Before we pull out our swords of arguments, ready our fine-tooth combs, or pull up our gavels, let’s make one thing clear – we are not calling it ‘Mankading’. As Sunil Gavaskar indignantly wrote in 2019: “Just because over 70 years back a lazy foreign journalist called a run-out of Bill Brown -- the Australian non-striker -- for backing up out of his crease by Vinoo Mankad as being ‘Mankaded’, the term has stuck.”
“That Brown had been warned more than once by Mankad and still continued to transgress was overlooked; and even after Sir Don Bradman found nothing wrong in Mankad’s action, the media called it 'Mankaded',” the legendary Indian opener added.
What Is It?
In the cricket lexicon, if a bowler runs-out a batsman on the non-striker’s end before delivering the ball then he is said to have ‘Mankaded’ the latter. You can watch this video to see the latest incident in action.
Although this is well within the rules of Cricket, it is considered to be against its sporting “spirit”.
TheLaws of Cricket41.16 states that an “If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be Run out. In these circumstances, the non-striker will be out Run out if he/she is out of his/her ground when his/her wicket is put down by the bowler throwing the ball at the stumps or by the bowler’s hand holding the ball, whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered.”
The laws add that if there’s an appeal from the bowling side and the batsman turns out to be not-out, the umpire shall declare the delivery as a dead-ball or null.
When did it start?
In 1947, it was independent India’s first overseas tour and perhaps couldn’t have been more difficult than to Australia under Sir Don Bradman. Tours like these weren’t frequent in those years: with so much history in the backdrop and so much drama imminent.
Lala Amarnath’s India played 9 tour games with various Australian domestic teams before locking heads with the national side in 5 Test rubbers. It was in the 5th of these domestic matches that our protagonist, Vinoo Mankad, ran out Bill Brown, the opener for Australian XI.
This was also the match when the Don scored the unbelievable feat of 100 first-class centuries. After the celebrations had subsided, the Indians toted up 304 in the second innings, leaving the Australian XI 251 to get in 150 minutes to win the match.
The strong batting line-up went for the W and in the haste to get quick runs, Brown, at the non-striker’s, started scuttling down his crease too early. Mankad, in the midst of a fantastic spell, warned him once but took off the bails the second time. Mankad eventually went on to take 8 for 84 and India won by 47 runs – their first of the only two wins of the tour.
“My reflective vision becomes affected and my bowling concentration suffers”, the southpaw spinner explained to the press after the match.
Brown on the flip side played down the event by saying, “The whole thing happened on the field, and it is finished and done with.” It remained like that until the second test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
On the rain-affected wicket, the Indians crawled to 188 in the first Innings. When the ‘Oz’ openers came out to bat, Mankad was brought right away. Brown, not learning from his past error, went on with his scampering. Mankad didn’t warn this time. He stopped in his run-up and toppled the bails in the flash.
The opener couldn’t control his frustration and flung his bat down before walking off in a huff. More rain plummeted, and the test match ended in a draw.
Notwithstanding the result, history was made, debates heralded and the ink was cast for scribes to use the Indian all-rounder’s name unscrupulously for many years to come.
A Stellar All-Rounder
Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad was a nothing but a stellar all-rounder – arguably the greatest spinning all-rounder India has ever produced – both before and after the tour of 1947. In Tests, he amassed 2109 runs with an average of 31.47 and took 162 wickets at 32.31. He also has five centuries against his name and took eight wickets in an innings twice.
The Gujrati was a master of first-class cricket. His concentration was top-notch, his serenity remarkable, and adding to this his acumen, he was a force to behold. With his subtle left-arm orthodoxies and a free-flowing, right-handed batting style he was considered to be an automatic selection for any World XI side.
Mankad was the kingpin for India’s first victory over England in 1952. On an unhelpful wicket, he took eight for 55 and four for 53. On the return tour as well, in the Lord’s test, he scored 72 and 184 and took 5 for 231 in a losing cause. Mankad captained India as well in the two-Test series against Pakistan (1954-1955) and West Indies (1958-1959).
After all these laurels it is but a shame that we only remember him for a run-out.
As Mr. Gavaskar had said, when a batsman nicks the ball and still stays on the crease we don’t call it WG after W.G. Grace, we don’t relate it with Steve Waugh’s when a slip fielder erroneously – and deliberately – claims a catch. “Then why is a run-out of the non-striker backing out of his crease called Mankad? If that is a sharp practice, what are the above mentioned acts? Sporting? In the spirit of the game?” Mr. Gavaskar had asked.
Mr. Gavaskar’s statement came last year in the backdrop of KXIP Captain Ravichandran Ashwin’s pre-delivery run-out of RR’s Jos Buttler in the 4th match of IPL 2019. The Royals opener was batting at 69 and his team was cruising in the 185-run chase. After Buttler’s dismissal, the batting side collapsed horrendously from 108 for 2 to 164 for 9 to lose the match.
Opinions took separate roads almost immediately with Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen, and Dale Steyn chastising Ashwin while Harsha Bhogle, Sanjay Manjrekar, and Murali Kartik found nothing wrong with it. Shane Warne even called the act as “embarrassing and disgusting”.
‘#Mankading’ trended on twitter without a mention of the former captain’s attributes and achievements.
It was trending once again this week after some conversations between Ashwin and former Australia captain Ricky Ponting. Ashwin, now transferred from KXIP after the auction this year, will find himself playing for Delhi Capitals where Ponting is the head coach.
Ponting, when asked about the incident, revealed that he immediately told his team that he doesn’t want them to do something like that. He also said that he will be having a chat about it with Ashwin before the tournament makes a delayed start on 19 September 2020.
"I'll be having a chat with him about [pre-delivery run-out], that's the first thing I'll do," said Ponting on The Grade Cricketer Podcast. "Obviously, he wasn't in our squad last year, he's one of our players that we tried to afford to bring in this year. Look, he's a terrific bowler, and he's done a great job in the IPL for a long period of time now, but I must admit watching that last season, as soon as it happened and he did that, I actually sat our boys down and said 'Look, I know he's done it, there'll be others around the tournament who'll think about doing this well but that's not going to be the way that we play our cricket. We won't be doing that'.
Soon after, Ashwin remarked on his YouTube channel “…We will sit for a chat with him. He said he wants to have a conversation. We have already talked over the phone. It was a very interesting chat,”
Among many other nuances and intricacies that the IPL brings to the table, the Ashwin-Ponting combo will be the latest one. It will be very intriguing to see how Ashwin will react if a similar instance happens this season. At the same time, it will be interesting to see where Buttler will pan his eyes while on the non-striker’s end against the Capitals.
Spirit of the Game
Pre-delivery run-out has been a contentious topic for a long time now and a thaw doesn’t seem near. Many players have used this tactic in the past and none have eluded the wrath of the media. In some situations, like the West Indies Under-19 World Cup match against Zimbabwe, such dismissal has been the deciding factor in some close encounters.
When Vinoo Mankad ran out Brown in the Sydney Test it triggered furious debates all over Australia. From erstwhile players to the general public, ‘Mankading’ became the talking topic everywhere.
Like with Buttler’s dismissal, some remarked the mode of dismissing the batsman as not “in the spirit of the game”, while others found no fault in the action.
The great Don Bradman was unequivocal in his response when he wrote in his book Farewell to Cricket."For the life of me I cannot understand why, I can’t understand why [the Australian press] questioned his sportsmanship.” The great man wrote.
"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?
"Mankad was an ideal type, and he was so scrupulously fair that he, first of all, warned Brown before taking any action. 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." He concluded.
To find a definitive answer, it becomes imperative to know the views of the opponents and proponents of the Ashwin incident.
First things first, almost everyone in the Cricket fraternity accepts the importance of the law. They believe that without the law to stop the batsman from running too ahead of the crease the game can’t be played fairly. The bone of contention, therefore, is the “spirit of the game”.
So what is this acclaimed spirit? The Preamble of MCC’s Laws of Cricket says “Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the Laws, but also within the Spirit of Cricket. The major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains, but extends to all players, match officials and, especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents.”
For the adversaries of Ashwin’s action, the game’s spirit will be intact if a bowler warns the non-striker before such an act. They consider a repeat offense to be deserving of a run-out.
To this those in favor say that a wicket-keeper doesn’t warn a batsman before stumping him, nor does a fielder warn an off-stepped batsman that he might be run-out then why should a bowler.
To weigh on this issue, Harsha Bhogle used the opportunity of a last-ball run-out in a nail-biter between RCB and CSK, later in the tournament.
With 2 runs to score off the last ball, CSK captain MS Dhoni flailed but couldn’t connect Umesh Yadav’s slower ball. Shardul Thakur on the non-striker end sprinted but fell centimetres short of the crease.
To this Bhogle quipped “Now if, in the spirit of the game, Shardul Thakur had been allowed to steal six inches at the non-striker's end, and would therefore have made his ground, would that have been acceptable? That is why the law is as it is and needs to be respected.”
The opponents of Ashwin’s dismissal said that he has lost their respect for he waited for Buttler to wander out of his crease. But aren’t these the same people who praised MS Dhoni’s acumen when he stumped a batsman after his back-foot was lifted even though he was in the crease?
The spirit of the game also says to “play hard and fair.” So if Ashwin was playing hard in the moment and the third umpire judged Butler as out, how can he be against the spirit of the game?
Shane Warne was never himself famous for his integrity and Ponting was the captain on whose “assurance” an Australian Umpire had judged a controversial slip-catch as out. The irony becomes stronger when Australians speak of the game’s moral spirit.
There are middle-grounders as well. These find Ashwin’s actions within his rights as a bowler, a batsman’s popping-out of the crease as untenable but don’t consider pre-delivery run-outs good for the game. For them, the ball is in MCC-ICC court to re-verify the ambiguity of the law 41.16 and find a lasting solution.
To do that, firstly, ICC needs to at least put out a statement in support of Vinoo Mankad and should reaffirm its stance of calling today’s “Mankad” as simply a run-out. This will quell half the drama around the “special” dismissal and will also save the Indian legend’s family from the possible offense.
After hearing the renewed voices of controversy, Dinesh Karthik, captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders asked cricketers and associates, including Ashwin, to give their views on it. Ashwin in reply said: “Make it a free ball for the bowler. If the batsmen[sic] gets out of that ball, the batting team will be docked 5 runs. Free hit adds to the drama for a batter, let’s give a chance to the bowlers too. As of now, everyone watches the game hoping that ‘the bowlers will get smacked today’”
This could be the first of the many incidents where Ponting and Ashwin would have agreed. "I think there's ways that you can actually stop batsmen cheating like that. If the bowler was to stop, and the batsman was a foot out of his crease for instance, why don't you just penalise him some runs or something? Then they won't do it again.” Ponting had remarked earlier.
This should only be the last resort for such a system will run contrary to a pre-delivery run-out being categorized under run-outs and will prompt a completely new mode of dismissing the batsmen.
It is also important that the players, both erstwhile and current, should take a deep look at the scenario and contemplate their positions.
Those who find the batsman wrong but want the bowler to warn beforehand should rethink on how the onus can lie on a fair bowler to maintain the image of the game when the batsman is fagrantly going against the rules.
And finally, those who think this act of running out a non-striker as “disgraceful” and “shameful” should try to reconsider their words with an open mind, officially take up their problems with the ICC, or at least don’t associate Vinoo Mankad in the same sentence. If anything, this would be against the spirit of the gentleman’s game.