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Time to rethink the Mankad?

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Roar Guru
26th March, 2019
31

You’ve no doubt seen the vision by now. Cocksure Indian tweaker Ravi Ashwin bailing out of his delivery stride to dink the bails off, leaving non-striker Jos Butler bewildered, and soon enough, spitting chips.

Cue outrage.

“Disgraceful,” Tweeted Shane Warne.

“Out of order!” insisted Michael Vaughan.

“Gross,” reckoned Dad.

In his post-match press conference, Ashwin stated his defence in the his usual studied and practical manner.

“My actions were within cricket’s rules,” he said. “Can’t be called unsporting.”

And he’s right to a point. You are allowed to run out the non-striker before you deliver a ball.

In baseball, cricket’s mutant step brother, batters attempt to steal bases before a pitch is delivered. The pitcher is allowed to throw to the base rather than the batter.

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The Mankad is cricket’s version, and after all, isn’t one base just a quarter of the way down a cricket pitch?

So why the outrage? If it is in the rules then why is Shane Warne on Twitter ripping Ashwin a fourth stump hole?

Shane Warne and Jos Butler

Shane Warne stuck up for his Rajasthan mate Jos Butler after he was Mankaded by Ravi Ashwin. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for Rajasthan Royals)

Because it is perceived as a dog shot.

Trickery at its most vile.

Cricket doesn’t like the dog shot.

A couple of years ago the ICC brought in the ‘fake fielding law’. A law designed to outlaw the practice of fooling the batsmen in to thinking you were closer to the ball than you actually are.

Now how many times had you seen that before? Not many I’d venture.

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On top of that, if you can make a batsmen think you are closer to the ball than you actually are, then that’s probably their fault. But the ICC deemed it unbecoming and now it is gone. A five-run penalty. Thank you very much.

Mitchell Johnson had a more sprawling opinion on Ashwin’s action.

If baseball is the step brother then tennis is cricket’s weird snobbier cousin.

They too detest the dog shot and, as Mitch mentions, the underarm serve is the latest act to come under the public opinion spotlight.

Australia’s favourite self-destructive son, Nick Kyrgios, is the one responsible for the shot’s resurgence. It’s an ingenious way to counter the deep baseline approach employed by those unable to handle Nick’s greatest attribute.

It’s a perfectly legal and appropriate strategy, yet it divides the tennis community.

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Somehow even Rafael Nadal’s famously twisted panties became further entangled over this issue.

So what to do about the Mankad? Does the game of cricket put its collective hands over its collective ears and wait for it all to go away again?

Most likely.

Though it is worth noting the match situation at the time of Ashwin’s Mankadding. Jos Butler was 69 not out off 43 balls and the Rajasthan Royals were 1/108 off 12.5 overs in a chase of 185.

With Butler flying, that total is more than within reach. The Royals would go on to lose by 14 runs. The Mankad was without doubt the turning point in the match.

Ashwin is a cagey operator and the captain of Kings XI. He claims his actions were instinctual, but the replay shows something different.

There will be no repercussions for Ashwin or Kings XI other than their stock falling in the eyes of people in the cricketing community.

So if your opposition is 0/150 and the ball is covered in dew and you notice that the batsmen who is tearing you apart is taking liberties with his crease, why the hell not?

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It’s a batsmen’s game, right? The pitches are roads and the bats are tree trunks. Not to mention that fake fielding law.

So why can’t you punish a batsmen for leaving their crease prematurely?

From a very young age you know that if you are in your crease you are safe. The crease is your home. Are these batsmen too good for their homes?

If the Mankad were to be brought in and adopted, rather than shamed, it would add to the spectacle. A whole new dismissal.

Just think of the marketing!

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There’s no doubt batsmen of today take way more liberties with backing up than they did in the past. The demand for quick runs is the highest it has ever been.

That is what makes the Mankad so appealing. It offers another contest between batsmen and bowler.

There’s the moment just before Ashwin whips the bails off where Jos Butler realises and he attempts to get back into his crease. An instinctual move to save himself because he knows he is danger.

Surely that instinct should be the subject of the law rather than ethics. The Mankad shouldn’t be viewed as a dog shot by the bowler but rather as a response to the batsman’s hubris.

Introducing the Mankad shouldn’t be about getting rid of batsmen backing up as the bowler runs in. It should be about re-framing what backing up should be about.

A calculated risk.