over rates Dave.

    Jamie Cox on ABC radio raised the very good question of whether drinks breaks are needed in the modern game (at elite level) given there are blokes running drinks on at regular intervals, if not at the end of each over and certainly at the fall of every wicket. Perhaps only needed for the umps

  4. The game’s image is tattered enough without pushing the patience of the fans any further. So what’s Cricket Australia doing about it?

    In fact, it’s only been the challenge thrown down by the Tourists that’s kept this series enlivened. If they’re going to revert to type & implode like they did on day 4 the Series will fizzle out.

    And how bad can a bruised shoulder received in the nets be? Fair dinkum, Davey Warner batted on with a battered thumb. Dhawan put his feet up for a rest at 1/71 with the Baggy Saffrons ready to set the Homeside something well over 200 as a chase on a 5th day pitch. he didn’t seem too inconvenienced when he got out to the crease. Anything over 250 would have been very interesting indeed.

    But an I alone in thinking things may not be all that harmonious in the Indian dressing room? Maybe there’s no one on the grassy knoll, but it just doesn’t ring true – a leading batsmen getting injured in the warm-up from his own bowlers. You’d be excused for asking, surely, how bad was the injury, or how big was the sulk?

    As for the Big Bash, I get dizzy trying to follow it, Talk about cricket on speed.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I TOTALLY agree re over rates it has been pathetic umpiring and why is it on the last day of a test match the minimum overs must be bowled yet every other day it is just the extra half hour and it’s stumps . Over rates are a blite on the game , hurry up and bring in run penalties then they will get on with it ! Gould and Erasmus have been just as bad in this aspect of the game re umpiring responsibilities as in the huge number of howlers made . Re sub fielders , scuffing of the ball , sledging as long as it is not way over the top is ok IMO , but over rates it is our rite as paying spectators etc to get 90 overs a day , thanks Dave outstanding article

  6. Agree 100%.

  7. Lisa Edwards says

    Weak umpires, intimidated by players perhaps? The over rate of touring sides has been an issue for too many years.

  8. Interesting illustration, D Brown.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Stay up on that high horse Dave. The pathetic over rates are a huge blight of the game. Agree with getting rid of drinks breaks- surely they can have waterboys runs drinks on the field at the end of each over to different players?

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