Ravi Ashwins' Mankad – against the spirit of the game or fair play?
When Kings XI captain Ravichandrin Ashwin chose to run out Jos Buttler at the non-strikers end, he invariably brought an onslaught of criticism upon himself. Widely condemned for the decision, Ashwin stood by his call, claiming it was within the rules and that he was acting 'instinctively'. So, was he justified in his actions?
At the time of the dismissal, a mankad as it's known, Buttler was taking Kings XI apart. On 69 off 43 delivers, he had led his Rajasthan Royals to 1/108, with a platform laid for a big score. Clearly, Kings XI needed a wicket. They got one in the form of Buttler, and a collapse ensued.
For Ravi Ashwin and those who support him, he found a half opportunity to inflict an important dismissal, and capitalised. Opportunistic, if you will. For those against him, he deliberately duped a batsman who was destroying his side into a dismissal which, essentially, has nothing to do with cricket or the skills involved in the game.
The weight of public opinion certainly fell towards the latter. There were a couple who supported him – Aakash Chopra and Dean Jones among them – but for the most part, his actions were unpopular. Shane Warne was 'disappointed', while Dale Steyn said Ashwin wouldn't be 'winning any spirit of cricket awards'. Eoin Morgan said it was a 'terrible example', Michael Vaughan 'completely out of order'.
I don't think batsmen should be allowed to back up as much as they do. When the ball isn't in play, there is no reason a batsman should get the opportunity to walk up the pitch. At times, it's ridiculous, particularly late in innings' – anytime a non-striker can comfortably get through for a single when the striker has missed the ball entirely is ridiculous.
On this occasion, however, it was Ravichandrin Ashwin being ridiculous. To begin with, even in the above situation, where a player is clearly gaining an unfair advantage by backing up an unreasonable amount, a warning should be issued. One warning – stop backing up so far – and after that, all bets are off. If he continues to do it and the bowler decides to mankad him, so be it. You're trying to get an unfair advantage, you've been warned, so bad luck.
But Jos Buttler wasn't trying to get any sort of advantage. In fact he was hardly backing up at all. If a player was out everytime they backed up to the extent that Buttler did on this occasion, there would be five dismissals an over.
As MCC cricket academy manager Fraser Stewart later had to say, Ashwin paused for too long. He assumed Buttler would be backing up – which he wasn't – paused and waited until he did wander out of his crease, took off the bails regardless, and then inexplicably asked the umpire if it was out. If it was 'instinctive' as Ashwin claimed, fair enough – perhaps he had a moment, he paused in his bowling routine, saw Buttler continue moving forward and instinctively ran him out. He didn't then have to appeal.
Buttler was hardly backing up, if at all. Had Ashwin continued in his normal delivery motion, Buttler's bat would have left the crease roughly as Ashwin bowled – and even then, he wasn't exactly charging down the wicket. He was meandering at best, and would have gained maybe six inches of ground by the time the striker hit the ball – no more than a negligible advantage.
But Ashwin stopped bowling, and unsurprisingly, Buttler wasn't watching. Anyone who has played cricket understands that, as a non striker, it's far easier to simply watch the striker than to watch the bowler bowl and then turn your head to watch the delivery. Buttler was doing what every other batsman does virtually every delievery.
Ashwin pausing to wait for Buttler to be out of his crease is akin to a wicketkeeper asking the batsman to pick up the ball and hand it to him, only to appeal for handling the ball. It is deliberately waiting for the batsman to do something which every single other batsman does virtually every delievery, and which realistically gives no noticeable advantage – as I mentioned, in the case where non strikers back up by charging down the pitch before the ball is bowled, it is a different story – before running him out.
Cricket is a game. Bowlers try to get batsmen out based on a range of dismissal methods, and batsmen try to not go out and to score runs. Pretty straightforward, and a basic summary of a game which requires significant skill to execute both practices. This dismissal required no skill, and had nothing to do with cricket. Buttler was out because Ashwin desperately wanted a wicket for his team, and decided to be underhanded in the way he went about getting it.
Ashwin is probably a nice enough guy and is certainly an excellent cricketer, but he seems blatantly unwilling to acknowledge any wrongdoing on his part for this saga. I certainly hope the majority of cricket players around the world don't take the same stance.