The World Cricket Committee of the MCC is not a decision-making body. It is not an arm of government of the game of cricket. Its recommendations have been reported incorrectly as "the MCC has decided that...". However, the opinions of this gathering of distinguished past and present players and umpires does warrant serious attention.
The latest meeting of the committee took place in Dunedin on February 25 and 26, 2013. A full statement of the outcomes can be seen on the Lord's website. I wrote in my last blog post of the background to the committee, and I'll comment here on some of the statements coming from the Dunedin meeting.
Corruption in cricket: more to be done: The committee has fully endorsed the work of the ICC ACSU (Anti Corruption and Security Unit) and the implementation of national and domestic ACSUs. It also identified the need for greater harnessing of intelligence from betting agencies, bookmakers and punters in combating spot-fixing. One particular remark from the committee regarding risks in domestic Twenty20 leagues caught my eye:
The committee encourages the ACSU and tournament organisers to make a concerted effort to scrutinise owners, selectors and administrators, and subject them to due diligence and – if necessary – investigation.
Committee strongly supports the Decision Review System: The WCC endorsing what most of the cricket world, with the notable and obstinate exception of the BCCI, is saying: that DRS is good and can only get better as technology improves. The committee "notes that the game as a whole is worse off when available technology is not used and calls for the universal application of ball tracking, hotspot and – subject to satisfactory trials – snickometer technologies."
A good suggestion coming out of the committee is that there needs to be more specialised training for third umpires. There can be no doubt that the video umpire has a very different set of demands during a game to that of the on-field umpires. They also suggested that possibly "the ICC should consider the introduction of a cadre of third umpires who specialise in television decision reviews only".
I'd take it a step further and say that all young cricketers taking part in elite high performance programs undertake training as video umpires and even spend time as intern third umpires as part of their development program.
Committee initiates research into the size of bat edges:
The World Cricket committee discussed the balance of the game between bat and ball and feels that the size of bats – and particularly the thickness of the edges – needs to be investigated. MCC will therefore research this matter over the coming months.
One to watch. Personally I think it's time to consider an upper limit on the weight of bats.
Among other technical matters, the WCC reaffirmed its support for the switch-hit. It endorsed the MCC's decision to change the no-ball Law to include any delivery where the bowler brushes the stumps (Finn's Law?).
The Committee, however, is at odds with the ICC over the current ban on runners in international matches. It had this to say:
, the committee feels that there is a risk of a player aggravating an injury by having to bat without a runner.
When looking at substitute fielders, it is felt that this Law is still widely abused at international level. A Law change is not necessary, as the problem does not exist in the amateur game, but the committee feels that an ICC playing condition should be written stating that a substitute fielder should only be allowed in cases of serious injury or illness.
WTC required for three formats of the game to co-exist: The WCC gave its support to the ICC's model for a World Test Championship, to be held for the first time in 2017. The concept of a two-tier Test competition met with a cooler reception, with NZC CEO David White, addressing the committee as a guest speaker:
In discussing the marketing of Test cricket, he added that a two-tier Test match championship – an idea involving promotion and relegation which has been raised in some parts – would be catastrophic for the long-form of the game in the nations outside the top four in the world.
Contrast this with the views of committee member Michael Vaughan, who in his column for the Telegraph on March 1 outlined his reasons for supporting a two-tier Test competition. I believe his model is flawed and superficial, and does he really believe that Kenya (currently winless in the 2011-13 Intercontinental Cup) should be a part of the Division Two?
Women’s cricket part of the fabric of the world game: Charlotte Edwards gave feedback on the recent Women's World Cup in India. I get the impression that here lies a weak link in the World Cricket Committee's makeup - ie, that they haven't advanced any further than the "we support women playing cricket" line. More women on the committee, I think.
Twenty20 Cricket in the Olympics: The most reported outcome from the committee's meeting is perhaps the most fanciful. To quote their statement on this topic in full:
The MCC World Cricket committee appreciates that a great deal of effort may be needed to lobby for the inclusion of cricket in the Olympic Games of 2024. The committee accepts that, were cricket to be played in the Olympics, there would be a short-term loss in income for the ICC, and therefore for dispersion to its members, but is impressed with the potential boost for the game worldwide if cricket were to be included. Furthermore, the committee advocates Twenty20 cricket as the format to be played at the Olympics, thereby providing the ‘pinnacle’ of that form of the sport.
A guarded and measured response by the committee to the topic, and far short of the misreporting in the days since, that "MCC backs cricket in the Olympics".
They are correct to advocate Twenty20 as the format to be played in any Olympic cricket tournament, and the World Twenty20 is, I believe, close to the model they should adopt. But can, and will, an Olympic gold medal be regarded as the pinnacle of T20I cricket? If Olympic gold is not a sport's main prize then you need to question why that sport is in the Games (hello golf, tennis, soccer). But that's another topic of discussion for which cricket is but a sideshow.
(My most recent dissertation on the question of Olympic cricket, written for iSportconnect before the London Games, can be read here.)
There's nothing binding about the thoughts emanating from the MCC's World Cricket Committee. It's a group of eminent cricketers (and umpire) having a brainstorm twice a year, and that can't be a bad thing. I'd like to see more women on the committee, more umpires, a rep or two or three from the Associates, maybe a groundsman or two... but then at what point do they hire the chariot from Ben Hur?