Former India spinner Murali Kartik has whole-heartedly backed the West Indies after their controversial win over Zimbabwe at the Under-19 World Cup on Tuesday. West Indies fast bowler Keemo Paul mankaded the last man Richard Ngarava with three runs needed off the final over to help his team through to the quarter-finals. The incident has led to fierce debate but Kartik, who has dismissed three batsmen in such a manner over his playing career, remains steadfast in his belief that a bowler is completely justified in effecting what is just another "mode of dismissal."
Among the arguments given by pundits who were critical of West Indies was that Paul had failed to warn Ngarava. But Kartik argued the rules do not demand that courtesy.
"It is one of those things where people are once again going to bring up the spirit of cricket issue," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It's very simple; you are not allowed to steal anything in life so stealing anything whether an inch or a yard when it's a crucial time, it's not done. People are going to say he wasn't warned, but the rule is very clear, you are not supposed to leave the popping crease before the bowler delivers the ball. There are different modes of dismissals and this is one of them and I don't know why people create such a hue and cry about the spirit of cricket."
Most bowlers do warn a batsman before mankading him and Kartik used to do so at least thrice. However, he believes he had the time since he was playing a first-class cricket across four days. Here, West Indies were defending only a handful of runs with six balls left and needed the wicket to progress in a World Cup.
"For me the situations were different, I was playing a four-day game," Kartik said. "I had the time to warn, that was something that was happening for a very long time. I didn't want to get that person out, I just wanted to warn him and if somebody doesn't heed to the warnings after three times, then obviously there's nothing left. Over here, there were just three runs required and the last man was in and they wanted to win the game, so it's a different situation."
As a spinner, when I am bowling and someone is beaten in the air and he drags the foot by a micrometer, is the keeper going to ask him, 'Can I stump you or not? Are you out? Are you trying to take a single?' No.Murali Kartik's rationale to backing mankading dismissals
Zimbabwe's players were visibly distraught after the match, with captain Brandon Mavuta repeatedly saying "No comment" in the post-match presentation ceremony. Their coach Stephen Mangongo was more vocal: "It is my honest and sincere opinion as a coach, who has been coaching this game for nearly two decades, that at youth cricket you want to teach them sportsmanship, you want to teach them to win with honour and valour. And I do not think that they've won with honour, by sneaking a run out in such a manner."
Kartik laughed off that view, saying the West Indies players should in fact be complimented for their game awareness in a high-pressure situation.
"They are not kids, they are 19-year olds and many people have played for their countries at the age of 14 and 15." he said. "When you get to that level, there's no kid, everybody is treated at par, at the end of the day they are playing for their country. If the other team is trying to win by stealing, is that what you are trying to tell everyone that Zimbabwe were trying to win by gaining that extra yard.
"I don't know why people use the word "Mankad", it should be on the name of the person who is trying to steal that extra advantage. The person who does it is always the one who is vilified but for me, I have always believed whether you steal a rupee or a million rupees, stealing is stealing. They were just trying to win the game. I am glad they know the rules, and somebody was aware enough to see that someone was trying to take unfair advantage in a tight situation."
TV commentator and former Zimbabwe bowler Mpumelelo Mbangwa, in his post-match analysis for the host broadcaster, said he would have wanted the on-field umpires to take charge of the situation and ask if the West Indies captain really wanted to go ahead with the appeal. Other critics have also argued that the intent of the batsman should have been taken into consideration before he was ruled out via a mankad. Was he willfully stepping outside his crease or was it simply the result of a natural urgency that comes with wanting to get the required runs in a tense situation? But Kartik did not entertain those views either and offered a few analogies to back his stance.
"When a bowler misses the crease by a micrometer, isn't it a no ball?" he said. "Or when a run out or a stumping is referred to the third umpire, the line belongs to the umpire, [and] whether you are a millimeter or a micrometer out, you are out.
"Let me put another situation [across]. As a spinner, when I am bowling and someone is beaten in the air and he drags the foot by a micrometer, is the keeper going to ask him, 'Can I stump you or not? Are you out? Are you trying to take a single?' No, that's not the case. So, I am really sorry, whether it's a micrometer or an inch or a mile out, he's out.
"The spirit of cricket is a convenient bunker for people to hide behind. Everybody needs to look into themselves. How many times do people nick and not walk? How many times do people claim catches that aren't catches and they know it? The situation was such, the kids were trying to win a game and anybody who flouts rules, obviously you have to pay a price."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75