Cricket Rules: A Comprehensive Guide

Imagine a world where a bowler bowls a beamer straight at the batsman with the intention of hurting him and there’s no penalty for it. Imagine Rohit Sharma getting bowled off the very first ball of the match, and then argue that the first ball is always a trial ball. Umpire gives some decisions in favour of the bowler and some in favour of the batsman, without any consistency. What if there were no proper cricket rules that regulated how decisions on the pitch were made? Wouldn’t it be utter chaos?

Virat Kohli batting against Sri Lanka in Test Match

Credit: India Today

That is the reason it is very important to create a level playing field, a blueprint that shapes the very essence of the game, be it in any other sport!

The arbitrator of Sport:

Sports are defined by their rules, which provide a framework that enables participants to demonstrate their abilities, tactics, and athleticism in a synchronised dance of competition. They create order amidst the chaos of competition, encourage integrity, sportsmanship, and fair play. They are more than just limitations; rather, they serve as the cornerstone of sports, preserving the competitive spirit and giving fans a common language. As players manoeuvre within the parameters of the rules to outsmart their opponents and triumph, they produce excitement, anticipation, and drama.

The International Cricket Council is the highest authority of the sport

Credit: Hindustan Times

Our sport is no different. Wherever you play, be it in the gullies, on turfs, play in a domestic tournament or in an international match, every game is governed and regulated by sets of regulations. For our sport, the laws of cricket were defined by the Marylebone Cricket Club or the MCC, the first Custodian of the sport globally. The International Cricket Council (ICC) now takes care of the cricket tournament’s rules and regulations, replacing the MCC as the global governing body of the sport. 

For those who play in the gullies, box cricket rules may be different, more suited to the playing conditions around. There is always a risk of breaking the glass on a window or of a vehicle in the gully, so there is a no six rule to bind the batsmen to play shots safely along the ground. 

Cricket Bowling and Fielding Rules:

Ishant Sharma bowling in a test match against England

Credit: ICC

These two sets of rules are a crucial aspect of the game.The bowler must follow a certain set of boundations while delivering a ball. You as a bowler need to stay within the designated crease and not overstep the front line which would result in a no ball. You also should take care that you don't throw or chuck your elbow when you bowl. The umpire can take an action against you if you’re found chucking. 

Sunil Narine had to change his bowling action and adapt to these rules, because earlier he used to chuck his elbows which granted him more spin in his deliveries.

Your main objective should be to dismiss the batsman by getting them out through various means, such as getting them bowled, caught, or stumped or LBW. 

Ravindra Jadeja takes a stunner of a catch

Credit: Deccan Herald

On the other hand, fielding rules govern the actions of players in the field. Fielders are strategically positioned to stop the batsmen from scoring runs and take catches to dismiss them. They must abide by rules like not obstructing the batsman, not deliberately damaging the pitch, and not using any unfair means to gain an advantage. 

Rules for Professional Matches:

The basic rules of cricket are simple for the batsmen- take a bat in your hand, hit the ball towards the boundaries, score runs, save your wickets and ultimately win the match for your team. For the bowlers the objective is to bowl overs with the perfect line and length, with proper control and to stop the batsmen from scoring any runs and ending their innings by taking wickets to win the match! It is these intricacies that make the match filled with so much thrill, for both the players and the audience. 

Yuvraj Singh smashing the Ball for a Six in his 6 sixes vs Stuart Broad
Credit: Cricket Addictor

Hitting the ball directly over and beyond the ropes can give you 6 runs! If someone in your team has the muscle to do it frequently, your team is set. There may even be a chance that your player hits all the balls in an over for six. Just like Yuvraj Singh did against Stuart Broad in the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007

Read More:

Power hitting in cricket

Test Cricket Rules:

Fielders around the bastman in a test match
Credit: ESPN Cricinfo

Tests are the longest and purest form of the game, steeped in tradition and history. It's a battle of endurance, skill, and strategy, spanning over five days and allowing teams to showcase their mettle in all aspects of the game - batting, bowling, and fielding. 

In a Test match each team has two innings to bat and bowl. The length of the match can vary, but traditionally it lasts for five days, with at least six hours of play each day. Around 90 overs need to be bowled each day, however, the umpires may decide the number of overs played in a day if there are any unfavourable weather conditions like bad light.  

Test Cricket Follow On Rule:

Mitchell Starc and company celebrate a wicket

Credit: Metro UK

One rule of test matches that we always failed to understand was the follow-on rule. For me it seemed like a very complicated system which always was a bouncer over my head, but don't worry, I can now help you understand it with clarity. So, let's look into it. 

The follow-on rule is a rather captivating aspect of Test cricket, where if a team scores significantly fewer runs in their first innings than the opposing team, 200 runs to be exact, the captain of the team with the higher score has the option to enforce the follow-on. Let's take an example between India and Pakistan. so, in the first Innings India scored a mammoth first innings total and when the Pakistan team came into bat, they scored 200 runs less than India. So now India can force a follow and invite Pakistan to bat once again to make up their deficit and take a lead in the match. If Pakistan fails to do that once again, India will win the match by an innings and the deficit of runs. A victory by an innings is considered to be a thumping win over the opponent. Though, this can be a risky strategy, as the team enforcing the follow-on must trust in their bowlers to take quick wickets and put pressure on the batting team.

Declaration of Innings:

Virat Kohli declaring an innings

Credit: Inside Sport

As said earlier, test matches are very strategy dependent games. An innings declaration signal is a strategic move employed by the batting team, where the captain can choose to declare their innings closed at any point during their innings, indicating that they are satisfied with their score and are ready to bowl.

World Test Championship Points Table Rules:

The ICC World Test Championship is a new league competition for Test Cricket which is in line with the ICC’s goal of having one premier competition for each format. Nine teams play six series each, three at home and three away, in one cycle. The first edition of the World Test Championship kicked off with the 2019 Ashes series but was hit by COVID-19 disruptions in March 2020. In the end, New Zealand and India qualified for the final, with New Zealand winning the championship after defeating India in the final played in Southampton, England, from 18-23 June 2021 at the Rose Bowl. The ICC has introduced new points table rules for the second cycle, with teams earning points per game instead of per series.

New Zealand Team celebrating with the ICC Test Mace after winning the WTC final against India

Credit: ICC/ Getty Images

The first cycle was complex and disorganized, the World Test Championship points table rules received criticism, so the ICC has introduced a new one for the second cycle. A win gets 12 points, 4 for a draw, and 6 for a tie, and there's also a penalty for slow over-rates. The new system simplifies things while still counting all matches towards a team's standing in the championship.

Limited Overs Match – ODIs and T20s

Limited overs matches, which include the One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 (T20) formats, are renowned for their distinctive and exciting rules. The basic cricket rules for both formats are simpler. Along with the limited over compared to the unlimited overs, some other things that make limited over cricket different from test matches, are the coloured uniforms and the colour of the ball used. 

ODIs and T20s are more exciting, so it is only fair to have interestingly printed jerseys over the traditional white kits which players wear for tests. Also, because ODIs and T20s are majorly played in the evenings under the lights, a white ball is used over the traditional red ball which is used in test matches. White balls are more easily visible under the lights, for both the players and the camera which broadcast the matches for us. 

ODI Cricket Rules and Format:

Rohit Sharma batting in an ODI Cricket Match against England

Credit: ICC

In ODIs, each competing team is granted 50 overs to display their prowess in both batting and bowling, with a limit of 10 overs per bowler. At the game's closure, the team with the most runs seized the victory. This particular format encourages batsmen score quickly with a preference for hitting sixes and fours.

T20 Cricket Rules and Format:

The T20 matches are considerably more compact, with each team getting to bat and bowl for a mere 20 overs, where a maximum of four overs is allocated to each bowler. Every delivery is significant in this format, and batsmen frequently display their aggressive strokeplay.

Cricket Powerplay Rules:

Virat Kohli batting against Australia in the Powerplay

Credit: Sports Analytics Group at Berkeley

Both formats encompass further regulations that contribute to the games' heightened excitement levels, such as power plays, which entail that only two fielders are permitted outside the 30-yard circle. Furthermore, there are fielding restrictions that limit the number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle during non-powerplay overs.

The Decision Review System:

The DRS review for a LBW decision

Credit: Wikipedia

Something more interesting about cricket rules is having the power to challenge the decisions of the Umpire. The DRS comes into play here. The Decision Review System, or the alternatively called the Dhoni Review System because of Dhoni’s ability to always make the correct decisions is a fascinating use of technology which helps Umpire make better and more accurate decisions. It permits the teams to challenge the umpire's verdict and request a thorough review of a particular play, from challenging a Leg Before Wicket Decision (LBW) or a caught behind. The technology is founded on sophisticated tools such as ball-tracking, among others, which helps in ascertaining the precise outcome of the play.

The DLS Method:

A Rain washed cricket matched

Credit: Outlook India

But what if the play is interrupted by rain or any other weather condition and getting the result of the match is necessary?

How do you decide the winner then?

If the match hasn’t yet started, the match officials may choose to reduce the number of overs in the game and continue to play the match. But what if rain interrupts mid match and what is the DLS method in cricket?

The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method is a sophisticated mathematical formula used to calculate a fair target score for the team batting second based on the number of runs, overs and the wickets left. 

The New IPL Rules:

The IPL has changed how this format is played entirely. The new 2023 edition of the IPL introduces the impact player rule. So, what is it you may ask?

The Umpire Signaling Substitution of an Impact Player in an IPL match

Credit: Business Today

The IPL 2023 will introduce a new cricket rule- the Impact Player. This substitute can bat and bowl, adding a tactical dimension to the game and having an instant impact on the course of the game. It is like substitutions in football, but different. But there's a catch - the Impact Player must be Indian, unless there are fewer than four overseas players in the starting XI. Teams can bring in the Impact Player before an innings, at the end of an over, or at the fall of a wicket. However, if the bowling side brings in the Impact Player during an over, they cannot bowl the remaining balls.

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