The Ashes: The Silicon Tape Fiasco … what do the laws say?

Much has been made in the press, Australian principally granted, of an allegation, which has been denied in the strongest possible terms, that certain players participating in the current Ashes series have used silicon tape to mask the hotspot “flare” caused by an edge.

Law 6 of the Laws of Cricket deals with the Bat and provides:

1. The bat

The bat consists of two parts, a handle and a blade.

2. Measurements

All provisions in sections 3 to 6 below are subject to the measurements and restrictions stated in Appendix E.

3. The handle

(a) One end of the handle is inserted into a recess in the blade as a means of joining the handle and the blade. The part of the handle that is then wholly outside the blade is defined to be the upper portion of the handle. It is a straight shaft for holding the bat. The remainder of the handle is its lower portion used purely for joining the blade and the handle together. It is not part of the blade but, solely in interpreting 5 and 6 below, references to the blade shall be considered to extend also to the lower portion of the handle where relevant.

(b) The handle is to be made principally of cane and/or wood, glued where necessary and bound with twine along the upper portion.

(c) Providing 7 below is not contravened, the upper portion may be covered with materials solely to provide a surface suitable for gripping. Such covering is an addition and is not part of the bat. Note, however, 8 below.

(d) Notwithstanding 4(c) and 5 below, both the twine binding and the covering grip may extend beyond the junction of the upper and lower portions, to cover part of the shoulders as defined in Appendix E.

4. The blade

(a) The blade comprises the whole of the bat apart from the handle as defined above. The blade has a face, a back, a toe, sides and shoulders. See Appendix E.

(b) The blade shall consist solely of wood.

(c) No material may be placed on or inserted into either the blade or the lower portion of the handle other than as permitted in 3(d) above and 5 and 6 below, together with the minimal adhesives or adhesive tape used solely for fixing these items, or for fixing the handle to the blade.

5. Covering the blade

All bats may have commercial identifications on the blade. Type A and Type B bats may have no other covering on the blade except as permitted in 6 below. Type C bats may have a cloth covering on the blade. This may be treated as specified in 6 below.

Such covering is additional to the blade and is not part of the bat. Note, however, 8 below.

6. Protection and repair

Providing neither 4 above nor 7 below is contravened,

(a) solely for the purposes of either

(i) protection from surface damage to the face, sides and shoulders of the blade or

(ii) repair to the blade after damage material that is not rigid, either at the time of its application to the blade or subsequently, may be placed on these surfaces. Any such material shall not extend over any part of the back of the blade except in the case of (ii) above and then only when it is applied as a continuous wrapping covering the damaged area.

(b) solid material may be inserted into the blade for repair after damage other than surface damage. Additionally, for protection from damage, for Types B and C, material may be inserted at the toe and/or along the sides, parallel to the face of the blade.

The only material permitted for any insertion is wood with minimal essential adhesives.

(c) to prevent damage to the toe, material may be placed on that part of the blade but shall not extend over any part of the face, back or sides of the blade.

(d) the surface of the blade may be treated with non-solid materials to improve resistance to moisture penetration and/or mask natural blemishes in the appearance of the wood. Save for the purpose of giving a homogeneous appearance by masking natural blemishes, such treatment must not materially alter the colour of the blade.

Any materials referred to in (a), (b), (c) or (d) above are additional to the blade and not part of the bat. Note, however, 8 below.

7. Damage to the ball

(a) For any part of the bat, covered or uncovered, the hardness of the constituent materials and the surface texture thereof shall not be such that either or both could cause unacceptable damage to the ball.

(b) Any material placed on any part of the bat, for whatever purpose, shall similarly not be such that it could cause unacceptable damage to the ball.

(c) For the purposes of this Law, unacceptable damage is deterioration greater than normal wear and tear caused by the ball striking the uncovered wooden surface of the blade.

8. Contact with the ball

In these Laws,

(a) reference to the bat shall imply that the bat is held in the batsman’s hand or a glove worn on his hand, unless stated otherwise.

(b) contact between the ball and either (i) the bat itself

or (ii) the batsman’s hand holding the bat

or (iii) any part of a glove worn on the batsman’s hand holding the bat

or (iv) any additional materials permitted under 3, 5 or 6 above shall be regarded as the ball striking or touching the bat or being struck by the bat.

The placing of silicon tape on the bat for a purpose other than as an adhesive or to prevent or repair damage to the blade, shoulders or edges of the bat would obviously fall foul of this law.

The question then becomes: what is the punishment for breaching Law 6?

There is no specific provisions of the Laws that deal with punishment for breach. The ICC Code of Conduct for Players does provided some guidance however. It provides inter alia that the following will be Level 1 offenses under the Code:

1. In clause 2.1.1 a breach of the ICC’s Clothing and Equipment Regulations during an International Match; and

2. In clause 2.1.8 conduct that is relatively minor but that brings the game into disrepute or is contrary to the spirit of the game.

Apropos clause 2.1.1 above the ICC Clothing and Equipment Regulations provide in Part D Section 2 that:

It shall also be prohibited under these regulations for any individual to wear any clothing or use any equipment that has been changed, altered or transformed (whether to comply with these regulations or otherwise) in any way that, in the opinion of any Match Official, undermines the professional standards that are required of all elite players.

The penalty for such an offence, if proven, is set out in Article 7 of the Code of Conduct which prescribes that for a first offence the sanction is a warning / reprimand and/or the imposition of a fine of up to 50% of the applicable Match Fee.

It would seem likely, in my view, that if a player has put silicon on the edge of his bat for the explicit purpose of defeating the DRS there is another possible charge that could be laid that carries with it much more severe sanction. It is a Level 2 offence under the Code for a player to make any attempt to manipulate an International Match for inappropriate strategic or tactical reasons. An argument could be made that wilfully purporting to defeat the DRS is an attempt to manipulate the game. The penalty for such an offence is the imposition of a fine unto 90% of the players match fee and / or unto two Suspension Points. A single suspension point would see a player miss a One Day Match or a T20 International. A penalty of two suspension points could see a player miss a test match.

All in all this is a sorry saga that needs to be dealt with with alacrity. If there is a case there for anyone to answer, the match referee must move swiftly to deal with it. The more likely course though is that there is no case to answer because the test match in question is completed and no complaint was made during the match.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what steps are taken by the MCC and ICC in the next round of rule changes to pre-empt attempts to thwart the DRS and to install a clear offence in the Code for doing just that.

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