Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting has promised to have a "hard conversation" with senior offspinner R Ashwin about running out batsmen backing up at the bowler's end, saying "that's not going to be the way that we play our cricket". Ashwin, who will make his debut for Capitals this season in the IPL, had sparked off a debate, which is still ongoing, after running out Rajasthan Royals batsman Jos Buttler during IPL 2019 after the batsman had strayed out of his crease.
Although Ashwin's action was within the laws of the game, the MCC had called it against the spirit of cricket. Incidentally, Ponting sits on the MCC's World Cricket Committee. He said that he wouldn't shy away from sitting down the senior Indian bowler for a chat when they meet in the UAE.
"I'll be having a chat with him about it, that's the first thing I'll do," Ponting said 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 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'.
"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, you just penalise him some runs" Ponting suggests other ways of keeping batsmen from backing up too much
"So that's going to be a conversation and that's going to be a hard conversation I will have to have with him, but I'm pretty sure he'll take it on the chin. I think, even him, looking back now, he will probably say it was within the rules and he's right to do it, but this is not within the spirit of the game, not in the way I want, at least with the Delhi Capitals anyway."
Ashwin's decision to stop in his delivery stride and run out Buttler, who wasn't watching the bowler and was well outside his crease, polarised the cricket community, and after the match Ashwin said his action was "instinctive" and he had not breached the rules.
"On my part, it was very instinctive. It was not planned or anything like that. It's there within the rules of the game. I don't understand where the spirit of the game comes; naturally if it's there in the rules, it's there."
Ponting, however, felt there were other ways for the bowlers to drive home a point without going against the perceived spirit of the game. "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, you just penalise him some runs or something. Do that and then they won't do it again," Ponting said. "You've only got to do that once at the start of a tournament and then all the players see it, and I guarantee that players won't be fudging any ground from there on.
"I chatted to some of the match referees about it during last year's IPL as well. If the umpires make a stance and do something to actually warn the batsman that they might be cheating, then that's better than having the ugly incident of a mankad."
Recently Ashwin reignited the debate when reacting to the ICC decision to have TV umpires call front-foot no-balls in ODIs during the World Cup Super League. Aswhin suggested that technology could be used to spot and penalise batsmen who back up too much by either disallowing the runs scored off the ball in question, or giving the bowler a "free ball".
"Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!! Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned #noball #dontbackup," Ashwin said on Twitter. "Many of you will not be able to see the grave disparity here, so let me take some time out to clarify to the best of my abilities. If the non striker backs up 2 feet and manages to come back for a 2, he will put the same batsmen on strike for the next ball.
"Putting the same batsmen on strike might cost me a 4 or a 6 from the next ball and eventually cost me 7 more runs instead of may be a 1 and a dot ball possibility at a different batsmen. The same will mean massively for a batter wanting to get off strike even in a test match. [Sic.]
"It is time to restore the balance in what is an increasingly tough environment for the bowlers. #thefrontcrease #belongs to #bothparties @bhogleharsha we can use the same tech that we are proposing for a no ball [to] check 120 balls in a T20 game."
When some Twitter users disagreed with Ashwin for asking for alternate penalties, Ashwin replied: "Make the run invalid of that ball or give the bowler a free ball the next one. Instead of disallowing the run, may be the bowler can get a free ball the very next one where the batsmen has backed up. Some fairness to start off may be."
While Ashwin did not clearly define what he meant by "free ball", it could mean a bowling version of a free hit - no runs allowed, but the batsman could be dismissed.