Mankading: Spirit vs. the Law of Cricket

I was watching the Apple event while updating my IPL index when I suddenly saw “retired out” flash against Buttler’s name. My first thought was whether Buttler was injured and whether the IPL had caused a second injury in as many days. I stopped concentrating on the new subscription services of Apple and started going through the match commentary followed by YouTube to make up my own mind before the plethora of views on social media started to churn out.

Below is law 41.16 that deals with “Mankanding”

Below is the video of the incident.

There are a few issues here

1) Was Ashwin within his rights to run out Buttler?

2) Was it right for Buttler to be out of the crease?

3) Should Buttler have been warned?

4) Was it right for Buttler to be given out?

I should clearly state where my loyalties lie even though it will not impact the way I approach this topic. I support England. The county I support is Middlesex as I have lived in Middlesex for most of my life. I may consider shifting my loyalties to Surrey because of the stand they have taken against The Hundred. In the IPL I support Royal Challengers Bangalore. I prefer Tests to white ball cricket. I have not followed county cricket closely but that is going to change from this season onwards.

The first issue was whether Ashwin was within his rights to run Buttler out. The answer to that is an astounding yes. Law 41.16 is clear that a bowler has a right to run out the non-striker without giving a warning. There is also no need for the umpires to warn the batsmen.

The second issue is whether Buttler was right to go out of the crease. In this case, I do not believe that Buttler was attempting to steal a run or get a significant advantage by starting to move as the bowler has released the ball. Buttler was in his crease when Ashwin was bowling the over. Buttler was not wrong in what he did but he should have been more careful.

The third issue was whether Buttler should have been warned. It is not required but it has become customary.

The final issue is whether Buttler should have been given out. I believe that it was wrong to give Buttler out. I think Buttler was in his crease between the time the ball came into play and when Ashwin would have been expected to release the ball.

People are calling for the rule to be changed. I do not see a need for this. Bowlers should have this as one of the ways to dismiss a batsman. This does not mean that bowlers specifically start using this as an option or strategy to get wickets. The purpose of this law is to deny an unfair advantage to the batsman. This decision is something that could be made by the third umpire.

Ashwin is a thinker and a planner. Getting Butler out in this manner would have had to be premeditated or Buttler would have had to walk out a significant number of times for such a dismissal to have occurred.

I am a great believer in the sacredness of the spirit of cricket. If a batsman has nicked a ball then I would love to see him walk by himself rather than waiting for the umpires to give it out.

The spirit of cricket is something that cannot be defined. The best thing to do is to go back to Don Bradman’s era. The first reason is that he was the centre of the 1932 Bodyline Ashes which is probably one of the biggest series where the spirit of cricket was questioned and the second is that he was also in the game where Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown. Bradman comments on the issue were

“For the life of me, I cannot understand why. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage … there was absolutely no feeling in the matter as far as we were concerned, for we considered it quite a legitimate part of the game.”

Was Bodyline against the spirit of cricket or a genuine tactic executed by the captain to win The Ashes by successfully targeting a possible weakness against one player who went on to be considered as the greatest cricketer so far. Was it against the spirit of the game when the Aussies possibly broke a gentleman’s agreement with the Indians with regard to catches which forced Anil Kumble to say “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that’s all I can say,”

I am glad that Harsha Bhogle was in the commentary box and Simon Doull was at the Cricbuzz Studio when the incident took place. Harsha Bhogle’s first reaction was to talk about whether the Mankading took place at the point of release of the ball or not. Simon Doull talked about the fine margins of a no ball or a runout. I cannot criticise Ashwin for doing what he did. This does not mean that I think that Buttler should have been given out. I am unsure what the third umpire was checking for but it possibly should have been for the point of release of the ball rather than where Buttler was when the wicket was broken. No one talks about walking off nicks, catches or run outs now because the umpires and players can use technology to reverse a wrong decision or one that is in a grey area. Mankading is an issue that is within the laws of the game but the application of it is considered to be against the game. The interesting thing is last year at about this time we had a similar debate of Law vs. Spirit of the game when SandpaperGate took place. The ICC punished Smith, Warner and Bancroft according to the laws of the game which was significantly less than what they ultimately got from Cricket Australia. Then as now, the opinions were polarised. There were no right answers then. There are none now either. Bancroft has been named the captain of Durham, Warner played an incredible inning for Sun Risers Hyderabad. Smith had a below average innings by his standards. Finally, it will be the people who will deliver the verdict about this incident. The spirit of cricket is important but it should not supersede the laws of the cricket.

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