The spirit of Mulvantrai Himmatlal “Vinoo” Mankad must be wondering in the graveyard the manner in which the spirit of the game of cricket is played these days. Thanks to the ‘Ashwin-Buttler’ skirmish in the recent IPL encounter, many cricket fans have been appraised of ‘Mankad’, the unique form of ‘runout’. True, ‘Mankad’ is a disappointing way to get ‘out’ – without the anticipated contest between bat and ball. Although the ball had not been delivered, the game was still alive and with Jos Buttler out of his crease, the umpire had to uphold Ravichandran Ashwin’s appeal.
Vinoo Mankad, post-controversial 1947-48 ‘run-out’ episode, continues to find reference of his name in the cricket lexicon, ‘Mankad’ becoming both infamous verb and popular noun.
A rule so specific with many readings
Ashwin stayed within the rule books, though his actions didn’t go well with some cricketers and fans, who expressed their displeasure, termed it ‘ugly’ and ‘against the spirit’ of the game.
‘Mankading’ is a clear and deliberate move to keep non-striker accountable. In 2014, the same Buttler in the ODI series against Sri Lanka was given out after several warnings.
Remember, in 1992 (in Port Elizabeth), the “Friendship Series” between India and South Africa took an ugly turn when Kapil Dev ‘Mankaded’ Peter Kirsten (Gary Kirsten’s brother). Proteas captain Kepler Wessels shifted his rage into actions and reportedly hit Kapil on the shin with his bat while taking a run. Kirsten was fined 50 pc of his match-fee for “unacceptable conduct”, though.
‘Stumping’ by the bowler
A wicket-keeper who stumps a batsman is hailed for his smart glove-work, yet a sharp and spirited bowler who ‘Mankads’ is, alas, condemned as unsporting! Certainly, a ‘Mankad’ is no less fair than a striker’s straight-drive groping through the bowler’s fingers and hits the stumps with the non-striker out of his ground. After all, ‘Mankad’ is a regulation runout, as per law.
It’s like you habitually jumping the signal, and one fine day suddenly getting caught by the cops. Buttler was in a similar situation when he was caught off-guard by Ashwin’s act. Can you infer your ‘strict’ school teacher as bad and unfair?
When bowler oversteps, he is handed a ‘no-ball/free-hit’. When non-striker ‘oversteps’ before the ball is released, isn’t ‘Mankading’ a logical response? Amend the law and slap a penalty, say an ‘extra’ or whatever name you would call it (to be deducted from the batting side total), without any prejudice to the bowling side’s legitimate right to claim the ‘Mankad’ wicket. Technology can help.
Over the years, the shorter versions have become more batter-friendly and the rules slant more in their favour. The game is moving more towards box-office collections which have ultimately have reduced the sporting pitches and made bowlers mentally prepared to get slaughtered. Free-hit, field restrictions… all loaded in favour of the batsmen.
Where is the ‘spirit’?
Some batsmen back up several yards. Should you ‘warn’ every non-striker in every match? If the laws are not tuned in line with the game, whose fault is it? Why make the bowler a villain? Aren’t umpires concerned with the spirit of the game? In that case, why did the Third-umpire declare Buttler out? Buttler not looking into the eyes, shaking hands with Ashwin after the game is also not in the spirit of the game.
There are many areas where the ‘spirit’ is selfishly given a go-by. The day the Bodyline bowling was conceived just to stop Don Bradman from plundering runs, the spirit had taken a severe beating.
Cricket is cluttered with many ugly incidents, on and off the field. Dennis Lille vs. Javed Miandad (1981-Perth), Mike Gatting vs. Shakoor Rana, the ‘dirt in the pocket’ affair at Lords, of all players, involving former England captain and today’s pundit Michael Atherton, the Monkey-gate row (Andrew Symonds vs. Harbhajan Singh). The list goes on…
Where was the ‘spirit’ when the England players urinated on the Oval pitch following England’s 3-0 Ashes triumph (2013), shockingly uncivilised conduct.
Again, when you nick it, you await umpire’s decision. However, when you nick it to first slip, you still wait. Stuart Broad nicked the ball and was caught by Australian Michael Clarke. Broad didn’t walk off since the umpire didn’t see, but the rest of the world did. Today, we have Third umpire, technology, match-referee, DRS…. What next?
The spirit and integrity of the game is blotted by various events like betting, bribery, ‘fixing’, ball-tampering to the extent of crossing the line and making personal attacks, arguing with umpires and sometimes threatening the opponent players. ‘Gentleman’s game’ today is more in commercial clutches.
Ashwin has ‘warned’ other batsmen not to exhibit unfair overenthusiasm in taking a run.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)