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The Insider - The Greyness of Mankadery

by Paul Ford - Republished from Outright #51 (spring 2022)


The latest dramatic and controversial chapter in the 187-year old tome of ‘batters being run out at the non-striker’s end’ was written at in September when England’s Charlie Dean was mercilessly cut down by Indian spinner Deepti Sharma in a game-winning, delivery-stride, bail-whipping dismissal at Lord’s.

 

A few of these chapters have involved New Zealanders, including Otago’s Bill Hendley doing the deed twice in the 1860s in domestic cricket, Ewen Chatfield ‘meanly’ carving off Derek Randall in 1978 in a Test at Lancaster Park, Dipak Patel ending a Grant Flower innings after a series of warnings in Zimbabwe in 1992, and Mark Chapman being sawn off by an Omani bowler when he was playing for Hong Kong in 2016.

 

As they have been for nearly 200 years, the battle lines in each of these incidents are drawn between the two schools of thought on the dismissal: those who think it is perfectly fine because the Laws of Cricket say so, and those in the lofty elevations of the moral high ground where taking wickets in such a way is against the undefined and wobbly line that is the Spirit of the Game.

 

The rule-makers of cricket, the MCC, are unsurprisingly very supportive of their rules and announced in the post-Dean furore: “The message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday, cannot happen. Respectful debate is healthy and should continue, as where one person sees the bowler as breaching the Spirit in such examples, another will point at the non-striker gaining an unfair advantage by leaving their ground early.”

 

Cricket analyst Peter Della Penna calculated that in the match against India, Dean had actually been out of her crease ahead of the ball a staggering 70 times throughout her innings, so it did seem inevitable that there would be a reckoning at some point. 

 

But of course when the wicket was taken, as is tradition, the bowler is painted as the villain even as acknowledgements rain down that this form of dismissal is recognised as legitimate, but just feels a bit yukky. 

 

I think that is what it boils down to: cricket is a game that must be a duel between bat and ball. Whipping the bails off before a ball is delivered detracts from the contest and the whole joy that comes from the contest actually being undertaken. If things degenerate into a distracting sequence of bowlers steaming in to balk at the bowling crease, as batters feign setting off on runs, then we will end up with a lesser game with endless resets and shenanigans before the ball has come into play.

 

But we must also acknowledge that we can’t have non-strikers thundering out of their crease with reckless abandon, seizing an advantage that becomes more and more tempting the tighter a contest becomes, and without any real deterrent. I don’t subscribe to the view that it is some sort of abhorrent cheating to leave your crease early, but rather it is a calculated risk for which there must be consequences. 

 

Indian legend Ravi Shastri is clear that he sees the Mankad dismissal as fair game, and one that will become increasingly acceptable over time. “There is outrage but it’s because that law hasn’t existed for that long,” he said. “I don’t believe this where you warn the guy once and then the second time you do it. It’s like me telling a fielder you dropped me once, second time you can catch it.”

 

I like the idea that third umpires should check where the non-striker stands at every ball, in the same way they check for no-balls, and penalise the team if the batter has left their crease early. It would result in a 'one short' ruling or the imposition of penalty runs - and would crucially shift the greyness and morality of any decision out of the bowler's hands and into those of the umpires.

 

Paul Ford is the co-founder of the Beige Brigade and one-seventh of The Alternative

Commentary Collective. He has never had the cricket awareness to be a perpetrator or a victim of a Mankad.

 

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