Joe Root calls for clarity as spectre of Mankad looms over World Cup
England's Test captain Joe Root has called for clarity over what constitutes an acceptable "Mankad" run-out, after being invited to contemplate a scenario in which England's World Cup ambitions ended because of cricket's most controversial dismissal.
The issue has again become relevant after Root's team-mate Jos Buttler, one of England's trump cards, was run out by bowler Ravi Ashwin during the IPL match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals on Monday.
"I think it's a good warning now and I'm glad it's not happened to us in the World Cup final for example, or in a World Cup game," Root said.
Ashwin removed the bails after he pulled out of a delivery as Buttler backed up and, although the bowler acted within the Laws, England want clarification before the World Cup begins.
Root is confident that England will not indulge in the practice, partly because they are aware of the national outcry that would follow, but nor does he want to outlaw the practice. Instead, he wants to understand where the boundaries lie, fearing that a rise in 'Mankad' dismissals could leave this summer's World Cup drowning in a ferment of controversy.
"I think you know some people might be looking for clarification now," Root said as he became the star attraction at Yorkshire's pre-season media day - one of the few times he will wear the county's colours this season.
"I think umpires being really clear on what is out and what is not out is going to be crucial. Making sure everyone is on the same page with it so that there are no inconsistencies is going to be really important; having the clarity there for everyone playing the game."
The prevalence of T20 cricket, where every inch gained between the wickets is vital, means that the global balance has shifted as to whether running a batsman out while backing up is viewed as acceptable.
To the question "where is the line?", the answer that "it's the thing at the end of your crease" only tells half the story. Ashwin's dismissal moved the boundaries a little further as he deliberately delayed his delivery to expose the natural rhythm of the backing-up batsmen.
To some, that means we have now entered the world of simulation of a delivery - and, in football, simulation to try to win a penalty leads to a booking.
MCC, feeling itself obliged to pass comment as the custodian of the Laws, has tied itself in knots this week attempting to balance the need for batsmen to remain in their ground and not seek an advantage with also determining the moment it is "reasonable" for the batsmen to expect the ball to be delivered.
"I know it's not a straightforward rule, but as much as possible, there's a way of working out what is out and what is not," Root said.
There is no doubt that England will be on their guard, especially against sides who now openly view the practice as legitimate. The question is whether one day they may choose to respond in kind.
"It's not something that I'd like to be involved in, I wasn't too impressed personally," Root said. "But it's within the Laws of the game, as a lot of people have said, and one Jos has to take on the chin unfortunately."
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps