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February 25, 2012

Cricket rules

Mankading is no grey area

Michael Jeh
Gautam Gambhir is run out for 91, India v Sri Lanka, Commonwealth Bank Series, Adelaide, February 14, 2012
How can a batsman be allowed to blatantly take a start, when run outs are often decided by fractions of an inch?  © Getty Images
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Forgive me for continuing to bang on about the same topic but if international cricketers (and the system that governs them) keep repeating the same behaviours, perhaps it's necessary to keep bringing the same matter up for discussion. In my most recent blog, we discussed the Mankading incident involving Lahiru Thirimanne and whether the liberties that batsmen are taking constitute cheating or gamesmanship.

Yesterday in Hobart, Sri Lanka were quick to remind Michael Hussey that backing up too far was a global phenomenon and not unique to Sri Lanka. Despite Hussey looking a bit bemused when the umpire gave him a friendly warning via Mahela Jayawardene, video evidence clearly showed that Hussey was indeed guilty of stealing a few centimetres, by accident or design.

Today in Wellington, the issue was elevated from the sublime to the ridiculous when Lonwabo Tstotsobe was no-balled for overstepping the line and the video replay showed that a part of his heel was actually behind the line, although to be fair, it might have looked different from where the umpire was standing. This tiny fraction of a centimetre was enough to cost him a "free hit" which can prove to be a costly mistake. What was interesting though was that the replay showed the batsman, Kane Williamson, backing up a long way out of his crease at the time that Tsotsobe's foot was deemed to be a centimetre too short for the umpire's liking. So whilst the bowler is penalised for being a fraction over the line, the batsmen can be a few feet past the line and there is very little that the game can do to stop this blatant cheating.

Why is the bowler not given a warning that his foot was over the line in much the same way that the batsmen are expected to be warned when they are deliberately stealing a few precious centimetres? I'm afraid I no longer subscribe to the theory that it is accidental. It's happening too often for it to be accidental. In an era where run outs are adjudicated on by the third umpire and it often comes down to a tiny margin, almost a video frame, there must be some way to ensure that batsmen aren't taking the mickey.

Maybe for every run out involving the non-striker, they should pan back to the bowler's end and calculate the distance that the batsman was in front of the crease and deduct it from the distance by which he made his ground. After all, if you take a short run, even by the tiniest of margins, you have that run deducted from your score. So what's the difference between a short run and a batsman deliberately starting with an unfair advantage?

Cricket needs to find a way to eliminate these anomalies because it is a game decided by the smallest of margins. The difference between a nick and a play and miss is too small to even measure by a method other than Hot Spot or Snicko. We waste a lot of time on replays trying to figure out if a fielder on the boundary grazed the rope with any part of his body. Run outs and stumpings are sometimes decided by a split video frame. LBW decisions referred to the third umpire are subject to a fine line as to where the ball pitched. No-balls are called on the tightest of margins. Just about everything in the game relies on wafer-thin margins and yet, this aspect of the game remains open to blatant abuse.

Most other professional sports don't allow deliberate flouting of the lines of demarcation. Tennis, athletics, golf and a host of other sports that I haven't even thought of would surely not allow a competitor to deliberately be a foot over the line or off the mark. Can you imagine a golfer moving his putt a foot closer to the hole? Or a long jumper being allowed to leap from a long way past the mark? Or a rugby player being granted a try when he grounds the ball way in front of the line?

Perhaps the answer lies in dispensing with the notion of warning the batsman before you run him out. No other aspect of the game requires a warning before a penalty is incurred. It was a quaint and gentlemanly tradition in an era when backing up too far may well have been an absent-minded action but I'm too much of a cynic to think that this is not a deliberate ploy to steal an unfair advantage. It happens too often for it to be an accident. If it is an accident, it makes cricket a poorly administered sport that allows it to continue without some remedy. That's not acceptable when the rules of the sport rely on precision to the nth degree.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Sharuk on (June 30, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

Hi Kendra. For an 11 year old I would start with a bigger trgeat to begin with, maybe use 4 cones in a box shape but you can use your imagination. Ok .for a right handed batsman the off-stump is described as the stump that is furthest to the batsmans right. You have 3 stumps off, middle and leg (so that would be right, middle and left respectively to the batsman). This is the opposite way around for a left-hander, the off-stump becomes the one that is furthest to the batsman's left.So where do you place the cones? Place your heel against the off-stump and take approximately 5 steps towards the bowler. That's probably a good place to start bowling Hope that helps, if it's not clear then get back to me. Cheers, Daniel

Posted by abhishek nigam on (March 14, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

amazing observing point sir, but the rules from the inception of this game has been working for favoring the batsman. it is very common that most people have remind or like the matches in which the match considering high scores, i m sorry but its my experience as a common person from all. this game are mostly meant for high scoring and to maintain the image of the game the committee made the rules which provide maximum profile to batsmen and a very minor profit to bowler as he has 10 men army accompany him.

if certain observations kept in mind and panel members will made some rules which favor bowler than this game lost its identity,then what remain?this point also arising another question that for giving the some profit for the bowlers will cricket game lost it's identity?.....

this game is on hype sir i think the game demands to favor batsmen and maintain the viewer's attention in enthusiastic favor...

Posted by Anonymous on (February 29, 2012, 11:12 GMT)

brilliantly precise! the distance that the batsman is out of the crease should be deducted in calculating both run outs and short runs

Posted by Henrik on (February 29, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

The rules of cricket are complicated, but people who make living of it should able to grasp them and know them by heart. They should know, that if they back up too far they can be run-out, and they should know that you don't leave the field before the umpire called 'over'. Crowds should not boo the team, that sticks to the rules, but the batsman who neglects them.

If the non-striker can get run-out because the bowler blocks his path (for no obvious reason other than blocking it) and this is in the rules and 'spirit' of the game, why should his false starts be protected?

Posted by Keith.W on (February 27, 2012, 23:32 GMT)

ok guys let's cut the crap, read & re-read kev's posting of 26/02. There's a clear definition of the law for mankading and the umpires who are supposed to oversee the game should be doing their job as true proffessionals do. i.e. presuming they have totally familiarised themselves with all of the rules of cricket apply the rule as it stands! Umps you have to start really earning your money!

Posted by PD Priyadarshan on (February 27, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

I quite agree. The non-striker starting off on a potential run before the ball is bowled is in no way acceptable. It should be made clear in the playing conditions that the non-striker can be run-out without any warning, and the bowlers should just do it if needed.

Consider the other scenario where the batsman drives the ball straight at the wicket at the bowler's end, the bowler just gets a finger on the ball (trying to stop it), the ball goes on to hit the wicket with the non-striker outside his crease. In this case the non-striker is run-out, even though the bowler didn't really throw the ball at the wicket (and the ball hitting the wicket was just an accident). Technically, it is a run-out, as if the bowler intentionally deflected the ball on to the wicket (which may be true in some cases). So, if that is an acceptable way for the non-striker to be out, then I see no reason why he shouldn't be run-out for starting the run before the ball is bowled.

Posted by Williams on (February 27, 2012, 16:57 GMT)

Agree completely. If you don't want people to do something, make a rule that you can't do it. Otherwise let them do it!

Running batsmen out for backing up too much is a clear cut situation where the batsman is gaining advantage by breaking a rule. Running them out does not violate any spirit to begin with. It violates all kinds of things only when you do it against the English.

Hiding behind 'spirit' when things are going against you is the oldest trick used by the English and lately Australians. When they do something unsportsmanlike or borderline, it is being tough and hard nosed. When others do it, it is unsportsmanlike and should not be done.

Posted by Sree on (February 27, 2012, 14:09 GMT)

To me its simple. If its in the rules, its out. Or scrap the rule. And then the non striker might as well stand at the other end!! Mankading is actually bowler's stumping.

Posted by Clavers on (February 27, 2012, 0:12 GMT)

I think the rules' requirement that the bowler must remove the bails before entering his delivery stride make it quite difficult enough for the bowler.

There is quite a technique to this and it can be practised. The rules define the delivery stride as commencing when the back foot strikes the ground and ending when the front foot strikes the ground. So the best technique to foil the batsman is to land on the front foot rather than the back foot after the leap and remove the bails. Thus the bowler can claim that the delivery stride had not been entered. Just be careful not to roll your front ankle.

Posted by Sureshrao on (February 26, 2012, 21:58 GMT)

Why cant the third umpire or match referee interfere and reduce the runs when how it is done for one shot runs. What is then the job of third umpire or match referee. Just watch the nonsense at the ground and dont care about the spirit of the game.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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