London: County cricketers have been warned to stop spitting on the field of play or face disciplinary action from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Spitting, which is fairly common among cricketers around the world, is currently not among the offences that can attract penalty points under the strict ECB's disciplinary code.
But the chairman of the ECB's Cricket Discipline Commission is concerned about the habit. "Two years ago, I raised this subject and asked if it were necessary on our cricket fields," Gerard Elias wrote in a letter sent to all counties and the Professional Cricketers' Association.
"Apart from the health issues raised by some, I do ask again whether there is any need for it. I sense that if it is not checked there is a feeling that we should prevent it by regulation. Before going down that road, may I ask that we endeavour to stop the practice voluntarily," he added.
According to a 'Daily Telegraph' report, his warning is the latest example of the ECB toughening its stance on player behaviour following complaints from umpires.
Elias has already launched a crackdown on players showing dissent at umpires' LBW decisions.
Increasing television coverage of matches in recent years has probably brought spitting also to the attention of the ECB's disciplinary commission. Spitting on a cricket field is usually seen when a bowler walks back to his mark or by a batsman between deliveries.
The ECB's disciplinary code was introduced more than 10 years ago and covers a range of offences from excessive appealing, foul language and violence. Players who accumulate nine points in a two-year period receive an automatic suspension.
Last week, England off-spinner Graeme Swann became the first victim of the latest crackdown when he was handed a three-point penalty for raising his bat above his head when he was given out LBW by umpire Steve Garratt in Nottinghamshire's County Championship defeat by Durham at Trent Bridge.