I have chosen at this time to wade in on the issue of “Mankading”, that form of dismissal in cricket, referring to the run out of the batsman/batter at the non-striker’s end, for backing up too far too soon out of his/her crease. This is a very controversial topic within cricketing circles. Each time the subject raises its head, it stirs up passionate discussion within the cricketing fraternity. The matter has again surfaced this time as we approach the start of the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Recently, former Australian captain and now the head coach of Delhi Capitals was quoted as saying that he needed to have a “hard conversation” with senior off-spinner Ashwin about running out batsmen backing up too far at the bowler’s end. “That’s not going to be the way that we play our cricket”, he said.
On the other hand, Dinesh Karthik, captain of Kolkata Knight Riders says, “I think every time a batsman crosses [the line before the ball is delivered], the bowler should be allowed to create a run-out.” He does not believe that a bowler should be judged if he chooses to effect that form of dismissal.
The background to this, no doubt, is the incident in the 2019 edition of the IPL when Ravichandran Ashwin of Kings 11 Punjab chose to run out or mankadJosh Butler of Rajasthan Royals, who, it would appear, was attempting to get to the striker’s end in quick time. Ashwin was roundly criticized and accused of “disgraceful” actions, which are not in keeping with the spirit of the game. In one instance, the legendry former Australian leg spinner Shane Warne called him “an embarrassment to the game”. Others chose to defend Ashwin’s actions.
At this point, let me emphatically and unashamedly raise my hand to indicate my support of that form of dismissal! Indeed, I say, “Run Him Out!” Is it within the rules of the modern game? Yes, it is. Is it against the spirit of the game? No, it is not. If you say yes, I ask, Why is it?
For the avoidance of doubt, I was an active cricketer up till 2004, when the sun prematurely set on my cricketing career, as a result of an injury which I sustained outside of the cricket. I loved the game and still do. I considered myself a batsman, who, in the words of Richie Richardson, “could bat anywhere between No.1 and No.11” based on the exigencies of my team. However, my preferred position was in the middle order. I made the No.3 position my own for a number of years with Starlights in the Intermediate Division of the Augustus Gregoire Cricket League. I believe that I have a fair knowledge of what is required of the ones who hold the bat at both ends of the strip.
The law regarding running out a batsman backing up at the non-striker’s end is “essential” to the game, say cricket’s lawmakers. It seeks to ensure that no matter how small, a batsman/batter at the non-striker’s end, should not be afforded the advantage of leaving his/her crease earlier than he should. That advantage can lead to a quick single and a close runout call going in favor of the batsman/batter who ends up a millimeter across the crease, rather than a couple of millimeters out had he not had that initial head start.
It is generally agreed that that advantage is unfair. Accordingly, I consider it safe to conclude that the engagement in such an act constitutes cheating. Cheating in my view is contrary to the spirit of the game. Why is it then, that the bowler who seeks to play within the rules, who seeks to prevent his opponent from cheating, is the considered the villain and described as behaving outside of the spirit of the game? I have much difficulty wrapping my mind around this logic. But then again, this is not dissimilar to what appears to be pervasive in the wider society.
The “spirit of the game” is about fair play and sportsmanship; if one seeks to break the rules he is operating contrary to that spirit and does not portray sportsmanship. Interestingly, I hear very little talk of “spirit of the game” when batsmen/batters refuse to walk, even when their dismissal is obvious to all and sundry. I have heard of the “No Walking” policy among certain teams and individuals. The Australians were famous in that regard, with no lesser a person than Ian Chappel propagating that stance. Thankfully, another Australian, Adam Gilchrist and our own Brian Lara tried to change that culture in recent times. Still, many blatantly say that they won’t walk and will stand their ground and await the umpire’s decision. They rationalize their action by calling it competitive or hard-nosed cricket. They further claim that the umpire should be allowed to do the job for which they are hired and paid! To those who choose to walk down that road, I say, cheating by any other name is cheating, is cheating!!!!
The Buttler/Ashwin incident provoked widespread debate with those both for and against putting their position forward. In a statement following that incident, the MCC stated, “Without the law, non-strikers could back up at liberty, several yards down the pitch and law is needed to prevent such action.” It goes on to state, it’s not “against the spirit of cricket to run out a non-striker who is seeking to gain an advantage by leaving his/her ground early.”
While some are in favor of mankading, they put forward a proviso – that the batsman/batter receives a prior warning. Really? Why should he/she be? The bowler is not warned prior to being No balled, and no batsman gets warned or given a second chance if he is bowled, or caught or stumped or run out otherwise; the fielder is not warned if he crosses the boundary or any part of his/her person, including clothing, touches the boundary while the ball is in his/her hand. I further make reference to another form of dismissal of the non-striker when the ball ricochets off the bowler unto the stumps, with the non-striker out of his/her crease. There need be no deliberate attempt on the part of the bowler to effect the runout. The batsman/batter is out. No questions asked, no controversy. What then makes mankading so sacrosanct that the batter must be a given a heads up or a warning? Give me a break.
“It has never been in the laws that a warning should be given to the non-striker,” said the MCC in its statement.
And so, it would appear that the debate on mankading will continue as it is now in the realm of controversy. My humble view is that the batsman/batter has no case. As with all other forms of dismissal within the laws of the game, I concur that, in this instance, if you slip, you should slide! If you seek to secure an unfair advantage and get caught, you should return to the pavilion and be upset with yourself, just as you would be, were you dismissed through any other “on the book” means.
I submit that since this form of dismissal is legitimate, it is in fact in keeping with the spirit of honesty, fair play and sportsmanship, in what is referred to as the Gentleman’s game. It should be viewed as any other dismissal. To this end, both teams are encouraged by MCC, “to ensure that the game is played within both the Law and the Spirit of Cricket”.
I strongly advocate for the removal of any grey area which may now surround mankading. I am aware that the part of the discourse on this subject refers to the point at which the bowler releases the ball. We are in the age of technology. Let’s use it. And by extension let us relieve the captain and bowler of the burden of making the final decision, which really should be in the hands of the umpires.
Mankading is on the books governing the game of cricket. You are either out or you are not out.
Again I say, RUN HIM OUT!!!