ICC flags changes to bring back the Spirit of Cricket

In the wake of March’s ball tampering saga, many questions were raised surrounding the Spirit of Cricket. Clearly, Australia had overstepped the mark that day against South Africa, but many felt that the team had been doing so, albeit in a less dramatic way, for a long time. Australia have often found themselves amidst scuffles against their opponents, though they are not the only team to, at times, push the envelope of what is an isn’t appropriate.

As a result, the ICC have held talks to consider changes which can be made to ensure the game is played in a more sportsmanlike manner. A number of empirical changes appear set to take place, while many of the other alterations surround more intangible concepts.

The changes

Chief Executive of the ICC, Dave Richardson, announced last week that there will be changes to the sanctions handed out to players who transgress. The term transgress will cover a wide range of offenses, from the more obvious, such as ball tampering, to the less clear cut, such as actions which demonstrate ‘a lack of respect for the game, either for your opponent, the umpires or the fans’. 

Second to that are the statements by Richardson surrounding the general way in which the game is played. These are less tangible than those highlighted above, but essentially,  the ICC wish to get rid of the idea of opponents as enemies. That doesn’t necessarily mean reducing the level of competitiveness within the game, but as Richardson put it, the idea is to clarify that cricket is not war, and the win-at-all-costs attitude which appears to have been adopted by many nations in recent years is not necessarily the right one to have.

One idea the ICC have flagged to implement this idea surrounds the way in which a visiting country is received by their hosts. Rather than entering a country as an enemy, Richardson is making a push for a more positive reception for guest nations. This, of course, would mean the abandonment of the kind of policies which see visiting nations given poor training conditions and practice facility, something which is an unfortunate reality for many travelling sides.

The reaction

Many of the flagged changes seem reasonable enough, but unsurprisingly the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) is not thrilled with them. Tony Irish, chief executive of FICA, noted that while the review will result in many positive outcomes, it focuses too strongly on the players. As a result, many of the empirical results of this review will simply be in the form of heavier player sanctions, something FICA invariably doesn’t want.

If the changes are made in the right way, however, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be received poorly by the general public. The cricketing world was suitably outraged by the ball-tampering scandal, and, at least in Australia, the general view around the Australian cricket team’s aggressive playing style is not a particularly positive one. Most fans will support competitiveness and a strong desire to win, but it’s relatively simple to maintain this desire while playing the game in a respectful manner, and this is clearly the outcome the ICC is looking for.

What’s next?

The review still appears to be in its relatively preliminary stages, and there is clearly still a little water to go under the bridge before much changes. The ICC will presumably work closely with its stakeholders to determine the right way forward, but what appears certain is that some changes will be made. The ball-tampering saga was an unfortunate page in the history of cricket, and while the responsibility for it lies with those involved, it was reflective of a cricketing culture which had become too heavily focussed on winning at all costs. These changes, hopefully, will change that.