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Jos Buttler queries 'wishy-washy' law in wake of mankading controversy

England batsman gives first in-depth interview since controversy in IPL opening fixture

Jos Buttler believes it was "probably the wrong decision" to give him out in Rajasthan Royals' first game of the IPL season but feels the current wording of the Laws governing run-outs at the non-striker's end is "wishy-washy" and requires further clarification.
Buttler was run-out backing-up - or Mankaded, as it is often termed - by the Kings XI Punjab captain R Ashwin at a crucial moment of a match that Rajasthan went on to lose. And, while he accepts there has to be a place for such dismissals in the game, Buttler feels the dismissal set "a bad precedent at the start of the tournament".
In his first in-depth interview since the incident, Buttler also admitted the incident had proved "distracting" in subsequent days and played on his mind in his two next innings. But he insisted he was now "relaxed" about the episode and adamant that, having already been dismissed in that fashion in an ODI against Sri Lanka in 2014, he would "make sure it never happens again".
"Of course a Mankading has to be in the Laws of the game because a batsman can't just run halfway down the pitch trying to get a headstart," Buttler told ESPNcricinfo. "But I do think, the way the law is written, there is a bit of a grey area in that saying 'when a bowler is expected to release the ball'. That is a bit of a wishy-washy statement."
The current wording of Law 41.16 states: "If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be run out."
In the case of Buttler's dismissal, that key phrase "expected release" was a major factor in his downfall. Ashwin, the bowler at the time, approached the crease in normal fashion, but at no stage raised his arm to deliver the ball and instead seemed to pause while Buttler backed-up out of the crease before dislodging the bails. An MCC official subsequently told ESPNcricinfo, they "felt the pause was just too long and therefore not within the spirit of cricket."
While Buttler is reluctant to argue his case on the basis of the spirit of cricket - "it's different for everyone, isn't it?" he says - he does suggest there is at least some ambiguity as regards the specific Law.
"If you look at the footage, probably the wrong decision was made because at the time he was expected to release the ball I was in my crease," Buttler said.
"At the time I was really disappointed with it. I didn't like the style of it. I just thought it was a bad precedent at the start of the tournament. For the tournament itself. It was a really disappointing way to start the tournament.
"So, I didn't like what happened and I didn't agree with it, but what can you do? After a day or so I was pretty relaxed about it and I'll make sure it never happens again. It won't happen again."
The incident appeared to play on Buttler's mind. He had made six half-centuries in his seven previous IPL innings at the time of his dismissal, but subsequently suffered two single-figure scores against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings. He returned to form with an innings of 59 from 43 balls on Tuesday, however, and feels he has now moved on from the episode.
"What was more disappointing is that suddenly, over the next two games, I found myself being really conscious of it and it is quite distracting," he said. "It is so rare that you're not normally thinking about it. I must be the only person to get out twice in that way.
"It distracted me for the next couple of games which is why it was nice to get some runs in the win and get back to thinking about batting and not worrying about how I back up at the non-striker's end."
In fact, Buttler is not the only man to be dismissed twice in such a way. Vinoo Mankad, after whom the dismissal is colloquially known, dismissed the Australian Bill Brown twice in such fashion in 1947-48. But while Buttler claims to be one of a dwindling number of "walkers" in the game - batsmen who do not wait for the umpire's decision if they have edged a ball to the keeper - he accepts the sport is full of grey areas that might, at times, be hard to define, and hopes that professional players remain mindful of their responsibility as "role models to young kids".
"I do generally walk," he said. "That is something else where the spirit of cricket is involved. Is it in the spirit of cricket to not walk? Most people's take is that the umpire's there to make a decision and that is how it should be.
"I'd hope, whether it was a written thing or not, that players - as custodians of the game, role models to young kids and professional people - would carry themselves in a certain way."
Buttler received another useful reminder about his impact on the next generation of spectators in recent days. An email from his sister to the BBC show Tailenders jogged memories of an incident, almost 20 years ago, when a request for an autograph was declined by a prominent England player of the time. At a stage when he finds himself handling almost endless demands for selfies, it was a reminder of the disappointment that declining such a request could cause.
"It's hard to satisfy all requests for selfies," Buttler said. "But it is useful to remember that experience. To someone it could be a great moment. It can be quite meaningful. So I'll try to remember that when I get a bit annoyed with it. And it doesn't take two seconds, really."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo