Vague intimations of law changes by Cricket Australia

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Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has given indications that the laws governing bouncers and short pitched bowling could be altered in the aftermath of Phillip Hughes death.

A coroner’s inquest found that Hughes’ death was a tragic accident but made some recommendations to Cricket Australia that could echo out globally.

Sutherland told ABC Radio: “The observation of the coroner is there’s some ambiguity between the laws of the game and our playing conditions for Sheffield Shield cricket which were specifically under review by the coroner.

“I think that by extension because our Shield playing conditions are virtually a mirror of Test cricket playing conditions there is some relevance to international cricket and therefore the ICC.

“So we’ll have a close look at that to understand exactly what that was. His findings come from when Simon Taufel was on the stand and was questioned, and that obviously gives rise to something we will pursue and fix up.

“The extension applies down through the grades and in community cricket. The foundation for how the game’s played everywhere are the laws of the game. They’re the absolute starting point for everyone, and then each competition has their own playing regulations.

“In this case for Sheffield Shield cricket we’ll obviously review where there are some grey areas and fix it from there.”

Sutherland expressed the opinion that it was clear what the findings of the inquest would be some weeks back adding: “Through the proceedings a few weeks ago it was reasonably clear to us it would be something along those lines.

“From the start we really believed it was a tragic accident that occurred on the cricket field and there really wasn’t that much that could have been done about it in the circumstances.

“I think that’s what the coroner’s found, but at the same time what we want is for the game to be in a place where that sort of thing is far less likely to ever happen again and we’ll implement recommendations as we have done from other separate reviews we’ve conducted ourselves.”

On the matter of sledging Sutherland was eager to stress the line between on-field banter and abuse.

The CEO said: “There is a whole lot of discussion around sledging that is unfortunately placed because it’s very generalized.

“The facts of the matter are, just like on most sporting fields, there’s always been a level of banter on the field.

“Some people interpret that as sledging and under the broad definition it may well be, but what is specifically not acceptable is abusive behaviour in word or in action, threatening behaviour in words or in action, those things are clearly breaches of the code, they are taking sledging to the extreme where it crosses the line and it’s not acceptable.

“There has been plenty of discussion about it and the comments the coroner makes about the spirit of the game … is something we shouldn’t shy away from. That’s always been my view.

“But when it’s out on the field the responsibility rests with the captains and the umpires, the captains are leaders of their players and teams and then the umpires to adjudicate.

“If the lines are crossed then we have very high expectations the umpires will deal with that effectively, and indeed they have the powers to take action, to report players when they believe the line’s been crossed.

“I have high expectations and I think everyone in international cricket does and from a domestic level we want to see that as well and we need to empower umpires to take action.”

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