Mankad’s legacy: breaking the gentlemen’s code
The Mankad - a sure device to generate ill will and villains (Image: AAP)
When Vinoo Mankad made the decision to run out Bill Brown backing up at the non-striker’s end in 1947, he ensured his place in cricketing history as probably the biggest bastard ever to play the game.
It was – and still is – considered the height of bad sportsmanship to “Mankad” an opposition player.
At the time, the Australian media was up in arms over the incident, which was – and still remains, a perfectly legal mode of dismissal.
It’s a controversial element of the game that, every now and then, rears its ugly head – most recently in the English County competition, in which Surrey’s Murali Kartik ran out an opposition non-striker, with Surrey captain Gareth Batty refusing to call the dismissed batsman back when offered the opportunity by the umpire.
In most cases, a bowler will simply warn a batsman who appears to be backing up aggressively in order to steal a run.
This is generally what happens at the amateur level, with the bowler pausing in his delivery stride and feigning to knock the stumps over before tut-tutting the batsman: ‘do that again, son, and I’ll actually go through with it!’
But to go through with the act is to openly flaunt the “gentlemen’s code” – an unwritten etiquette that has governed the game for hundreds of years, from the professional level down to the village competitions.
I was actually Mankaded once, as a junior, in a representative fixture. I was on 70* at the time and – dare I say it – poised to notch up my maiden ton. But some morally corrupt bowler decided to Mankad me.
The 14-year-old opposition captain was put on the spot by the umpire and asked whether he approved of the dismissal.
Being 14 and perhaps forced to make the first ethical decision of his life, the kid lowered his thumb like a Roman Emperor deciding the fate of a gladiator, and I was on my way to the dressing-room, a sobbing, inconsolable mess.
Every sport has a “moral code” in addition to the official rules that are in place. In soccer, for example, players are generally expected to kick the ball out when an opposition player is down injured so as not to exploit the advantage.
In tennis, a player is expected to proffer an obligatory hand-signaled ‘apology’ when they win a point via a let cord (probably the most disingenuous gesture in all of sport). And in rugby league… actually, in rugby league there is no moral code – although I believe there are some “moral” codes off the field, specifically regarding the ratio of men to women in a hotel room tryst.
But what I’m saying is that every sport has a certain set of behavioural on-field expectations on its players – which, when broken, can elicit a serious backlash from both the opposition and fans alike.
Why should there be any moral code in any sport, anyway?
As Vince Lombardi once said: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Or some such.
But it’s true: in sport, like politics and war, there are winners and losers. Careers are at stake and financial incentives are on the line.
In the modern era more than ever before, teams are prepared to do anything to achieve a result.
But would we remember Vinoo Mankad if he hadn’t committed the biggest act of bastardry post-WWII? Probably not. Even though he was a decent cricketer in his own right – he made five test centuries and took 162 test wickets – he will be forever known for his opportunistic and cowardly decision to run out one of the 1948 Invincibles.
Sport is pantomime – and we need heroes and villains. Keep the Mankads rolling, I say.
The Ashes journey begins
The Australian cricket team have left Australia to begin their tour of England, with a mission to reclaim the Ashes.
Australian captain Michael Clarke and his teammates were optimistic about their chances before jetting off.
Click here to hear the thoughts of our Australian cricket team as they left for England.
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