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David Richardson column: We have to bring back the culture of respect in cricket

ICC mulling a Spirit of Cricket code for the future

By David Richardson
18:48 March 29, 2018
Cricket ball

We have seen a number of incidents of poor player behaviour in recent weeks which has included ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off and ball tampering. This has been perhaps one of the worst periods in recent memory for consistently poor player behaviour and the global outcry in relation to the ball-tampering is a clear message to cricket: enough is enough.

That is why, with the full support of the ICC Board, we will undertake a wide-ranging review into player behaviour, the spirit in which the game is played and the Code of Conduct. The spirit of cricket is precious to our sport and so intrinsically linked with good behaviour — the turn of phrase ‘that’s just not cricket’ is not an accident. We must protect that spirit.

The review will bring together some well respected former and current players along with the Cricket Committee, the MCC and match officials as we consider the current offences in the code and the sanctions as well as how to make the spirit of the game a more integral part of that code. We want this review to be collaborative in nature and have a long-term positive impact on the game.

There has been much debate in the last week or two about the sanctions in the code being too lenient or too hard, but sport, like life, needs a set of rules, under which we can all operate. The recent behaviour of players has been unedifying and the sanctions applied have been imparted in accordance with the framework for penalties which currently exists. To go outside of this because we find the behaviour of a number of players particularly disturbing, would be to disregard the rules.

This review gives us an opportunity to shape what the game looks like in the 21st century and reset the standards expected of player behaviour and communicate expectations of them clearly and without ambiguity. It will focus on two things, firstly the Code of Conduct, reviewing the levels of offence based on seriousness, more clearly defining the conduct that constitutes each offence and reviewing the sanctions that should apply to each. Secondly, we will consider the development of a Spirit of Cricket code based on a culture of respect which will define more clearly what it actually means to play the game in this day and age with a view to establishing a culture of respect in the game for the long term.

The existing Code has served the sport well for a number of years, but it is important that we are able to assess it in relation to the game today and that is the purpose of the review. We need to be clear on what acceptable behaviour is and what isn’t and what the appropriate sanctions are when a player breaches the code. That may also mean strengthening sanctions to make them genuine deterrents.

Respect is central to the spirit of cricket and rebuilding and maintaining that ethos of respect is fundamental to what this review is trying to achieve.

We will also consider how we reach greater consistency in decision making with our match officials who do such a difficult job. How can we support them and dismiss the notion that some teams are favoured over others. Nothing is out of bounds with this review and we have a responsibility to shape how the spirit of cricket is brought to life in the game in the 21st century.

We need to move on from the last few weeks but not in the hope that people will just forget about it, but by taking positive action and ensuring fans around the world can rely on cricket to do the right thing.

— The author, a former South African cricketer, is the CEO of International Cricket Council.