Cricket: England aim to stand firm on bouncer duty: Lord's law men sit down today to discuss the divisive issue of intimidatory fast bowling

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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL cricket has been moving so inexorably away from the days when the umpires were the sole arbiters of right and wrong that the job qualification might soon involve nothing more cerebral than the ability to count up to six.

However, there are moves afoot to hand back at least one area of responsibility to the men in white coats, whose decision-making powers have been partially hijacked by the match referees, and whose essential equipment (which once began and ended with half a dozen marbles) now includes walkie-talkies wired up to a bloke sitting in front of a television set.

Among the various resolutions scheduled to be announced by the International Cricket Conference at the conclusion of its annual meeting at Lord's today is the scrapping of the 'one bouncer per batsman per over' regulation - and to return the law governing intimidatory fast bowling back to the umpire's interpretation.

If this comes to pass, it will be a reversion tinged with irony, in that it was the umpires' reluctance to stamp down on bowlers more interested in making contact with helmet and ribcage than the stumps which led to the change in the first place. What has happened under the one-bouncer rule is that the umpires have mostly hidden behind the literal interpretation of 'above shoulder height' rather than taken action for clear breaches of intimidation under the law governing unfair play.

This was never more obvious than during England's winter Test match in Jamaica, when Courtney Walsh launched an unedifying bodily attack on Devon Malcolm. The umpire, Tony Robinson of Zimbabwe, merely applied the letter of the law, even though there were three letters that threatened to apply to England's No 11. R, I and P.

The best chance of getting rid of the conspicuously unsuccessful one-bouncer regulation is the ICC's traditional penchant for disagreement. England want the experiment to continue, Australia are proposing two bouncers per over to any batsman, while the umpires and the ICC cricket committee support a return (with stiffer definitions) to the all-embracing Law 42. This will automatically be the case if no clear majority is agreed on bouncer allowances.

Among the other issues are a demand for some kind of preliminary itinerary for the 1995-96 World Cup (which would be a marginally easier task if the two organisers, India and Pakistan, were actually talking to each other) and an appraisal of the match referee system. At the moment, this seems to be a case of a nice little junket for whoever has got his Bermuda shorts ironed and packed in the suitcase.

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