The Mankad is back in the news thanks to the pairing of Ricky Ponting and Ravi Ashwin at the Delhi Capitals in this season’s Indian Premier League.
And although its use during the course of a match is a controversial and ultimately opinion-dividing event, the lack of any pertinent suggestions on how to improve that part of the game is just as frustrating as the action itself.
In last season’s Indian Premier League, Ravi Ashwin Mankaded Jos Buttler in an incident that divided opinion throughout the cricket world. And that’s fair enough, if what was being discussed was the manner that Ashwin went about the dismissal rather than the Mankad itself.
In that incident, the footage suggests that Buttler was not looking to take advantage of gaining a large amount of ground in backing up, and that all he is guilty of is not watching the bowler deliver the ball. Further to this, Ashwin stops in his run up, and seems to be waiting for Buttler to leave his ground enough so that he can whip the bails off.
While this action may be seen to be against the spirit of the law as it is written, the problem still lies with the fact that at no stage was Buttler watching the bowler coming in to bowl and deliver the ball.
The rule itself suggests that the batsman is responsible for staying within the boundaries of the crease until such time as the ball has been delivered by the bowler. If the batsman does not, then he can be run out. That is pretty black and white.
Over time it has been an unwritten rule that the bowler will stop and warn the batsman that he is contravening this law, before he makes any attempt to actually go through with performing a run out. This is not in the laws of the game, but is observed as being correct cricket etiquette.
Carrying on from that, there is a wide community who believe Mankading should not exist in the game. They believe that while it isn’t cheating, it is against what some refer to as the spirit of cricket.
This season, Ravi Ashwin is playing for the Delhi Capitals, the team that Ricky Ponting is coaching. Ponting was quoted last week as saying he does not like the Mankad, and that he believes it is not within the spirit of the game or the way he wants his team to play. Reports suggest a preliminary talk has already occurred between the two.
While I don’t doubt that when it comes to cricket knowledge and experience I stand very much on the wrong side of that compared to Ricky Ponting, I am always left ambivalent when an ex-player drags out the spirit of the game reference.
While I am not against what the spirit of cricket attempts to stand for, the fact that everyone has a different view on how it is interpreted always makes me suspicious.
Pre-Newlands 2018, Australia felt as though they played within the spirit of the game when they sledged mercilessly and with venom and spite on the field, as long as they left it on the field. The fallout proved that to be incorrect given the lack of sympathy for the team and the players involved, such had their lack of likeability become. To me, the spirit of cricket has too many angles to be used as a fair indicator.
Ponting also suggested that other means could be used to stop batsmen encroaching out of their ground in backing up from the bowler’s end. One suggestion was that if the bowler stopped and the batsman was out of their ground that they could be penalised runs instead, and that if this happened at the start of the tournament it would stop it occurring from that point on.
Now maybe it’s just me, but if someone being actually Mankaded does not stop batsmen from leaving their ground early – and it didn’t following the Jos Buttler wicket in the last IPL – then why will penalising them runs do it? That seems just as unlikely to halt the process.
And further to that, if that particular rule was instituted, how often will a bowler stop in his run up before commentators and other teams are complaining that it is wasting too much time in an effort to get some penalty runs from the opposition?
Imagine the last over of a close match. The batting team needs six runs to win, and the bowler stops on each of the first three times he goes to deliver the first ball of the final over in an attempt to try and gain penalty runs. Imagine the commotion. Then the umpires tell the bowler to bowl the next ball or he will be warned off. So then knowing that he has to bowl the next ball, the batsman ends up being two metres down the wicket.
No doubt Ponting when questioned over Ashwin being in his team was in fact just iterating that he does not like the Mankad and he will be informing his players that they are not to use it. But if the other teams know that, then what is to stop them from taking every advantage when backing up against the Delhi Capitals? Why bother staying in your crease if you know that their coach has more or less banned his team from using that dismissal?
Opinion on Mankading usually splits at about 50-50, with one side not happy with how it looks when it occurs. But if the Mankad rule does not exist, what is to stop any non-striker from standing metres out of their ground before the ball is delivered? Simply demand that the batsman be aware it is their responsibility to be watching the bowler deliver the ball before leaving their ground.
Problem solved. Sorry Ricky.