After letting Aaron Finch, who had strayed out of his crease at the non-striker's end during Royal Challengers Bangalore's chase against the Delhi Capitals last night, off with a warning, R Ashwin has put all the batsmen on notice that it was his first and final warning of the season.
While bowling the third over in the second innings, Ashwin had stopped short of delivering what would have been the fourth delivery and went through his action without letting go of the ball with Finch well out the crease.
Ashwin, captaining the Kings XI Punjab last season, had run out the Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler in similar circumstances, sparking a familiar spirit-of-cricket debate over the dismissal that is within the laws and yet draws criticism from some - among the latter is the Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting.
Finch, on 12 when the incident occurred, had ventured well out of the crease before the ball was delivered with his eyes on his partner Devdutt Padikkal. Ashwin, having caught Finch a few steps down the pitch, offered a wry smile. Umpire Nitin Menon alerted Finch about it and the cameras immediately panned to the Capitals dugout to show Ponting, who was also smiling. Ponting had publicly disagreed with Ashwin's stance on this type of dismissal even before this IPL had started.
After the game, Ashwin tweeted that his actions were his "first and final warning" to offending batsmen for the season.
Ashwin had been tweeting about the issue before the season started, suggesting bowlers get a "free ball" if non-strikers were found backing up too much. Ponting, in turn, had said he would have a "hard conversation" with the spinner about the matter upon reaching the UAE.
Ponting had said on a podcast, the Grade Cricketer, in August: "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 [Ashwin running out Buttler], 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'.
"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."
That Buttler dismissal led to a big controversy with the MCC calling Ashwin's pause before delivering against the spirit of cricket. Incidentally, Ponting sits on the MCC's World Cricket Committee. He has been the coach of the Capitals since 2018, and Ashwin joined the franchise between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Ashwin had said after the Buttler dismissal that his actions were "instinctive" but pointed out that he had stayed within the laws of the game.
"There's ways that you can actually stop batsmen cheating like that," Ponting said on the podcast. "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. 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."