Cricket introduces red cards to stamp out violence
The sport of gentlemen has been ruled by the 'woolly guidelines of the spirit of cricket' until now
Cricket's reputation as a sport for gentlemen could be under threat after it emerged that the game's lawmakers were considering the introduction of red cards to counter the growing problem of violence during games.
"The MCC's world cricket committee has recommended umpires should have the power to send off players in cases of threats to an umpire and physically assaulting another player, umpire, official or spectator. The punishment is set to come into effect from October when the MCC redrafts the laws of cricket," reports the Daily Telegraph.
Until now cricket has remained one of the few games without an "in-play deterrent", says Michael Atherton of The Times, with umpires "by and large powerless to act if cricketers behave poorly". For the past 200 years, players have only been kept in check by the "woolly guidelines of the spirit of cricket, and their own consciences", he adds.
But that is set to change in the wake of increased concerns about behaviour.
"Anecdotally, it seems in recent years that violence on the field has been on the increase. In the summer of last year, the MCC was alarmed by physical violence in half a dozen club matches, which caused them to be abandoned prematurely and players to be banned for various lengths of time afterwards."
The likelihood of red cards being brandished in international cricket is small, says Paul Newman of the Daily Mail. "It would take something extraordinary from the likes of Ben Stokes and David Warner during next year's Ashes for a red card to be brandished," he says.
But there have been incidents in the past where a player could have been sent off. "Only if players resort to physical violence with umpires or an opponent will the move ever be seen in international cricket, with the infamous incident involving Dennis Lillee, Javed Miandad and his aluminium bat a prime example."
The MCC "resisted the temptation to go the whole hog and introduce yellow cards and a sin-bin for verbal abuse and dissent, believing there needs to be more discussion on how best to implement 'cautions'", says Newman of the Mail.
Mike Brearley, chairman of the MCC's world cricket committee, admitted that the change was "pretty drastic" but added: "Umpires have to be respected and given the best possible chance.
"I think you call it [cricket] a game that you play hard and play fair. The spirit of cricket is represented by that phrase in my mind. That does not include hitting someone over the back of the head with a bat or punching them. This is for use in extreme cases."
The committee also discussed limits on the size of bats and agreed to push for Twenty20 cricket to be included in the Olympics.