Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Virender Sehwag has said R Ashwin had warned Lahiru Thirimanne before running him out for backing up too much before the ball was bowled. In the 40th over of the Sri Lanka innings, Ashwin ran the non-striker Thirimanne out, a dismissal that is called - perhaps uncharitably to the former India allrounder - Mankading.
The umpires asked India if they wanted to reconsider the appeal and Sehwag, captaining in the absence of MS Dhoni, withdrew the appeal. It was withdrawn, Sehwag said, "because if we appealed and umpire gave him out, then somebody will criticise that, you know, that was not spirit of the game". Sehwag was asked if it was not soft to let the batsman off even after the warning. "It's soft, but that's the way we are," he said.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, said he was not aware of the warning. When told what Sehwag had to say about Ashwin's warning in the previous over, Jayawardene said the warning should have been official. "I don't know," Jayawardene said. "Then it's… he should warn him through the umpires. You need to ask the umpires if he was warned."
The warning, to be fair to Jayawardene, was not a conspicuous one. It wasn't spotted on TV, nor did Ashwin pull out of a delivery before the actual taking off the bails. However, to be fair to Sehwag and Ashwin, this need not be the kind of official warning that umpires make to bowlers for running onto the danger area. So it is possible that Ashwin had indeed warned Thirimanne beforehand, but that was not spotted by those watching.
However, this only makes it more curious as to why India withdrew the appeal. "Everybody was discussing it, but the umpires called me and I said, 'We can give him one more warning but if he does it again we will [run him out] because that's the ICC rule'," Sehwag said. "If somebody is taking an early start, then the bowlers have the full right to run him out."
The ICC had become more strict in this ruling last year - allowing bowlers to "Mankad" somebody any time before releasing the ball as opposed to the earlier rule where you had to do it before entering your delivery stride - to keep the batsmen from gaining unfair advantage. It even falls under Law 42, which deals with fair and unfair play. Sehwag, though, had no problem with the umpires consulting between themselves and asking the captain to reconsider the appeal, despite the law being clear on it.
"I think he [Paul Reiffel, the umpire] went to Billy Bowden. Billy Bowden is the senior umpire, and he asked him, and they discussed, and they called me, and they said, 'It's your call now. If you appeal, we can give him out'. So I took the decision that okay, we can give him one more warning."
There were suggestions that it was Sachin Tendulkar who persuaded Sehwag to withdraw the appeal, but Sehwag said it was his own decision. Either way, Jayawardene said he wouldn't have even appealed. "I don't play like that," he said.
However, Jayawardene admitted that Thirimanne was at fault. "The rules have changed, I know, to try to make sure there is no advantage given to the batsman," Jayawardene said. "I probably felt there was a little bit of fault in our guy as well in trying to do that, to be honest. But I mean, end of the day, spirit of the game was the winner."
Sticking with the popular opinion, Jayawardene said that it was "nice and clean" to not run a batsman out who is technically indulging in unfair play. "I wouldn't have got the bails off in the first place, to be honest," he said. "Try and keep it nice and clean, and tell the umpires to try and keep an eye on the guy. But if he still keeps doing it regularly, and if he is taking advantage, yes then, but I think they did the right thing in the middle. The seniors got together. Like I said, let's move on."
Thirimanne, though, kept backing up too far even after the let-off. He was careful with Ashwin, but with Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan, he kept taking the liberty. Why didn't those bowlers try something similar? "Because they were not aware," Sehwag said. "You have to be aware. Ashwin was aware, and I was aware when I was bowling. You have to be aware when the non-striker is taking a start."
Edited by Nikita Bastian