04.04.2019 Author: C.NAMASIVAYAMThe Indian Premier League and controversy are made for each other. There has not been a single edition of IPL which was free of controversy. The ongoing 12th edition of IPL is no different.
It was the 13th over of the second innings in the RR vs KXIP match, the fourth of IPL 2019. RR were comfortably placed at that stage, needing another 77 runs in 44 balls with 9 wickets in hand. Jos Buttler was going great guns, batting on 69 off 43 balls and looking virtually unstoppable.
That was when Ravichandran Ashwin decided to put an end to Buttler’s innings by 'Mankading' him. Buttler was walking along with the bowler at the non-striker's end when Ashwin caught him napping. Rajasthan Royals never recovered from that shock and everything went haywire for them as they lost their last 7 wickets for 22 runs to lose the match by 14 runs.
While the Kings XI bowlers deserve all the praise for the remarkable comeback, the main talking point was about Ashwin 'Mankading' Buttler. The world of cricket has been divided in their opinion since that infamous incident.
Arguments favouring Ashwin’s actAshwin didn't do anything which was against the laws of the game. What he did is perfectly permissible, and he was well within his rights to do so. The governing rules of the game allow “mankading” as a legitimate way to dismiss a batsman and rules are rules. In fact, the third umpire was quick to declare Buttler out.
What is within the laws should be within the spirit of the game. It cannot be otherwise. While talking about the spirit of the game, there have been many instances in the pre-DRS era, when batsmen refused to walk after clearly nicking the ball.
The laws of Cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball is delivered. By backing up too far, the non-striker is obviously gaining an undue advantage. Imagine a case where the non-striker escapes from being run-out by inches at the strikers end owing to his head start.
More importantly, Ashwin is not the first player to do this. In fact, the term 'Mankaded' has originated from Vinoo Mankad’s name, going back to the time when he ran out the Australian batsman Bill Brown who was backing up too far at the non-striker's end in a Test match in 1947. So it was an Indian who started this trend.
Later Kapil Dev too was involved in this supposedly dishonourable act. Since 1947, there have been at least five instances where batsmen have been 'Mankaded' in international matches, although Buttler's wicket was the first such instance in the IPL.
The pressure of playing franchise cricket might have prompted Ashwin to do this allegedly unsporting act. In the IPL, we have even witnessed the great Sachin Tendulkar refusing to walk off after nicking one behind. In franchise cricket, the mantra is to win at all costs.
For Buttler, this was not the first time he had been involved in a dismissal like this. He was earlier 'Mankaded' by Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake in an ODI in 2014. He should have been aware as to what was coming. It seems Buttler has been a serial offender in this respect.
From the bowler’s point of view, Cricket has now become a batsman’s game with all rules favouring the batsmen. It is time now for the bowlers to enjoy some advantage over the batsmen with another legitimate mode of dismissal.
Arguments against Ashwin’s actThe act of 'Mankading' is considered against the spirit of the game. In Buttler’s favour, he never tried to take undue advantage with a head start. He was in his natural forward momentum as the bowler ran in.
The replays showed that Ashwin did stop in his bowling action and waited for Buttler to leave his crease. It is debatable whether that was within the purview of the rules.
At the very least, Ashwin could have warned Buttler once. In 1992, Kapil Dev did exactly that by warning Peter Kirsten thrice before 'Mankading' him. Ashwin, as the captain of the team, had an opportunity to redeem himself by withdrawing the appeal and upholding the spirit of the game. But he failed for the second time on the night.
Ashwin had earlier 'Mankaded' Sri Lankan batsman Lahiru Thirimanne in an ODI. But better sense prevailed at that time when his skipper Virender Sehwag decided to withdraw the appeal. It seems Ashwin hasn’t learned from his mistakes.
Imagine a situation where a batsman is knocked over by a bouncer and falls flat out of the batting crease. Will Ashwin try to run him out? He is very much within the rules to do so. But will he do it?
If you try to justify Ashwin’s act with earlier precedents, then Ashwin should have followed the great Courtney Walsh’s gesture in a match against Pakistan in World Cup 1987. In that match, Pakistan needed 2 runs in 1 ball with one wicket in hand.
That was when Walsh decided not to 'Mankad' Saleem Jaffar, who was backing up too far at the non-striker's end. Walsh just stopped in his bowling stride to give him a warning.
That sporting gesture of Walsh cost West Indies the match and a place in the semi-finals. However, Walsh won millions of hearts on that day. Clearly, Ashwin is no Walsh.
The same thing happened in a 2003 Test match in Multan between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Mohammad Rafique of Bangladesh did not run out Umar Gul of Pakistan though he was out of the crease. Pakistan eventually won the Test match by 1 wicket.
To sum up, though Ashwin was well within the rules to 'Mankad' Buttler, it was arguably not in the spirit of the game to do that. Many believe that his act will go down in IPL history for the wrong reasons - as opposed to Walsh’s great sporting gesture, which would forever be remembered for all the right reasons.