February 7, 2016

Is mankading any worse than sledging?

Why do those who quote the spirit of cricket tend to do so only when it's convenient?

Charlie Griffith: a no-nonsense mankader © PA Photos

Ian Bishop's first reaction when Keemo Paul whipped off the bails with Zimbabwe's No. 11, Richard Ngarva, backing up in last Sunday's decisive Under-19 World Cup match in Bangladesh was: "Oh no!"

As TV umpire Tim Robinson checked the video replay on whether or not the last man's bat was out of his ground, the former West Indies fast bowler, now a globetrotting commentator, added: "It's sad if it ends that way." It did, as Ngarva's bat was shown to be on but not within the crease.

After watching a fascinating, fluctuating match on the other side of the planet, my sentiments corresponded with Bishop's. West Indies required one wicket and Zimbabwe three runs to win for one or the other to move into the quarter-finals.

As Paul started his run, presumably to bowl the first ball of the last over, I found myself mumbling a silent plea that he would end it by knocking back the middle stump of the facing batsman, Kundai Matigimu, much as Alzarri Joseph had spectacularly done with his 140kph pace twice earlier in the innings. Instead, Ngarva offered an easier option and Paul took it.

In a post-match discussion, Bishop's fellow commentators Dominic Cork, Pommie Mbangwa and Alan Wilkins were adamant Paul had breached the spirit of cricket. They would not be persuaded by Bishop's view that Paul's actions hadn't done so any more than sledging did.

Nothing in the game has fuelled an outbreak of strong, contentious views more than chucking and mankading, a term derived from the great Indian allrounder's run-out of Australia's Bill Brown as he backed up in the 1947-48 Test in Sydney. Technology that precisely measures the permitted degree of flex in a bowler's delivery elbow has largely eliminated argument over the former. But no formula has yet been devised to deal with mankading; what comes closest is the suggestion for one mandatory warning to the transgressing batsman.

Inevitably and immediately, Paul's intervention filled the internet and the social, print and broadcast media, with contrasting views, many from past and present players. As with chucking, most of the outraged comments referred to the spirit of cricket preamble to the Laws that are exclusively authored by the MCC.

Among them was former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who condemned the West Indies tactic as "absolutely disgraceful". He apparently forgot his role in an earlier case that challenged the spirit of cricket declaration. In 2006, as Sri Lanka's last man Muttiah Muralitharan strolled down the pitch to congratulate Kumar Sangakkara who had just reached his hundred in the Christchurch Test, he was run out by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum. I was on the television commentary panel and recall Fleming stating that "the game doesn't stop when a player gets hundred".

"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?"
Don Bradman

The spirit of cricket preface to the Laws reads: "Cricket is a game that owes much of its appeal to the fact that it should be played not only with the Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains."

The "fact" is that it has been used by teams and players, from WG Grace to the present time, only when expedient, prompting the ICC to introduce its own code of conduct.

The MCC stated its position on the present case in unambiguous language. "It's clear to us. If he's out of his ground, he's out," their spokesman said. "If the batsman had not been out of his crease, there would have been no issue about the spirit of cricket. Obviously this is as small a margin as it gets but that makes no difference. If you're out, you're out. This is not a spirit of cricket issue, it's a laws issue."

It echoed Don Bradman's take on Brown's original mankading. "The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered," he wrote in his autobiography. "If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage."

A captain of more recent vintage was also strong on the interpretation of the spirit of cricket.

Mike Atherton maintained that "any inch gained, deliberately or not, in a tight run chase is an inch lost to the fielding side and therefore he is fair game. Mankading cannot happen if a batsman is in his ground."

Writing in the Times, he was also scathing of "the nonsensical preamble known as the Spirit of Cricket". He called it "well-meaning guff… that should be scrapped".

Courtney Walsh chose not to mankad a batsman in a World Cup match © Getty Images

"Test cricket is one of the greatest games known to man, but cricket itself is not special because of any moral superiority over other sports, nor should it pretend to be," he added. "Anything that can be invoked as contrary to the game's spirit, when a player is abiding by the laws, must be nonsense. Play to the laws, and you will be playing in the right spirit."

Whether or not the bowler issues a warning to the batsman boils down to personal preference. The most prominent case of a West Indian making such a choice was Courtney Walsh in the final over against Pakistan in Lahore in the 1987 World Cup.

Pakistan needed 14 for victory with the last pair, Abdul Qadir and Saleem Jaffar, remaining. They got to within two runs when Walsh spurned the chance of clinching victory off the last ball by declining to run out non-striker Jaffar, who was a long way down the pitch. Qadir then duly got the required two to third man.

Walsh is presently one of the West Indies selectors. It can only be speculated what he would have told his young charges had he been their coach in Bangladesh.

There can be no question over what Charlie Griffith's response would have been in such circumstances. A fierce, no-nonsense competitor, he had no compassion for dozy batsmen.

He despatched Trinidad and Tobago left-hander Alvin Corneal in a regional match in 1964, and Australia's Ian Redpath in the Adelaide Test of 1968-69. As Australia sought quick runs pursuing 360, Redpath absent-mindedly went walkabout down the pitch when Griffith cut him short. Australia ended 21 short of their goal with nine wickets down.

Predictably, the incident set off a heated debate in the press box, where I was a peripheral participant. Bill O'Reilly, Australia's leading spinner in the 1930s, then writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, supported Griffith. It was put to him that he might have used the tactic at some time in his long career. "Ah, when I was bowling they weren't so anxious to get to the other end," he shot back.

The same could not be said for Paul, although, at 18, he appears to have Griffth's mindset.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for over 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 11, 2016, 18:21 GMT

    "Why don't the 'SOC-lovers', (SOC='spirit-of-cricket') give such chance for stumpings too?" Answer - because stumping arise as a result of the central contest of cricket, between batsmen and bowler backed up by the skill of the wicket -keeper. Mankading is different because it is unrelated to cricketing skills, more like timed out, coming about through a minor and generally irrelevant piece of absent-mindedness.

    The other reason of course is that is the accepted way cricket is played. Voluntary restraint is an important legal principle and is part of all sports.

  • K on February 10, 2016, 17:03 GMT

    Can someone define "spirit of cricket?" Each person will have their own opinion, and it gets controverted thereafter. Therefore, follow the rules of cricket: while the ball is in play, if a bowler oversteps, he is no-balled; if a batsman steals a run, he can be run out if short of his crease, or stumped. Why is it any different if the Non-Striker is out of his crease? He was trying to get a headstart run, therefore can be run out, i.e Mankaded. No warning is necessary either.

  • TR on February 9, 2016, 22:25 GMT

    Why dont the 'SOC-lovers', (SOC='spirit-of-cricket') give such chance for stumpings too? If a batsman goes out of the crease & plays and misses the ball, the keeper should first warn the batsman, 'hey, you are not supposed to go out and miss the ball, next time you do that I will knock the stumps and you will be out'!! They can extend that to catching too I guess. Dont catch the first catch offered by the batsman. Drop it deliberately and give him a warning.

  • Will on February 9, 2016, 20:12 GMT

    Is mankading any worse than sledging? YES. Now move along.

  • Richard on February 9, 2016, 20:10 GMT

    Quite a few times during my cricketing days of 40 odd years some clever fielder would come running in to tell me the batsman was leaving the crease early and it might be a good idea if I Mankaded them. One most occasions it was so minimal I ignored such advice, and on those occasions when the batsman was getting a little cheeky I always advised him in the presence of the umpire that if he persisted I would run him out. The result of that is that I never Mankaded anyone. Take that as you will, but I never had cause to regret my stance. Funny thing was it was always batsmen suggesting it..........maybe they get a bit bored in the field, and of course had I acted as they suggested it would have been me under criticism and not them, so I came to the conclusion that if they wanted to Mankad anyone they should have a bowl.

  • John on February 9, 2016, 18:28 GMT

    Why are people comparing a batsman backing up with no-balls? The penalty for a no ball is minor and the bowler is allowed to continue. Apart from the absurdity of trying to equate batting rules and bowlers rules, a better point of comparison would be the bowler running on the pitch; he gets two warnings before being excluded from the attack, no penalty for a first or even a second offense.

    The idea of warning batsman before penalising them for backing up is embedded in the culture of the game, an established convention which relies on the integrity of cricketers to maintain. All sports have these conventions virtually all sportsmen are proud to do so; I find it amazing that so many people can fail to grasp this simple point.

  • Sameer on February 9, 2016, 16:55 GMT

    Mankading is a legitimate way of dismissal. Batsman knows what he is doing,trying to get advantage by trying to start a run before the ball is delivered so a bowler is legally and morally within his rights to run him out. I dont thinks spirit of the game is violated.

  • Michael on February 9, 2016, 12:19 GMT

    @ dgcov..".The batsman's bat was on the line which implies that the run out was a technical issue, which further implies that no such advantage was being sought. "...nonsense.....when the bowlers' boot is on the line it is called a NO BALL Furthermore how can ANYBODY be wrong for using something that is LEGITIMATE ?....nonsense again !! "the umpire should call one short when the non striker backs up too far and then takes a run " as one reader said obviously in response to those who said that " mankading" is wrong,but sees nothing wrong with a batsman batting outside of his crease. Then someone else said that mankading should only occur if it was clearly shown that the non striker was CLEARLY trying to take an unfair advantage BY RUNNING OUT OF HIS CREASE as against WALKING OUT of his crease... LOLLLL !! He needs to be told that batsmen at the non strikers when trying to steal a single don't RUN OUT of the crease....they ease out,walk out,stroll out ,move out.

  •   Ahamed Imran on February 9, 2016, 11:43 GMT

    At last an article that makes complete sense about this whole mankadding saga. Why can't people just digest the fact that rules are rules. If the batsman follows it properly then there'd be no issue.

  • ALIENA on February 9, 2016, 10:32 GMT

    You as usual are correct Mr. Cozier. How fast and furious the condemnation came for Paul. Some of the senior players over the years have done much worst, but seem to think it's ok for them. Hope their words don't come back to bite them some day. Because Courtney Walsh chose not to use the rule does not mean others have to follow him. As a West Indian, he never came to the defense of young Paul, so who cares about Walsh? ...