Laws or spirit? – The gentleman’s game ‘mankaded’
The 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has barely begun and it has already encountered its first controversy. On January 25, during the match between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur, Punjab captain and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Englishman Jos Buttler even without completing the delivery of the ball.
In a run-out method popularly known as ‘mankading’ – Jos Buttler was run out at the non-striker’s end. This method is named after Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad, who in 1947 dismissed Australian batsman Bill Brown using this peculiar technique.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which takes care of making the laws of cricket, in its rule number 41.16.1 (which addresses mankading) states, “If the non-striker is out of his ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him out. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one in the over.” Considering the above-mentioned rule, the dismissal of Buttler was the right decision, but questions have been raised if it was ethical and suitable in what is called ‘The Gentleman’s Game’.
Since Vinoo Mankad’s first dismissal, there have been 10 dismissals using mankading in all formats, with no dismissal in test cricket for the last 40 years. The latest one in One Day Internationals (ODI) again involved Jos Buttler, this time against against Sri Lanka in 2014. In the same year, the World Cricket Council, an independent consultative body of former international captains and umpires, commented on the above incident and unanimously expressed support of Sri Lanka’s actions and a lack of sympathy towards the batsman.
The main reason for this particular controversy, and for any controversy involving ‘mankading’ for that matter is that many experts think it is against what is the ‘spirit of the game’. In 2012, Ravichandran Ashwin ‘mankaded’ Sri Lankan batsman Lahiru Thirimanne in an ODI. However, then captain Virender Sehwag withdrew the appeal in an attempt to uphold the spirit of the game. While some commentators and experts lauded Ashwin’s decision, many called it cheating.
Experts have stated that Ashwin should have warned the batsman about advanced movements made, exiting the popping crease – before the delivery of the ball, but MCC later did clarify that Ravichandran Ashwin was under no obligation to warn Jos Buttler before ‘mankading’ him.
“This law is essential. Without it, non-strikers could back up at liberty, several yards down the pitch and a law is needed to prevent such action,” the MCC statement read on Wednesday. Ashwin justified his actions by saying, “It was instinctive. It wasn’t planned. I don’t know where the spirit of the game come in – because if it’s within the rules, it is. I don’t understand the point of sporting spirit because it is within the rules.” Former India spin bowler Murali Kartik, who ‘mankaded’ several batsmen in his in-county cricket career, has wholeheartedly thrown his opinion behind R Ashwin’s decision to do so to dismiss Jos Buttler. In a tweet the former India spinner congratulated Ashwin and stated that Ashwin’s actions had made him proud.
Former Australian batsman Dean Jones also came out in support of Ashwin, “Don’t blame Ashwin here, as it is allowed in the laws of the game. How is it disrespectful or against the spirit of the game if it’s allowed within the laws of game? Blame the administrators for making the law,” he wrote.
In contrast to this, many cricketers came out to criticise Ashwin for his run-out. The most prominent of these being Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne. In a strongly worded tweet, Warne condemned Ashwin’s actions – calling them a ‘low-act’ and absolutely disgraceful. He further added that being team-captain, he set an absolutely low standard for how his team is to play.
Commentator Harsha Bhogle on the other hand, in what has become his signature style of involving sarcasm, tweeted “I am hearing a lot of talk about spirit of the game. This law specifically came in because, taking recourse to this very ‘spirit of the game’ batsmen were running 6 inches less to complete a run.”
This debate has certainly divided the cricketing world even after MCC and International Cricket Council (ICC) issued their own independent statements. ‘Mankading’ certainly isn’t illegal by the rules, but is being seen as an ‘unethical’ act that the bowler has committed. Voicing his opinion during commentary, former Indian cricketer Aakash Chopra said that if the spirit of the game was being questioned, it should also be questioned when a batsman nicks the ball and does not walk off.
Though no rule change has been made by the ICC, these arguments might force them to reconsider their stance. ‘Mankading’ unfortunately joins the list of ICC’s most controversial rules. With a few months remaining before the World Cup, it will be interesting to see whether decisions are made to reconsider, alter, or remove this rule.
Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter – @asadazmi78
Edited by: Tarush Dhume