The International Cricket Council (ICC) has announced that on-field umpires will no longer be required to give the contentious soft signal ruling when referring decisions to the TV umpire effective from June 1, 2023, the starting date of the Lord’s Test between England and Ireland.
“Umpires will no longer be required to give a soft signal while referring decisions to the TV umpires. The on-field umpires will consult with the TV umpire before any decisions are taken,” said the ICC in its statement.
To incorporate this change, the ICC changed the playing conditions of international matches after the Chief Executives’ Committee ratified recommendations from the Ganguly-led Men’s Cricket Committee which were also endorsed by the Women’s Cricket Committee.
According to ICC rules, a “Soft Signal is the visual communication by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire (accompanied by additional information via two-way radio where necessary) of his/her initial on-field decision prior to initiating an Umpire Review.”
It means the soft signal rule forces the on-field umpire to make a decision, either out or not out, even if he/she was not sure, before referring it to the third umpire. The third umpire can overturn the decision only if there is conclusive evidence from the video footage made available to him. The rule change means the third umpire will have the final say on doubtful on-field decisions, based on the footage available.
“Soft signals have been discussed at previous cricket committee meetings over the last couple of years. The committee deliberated this at length and concluded that soft signals were unnecessary and at times confusing since referrals of catches may seem inconclusive in replays,” said Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain and BCCI President, currently Chairman of the ICC Men’s Cricket Committee.
Other significant rule changes include helmet protection being made mandatory in international cricket for the following high injury-risk positions: (i) when batters are facing fast bowlers, (ii) when wicketkeepers are standing up to the stumps, and (iii) when fielders are close to the batter in front of the wicket.
ICC also said any runs scored off a Free Hit, when the ball hits the stumps will count as runs scored, to be consistent with all other runs scored from a free hit. The changes have been announced after Chief Executives’ Committee ratified recommendations from the Ganguly-led Men’s Cricket Committee which were also endorsed by the Women’s Cricket Committee.
“We also discussed player safety, which is very important for us. The committee decided that it was best to make the use of helmets mandatory in certain positions to ensure the safety of players,” added Ganguly.