A meeting will take place this week in London which will have a far-reaching effect on the way the game is played throughout the world. This, of course, has nothing to do with the International Cricket Council's summit on match-fixing, which will probably have no consequences whatever.
It is the special general meeting of the Marylebone Cricket Club on Wednesday, at which the 2000 code of the Laws of Cricket is expected to be approved. To demonstrate their continuing guardianship of the Laws, not to mention their ownership of the copyright, the 18,000 club members might reject the final draft drawn up by a working party- cum-jury of 11 men and one woman, but it is unthinkable.
"All right, we are looking over our shoulders as the day approaches," said John Jameson, the MCC's assistant secretary (cricket), possibly only half-joking. The most drastic change in the new code, which will come into operation on 1 October, is the section which gives umpires the right to award five penalty runs for various infringements, mostly under the heavily revised law 42, Fair and Unfair Play.
It might be thought that the new powers given to umpires are the result of worsening behaviour at the top level. Up to a point, Lord Griffiths (who was chairman of the rewrite party). Sir Francis Lacey, MCC secretary from 1898 to 1926, once said that: "Saturday and League matches are espec-ially productive of disputes." It remains so.
"The revision is not by any means only for the first-class game," said Jameson, who sat on the panel. "It is for the game below, where standards of behaviour have worsened. Many situations can be defused by umpires having a word, and we hope that the threat of giving away five runs will act as a deterrent."
Jameson, like the rest of the panel, which included eight umpires ("Those from the sharp end," as he said), hopes the new Laws will help to lead to a day when the phrase "It's not cricket" is related to honourable behaviour again.
"We could actually have done with another two or three months to achieve more clar-ity," he said. "But this should clear up most anomalies."
Jameson frequently deals with queries about interpretation and just as frequently suggests he would like to see the addition of two new Laws to the 42 in existence. In the event, he has failed to find room for Law 43: "At the end of the day use commonsense, or as it should now be called rare sense" or Law 44: "If I don't like you and there's a doubt, you're out."
"There's still a few days. I might sneak them in," he said.
Man in the middle: There was one notable absentee when India's board of control agreed at an emergency summit in New Delhi yesterday to conduct a match-rigging inquiry. The great and the good present included politicians, administrators and star players past and present. The national captain, Sourav Ganguly (right), pleaded a greater responsibility: Lancashire. As the summit took place he walked out to bat at Canterbury - and was lbw first ball. Perhaps he would have preferred not to be the man in the middle.
When Shane Warne signed for Hampshire it was not only the money that tempted him. It was, as he readily conceded when he arrived, his respect for and friendship with the county's captain, Robin Smith.
Equally, no batsman can have been more relieved than Smith to sign the legendary leg-spinner. Had he gone to another county it might have meant disaster. In 12 innings against sides in which Warne was appearing Smith has been dismissed by him five times, for scores of 4, 18, 50, 19 and 22. And the last time they met in opposition Warne caught Smith in the slips.
Back in June 1995, when Somerset played Yorkshire at Taunton, the four opening batsmen had a combined age of 81. They were Marcus Trescothick, 19, and Mark Lathwell, 23, for the hosts and Michael Vaughan, 20, and Anthony McGrath, 19, for the visitors.
This quartet was probably the youngest combination of openers ever to appear in the same Championship match, and this particular feat sprang to mind at Southampton the other day because of the wicketkeepers on either side. Andy Flower, the captain of Zimbabwe, stood down for the match to allow his 16-year-old deputy Tatenda Taibu to gain experience.
Hampshire's first-choice wicketkeeper, Adrian Aymes, was absent with a knee injury so Derek Kenway, 21, dep-utised. Has there been a younger combined age of keepers in a non-University first-class match than 37?
AT A youth coaching system in Arundel, Sussex, the other day, there was an alarming sign of the times. The 13 youngsters were asked to split into two sides, representing Australia and England. Only two chose the side who are not the best in the world.
"Time for a change [revolution]."; "A cricketer's quality of life is unrivalled, except perhaps by a well-endowed rock-star." Two of the opinions expressed (by Dean Headley, of Kent, England players' negotiator in the recent discussions over central contracts, and Elliott Wilson, of Worcestershire) showing why The Cricketers' Who's Who 2000 is worth £12.99.