Like for like? ICC clarifies concussion sub guidelines
Grey area over what constitutes a equivalent replacement for a concussed player to be governed by match referees
30 July 2019, 12:13 AM AEST
Match referees may be given the power to prohibit concussion substitutes from bowling, as the International Cricket Council clarified a significant amendment to their Test cricket playing conditions.
The ICC's playing conditions for the new Test Championship, which kicks off with the first Ashes Test in Birmingham on Thursday, have been tweaked to allow players who suffer concussions during a match to be replaced in their team’s XI.
The regulations specify that a 'like-for-like' replacement must come into the XI for the concussed player, but there is still grey area over what exactly that entails.
ICC Cricket Operations boss Geoff Allardice said match referees will play a key role in determining who the concussion substitute is and could even restrict a player from bowling in order for the replacement to be considered like-for-like.
"Every circumstance is going to be different depending on when the player is requested to be replaced," Allardice explained at Edgbaston on Monday.
"If a bowler's injured and they've only got a batting innings left then the decision might be different to if the same player was injured and there was a bowling innings left.
"It's very much around the circumstances around the game and the referees will be given guidelines as will the teams how to interpret those.
"But it's very much around what is the likely role of the injured player for rest of the match and who is most like-for-like with the role that player will play."
He added: "The match referee could put conditions on a player being involved.
"So, if there's an allrounder replacing a batter then he might put a condition that player is unavailable to bowl during the match.
"The referee has some flexibility to best accommodate a like-for-like replacement."
Such a situation played out in March 2018 when Victoria replaced concussed batsman Will Pucovski with allrounder Dan Christian in a Sheffield Shield game against NSW. While there were no official restrictions stopping Christian from bowling, Victoria elected not to throw him the ball, citing "fairness" given Pucovski is not a regular bowler.
The ICC's 'like-for-like' clause seeks to take such decisions out of the hands of teams.
If, for example, Usman Khawaja is ruled out with concussion during this upcoming Ashes series, allrounder Mitch Marsh could be his replacement, but given Khawaja is not a recognised bowler, Marsh might be restricted from bowling in the match by the match referee to satisfy the regulations.
That becomes trickier to adjudicate however if, say, Nathan Lyon is ruled out with concussion with no additional specialist spin bowlers in Australia's Ashes squad.
While Allardice conceded there could be loopholes, he says the playing condition was introduced with player safety in mind.
"The treatment of the player is the number one priority with this," said Allardice.
"Whether the player takes no further part in the game is down to the medical staff. Whether there's a replacement available is the secondary consideration.
"If a player breaks a leg in the game there's no replacement available in that circumstance.
"It is an opportunity for teams to help manage their players better but there will be a period where we're going to find out the rules and if there are any loopholes with the rules that have been set."
While the nuts and bolts of how concussion substitutes will be implemented are yet to be determined, Allardice explained how the process unfolds when a player is deemed to be concussed.
"The playing conditions around concussion replacements are the player needs to be concussed, it needs to happen on the field of play during play, it needs to be replaced with a like-for-like player which is up to the discretion of the match referee and a request for a replacement needs to come within 36 hours of the incident happening," Allardice said.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval