It's cricket's equivalent of the day the music died. The gentleman's game is officially no more. This we say without fear upon learning of plans by cricket lawmakers -- including former Australian captain Ricky Ponting -- to introduce red cards, a la football (soccer).
In football, referees warn players for a serious offense with a yellow card, then automatically send them off for a second yellow. They can also send players off for a particularly grievous foul with a red card in the first instance.
Cricket has always been immune to these sort of punitive measures because it has famously seen itself as 'the gentlemen's game', in which players effectively self-police their behaviour. The umpires were always there to rule on, you know, actual cricket stuff.
But the world is changing. Cricket is getting uglier and lawmakers are trying to stop it.
Cricket's laws remain in the hands of England's Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The MCC's world cricket committee just recommended that players should be sent off for "threatening an umpire, physical assault or any other act of violence".
The MCC's world cricket committee chief is former England captain Mike Brearley. He believes behaviour is getting worse in cricket, and not just in the international matches so many of us watch, but in the lesser English leagues.
"Anecdotal evidence from people who are familiar with leagues in parts of England say that the behaviour has got worse," Brearley said at an announcement overnight.
"The umpires have to be respected and given the best possible chance, and I think cricket is the only game in which there isn't this possibility of an in-match punishment or deterrent," Brearley said.
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting is a member of the committee and is a strong supporter of the red card idea.
"It [the bad behaviour] has gotten completely out of hand. Something had to happen to prevent those things happening on the international stage," Ponting, a member of the committee, said.
"The modern player now understands their role in society, about being role models, and want to play the game the right way for younger kids."
There's no time frame yet for the possible introduction of red cards, but the committee's proposal follows a survey last month, in which 50 percent of UK umpires (763 were surveyed) said they suffer regular verbal abuse, and 40 percent said that abuse was so bad, it made them consider giving up the game.
Cricket matches have developed more and more of a football vibe in recent times. For spectators, evening Twenty20 matches, and even night-time One Dayers and Tests, replicate the more boisterous football match atmosphere.
On field, cricketers have been playing more like footballers, too, with a lot more aggression. Too much of that, and they could now be red-carded. Which would make cricket more like football, but ironically, more like what cricket was always supposed to be too.Suggest a correction