A match referee in cricket is an official appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) who governs the proceedings of the match off the field. Match referees only feature in professional cricket matches and are not present in matches of lower tiers.
A match referee has to be well-versed with ICC’s Code of Conduct and MCC’s Laws of Cricket. The match referee acts as the final body of making a decision in controversial or unlawful scenarios during the match. The on-field umpires communicate directly to the the referee in such instances.
At the conclusion of a professional cricket match, match referees submit a report to the ICC, highlighting and detailing any unlawful instances or actions by players or teams or umpires. They also give a rating to the pitch on which the match was played. This rating makes the pitch curators aware of what type of pitches are suitable for match play and the precautions that need to be taken when the pitch is rated poor. The report also includes a rating for the on-field umpires. Based on these ratings, the ICC decides the promotion, continuation or relegation of umpires.
As of 2023, a total of seven referees comprise the Elite Panel of ICC Referees. Match referees are more often than not, former professional cricketers with distinguished careers. The most experienced match referees in Test cricket and One Day International cricket is Sri Lanka’s Ranjan Madugalle. Jeff Crowe is the most experienced match referee when it comes to T20 Internationals.