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The Law Versus the Spirit of Cricket

Indian Premier League

Over the last decade, the Indian Premier League (“IPL”), a marquee Indian cricket event and an international premier Twenty20 cricket competition, has transformed cricket into more than just a “gentleman’s game.”  The IPL, founded and organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (“BCCI”), is a cricketing festival that hosts every top Indian and international cricket player, along with a multitude of corporate houses and Bollywood celebrities, making it the richest professional cricket competition worldwide.

IPL’s brand value has increased at a significant pace, and in 2018 its value was approximated at a staggering US$ 6.3 billion. IPL has also established itself as India’s favorite primetime television show.  This can be substantiated by the fact that in 2017 Star India Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company India, paid US$ 2.55 billion for its broadcasting rights for a period of five years.

However, the cash-rich league has faced various controversies since its inception; whether they add to or detract from the fascination with the league is itself the subject of debate.

“Mankading” Incident

The recently concluded season of the IPL had its fair share of controversies that garnered public scrutiny.  On March 25, 2019, one such incident occurred during a match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, which sparked a debate over the “Laws of Cricket” versus the “Spirit of Cricket” among the players, pundits, and public in general.

During the 13th over of the Rajasthan Royals” innings, Ravichandran Ashwin, the captain for the Kings XI Punjab, “mankaded” Jos Buttler.  This is to say that Ashwin pulled out of his delivery stride and knocked the bails off the wicket at the non-striker’s end as Buttler had left his crease before the bowl was released.  While awaiting the third umpire’s decision, the players indulged in a serious discussion.  The third umpire declared Buttler out which prompted mixed reactions from everyone.

Origin of “Mankading”

“Mankading” is the act of running a batsman out at the non-striker’s end before the bowler completes his delivery stride or before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.  Even though mankading is not a new concept to international cricket, this event was the first instance of a batsman being mankaded in the IPL.  The first such recorded instance took place during India’s tour of Australia in 1947 when Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown.  Brown had left the crease before the ball was delivered.  Despite Mankad giving Brown multiple warnings and receiving support from Sir Donald Bradman, the then Australian captain, the Australian Press criticized this act for being against the spirit of the game and coined this controversial way of dismissal as “mankad.”

Past instances of Mankading

Mankading has been a part of cricket for a long time even though it has been considered controversial and sparked a debate every time such an incident has taken place.  Incidentally, mankading is not new at all for the two players involved on March 25, 2019.  In 2012, Ravichandran Ashwin had previously mankaded a Sri Lankan batsman.   Virender Sehwag, the then Indian captain, after consulting with Sachin Tendulkar, decided against it and withdrew the appeal.  Further, in 2014, a Sri Lankan bowler mankaded Jos Buttler and he was considered out.  There have been a few other instances where mankading has been used, including in 1992-1993 by Kapil Dev against Peter Kirsten and in the same period by Dipak Patel against Grant Flower.

Laws of Cricket

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the international governing body for cricket, relies on the Marylebone Cricket Club (“MCC”) for writing and interpreting the “Laws of Cricket.”  According to “Law 41 – Unfair Play” of the Laws of Cricket, the law regarding mankading is clear, straightforward, and as follows:

41.16 Non-striker leaving his/her ground early

41.16.1 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 these circumstances, the non-striker will be out Run out if he/she is out of his/her ground when his/her wicket is put down by the bowler throwing the ball at the stumps or by the bowler’s hand holding the ball, whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered.

The ICC has specifically incorporated the above-mentioned law in the playing conditions for all the current cricket formats.  Further, the Laws of Cricket have been amended several times in the past; however, this type of run out has always been retained and has resulted in making mankading a legal way to run out the batsman.  In fact, in 2017, the MCC further relaxed and clarified the mankading rule and stated it has long been the position of MCC that if a non-striker leaves his/her ground early, he/she is liable to be run out.  The previous rule allowed bowlers to run out the batsman at the non-striker end only before entering their delivery stride.  However, under the revised law, bowlers are allowed to run out the batsman at the non-striker’s end from the time the ball comes in the play and until the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball.  The MCC had further reiterated that the law emphasizes upon the importance of the non-striker remaining in his/her ground until the ball is released.  Moreover, currently, with television potentially ruling that a batsman has made his/her ground by millimeters, the MCC had stated that it seems wrong to allow them a head-start of several feet in setting off.  MCC also went on to clarify that giving a warning for such dismissals has often been seen as a convention, however, it has never been part of the Laws of Cricket.

Spirit of Cricket

In the 1990s, the “Spirit of Cricket” was sought to be enshrined in the Law of Cricket with the objective of reminding the players of their responsibility of ensuring that cricket should always be played in a truly sportsmanlike manner. The Laws of Cricket include a Preamble on the Spirit of Cricket, which provides for the following:

Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the Laws, but also within the Spirit of Cricket

Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket

Create a positive atmosphere by your own conduct, and encourage others to do likewise.

Cricket is an exciting game that encourages leadership, friendship and teamwork, which brings together people from different nationalities, cultures and religions, especially when played within the Spirit of Cricket.

Based on the foregoing, every cricketer in the world is required to not merely obey the Laws of Cricket but are also required to safeguard the Spirit of Cricket.

Debate

Based on the Laws of Cricket, it is clear that the act of mankading is legal and the bowler is well within his/her right to run out the batsmen at the non-striker’s end.  Even the rationale behind allowing such a run out seems logical, as it helps prevent an unfair advantage to a batsman in completing a run.  Batsmen typically try to leave the crease at the non-striker’s end before the bowler releases the ball in order to have some form of momentum when the striker calls for a run and also help in reducing the distance to be covered by the batsman.  Moreover, even in 1947, the first time such an instance took place, Sir Donald Bradman saw nothing wrong with what Vinoo Mankad had done and even went on and stated in his autobiography the following:

For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship.  The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered.  If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out?  By backing up too far or too early, the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.

Accordingly, it can be safely said that based on a review of the Laws of Cricket and the principles and explanations provided by the MCC, Ravichandran Ashwin was well within his right to run out Jos Buttler and the umpire was correct in determining that Buttler was out.  However, while Ashwin has received support from a number of former cricketers, ICC umpires, and pundits, the cricketing world still appears to be divided on whether such an act is against the Spirit of Cricket.

The argument that mankading is against the Spirit of Cricket is based on the fact that it is not a sportsman-like thing to do and it does not involve an encounter between the bat and the bowl, which is the fundamental principle of cricket.  Sportsmanship is regarded as more than just winning a game and in numerous instances across various sports, including cricket, players have given up an advantage that they have deemed to be unfair.  It is believed that one of the most significant examples showcasing that mankading is against the Spirit of Cricket was in the 1987 Cricket World Cup when Courtney Walsh refused to mankad a Pakistani batsman, which was ultimately regarded as one of the best examples of sportsmanship and what cricket truly stands for.  A number of players and pundits are quoted as saying that mankading is a “terrible example for young and junior players.”

It is interesting to note that, in this particular instance, MCC had originally cleared the incident, stating that mankading is well within the laws of the game.  Subsequently, however, MCC stated that this particular incident was not within the Spirit of Cricket as there was a long pause between Ashwin arriving at the crease and the moment it was reasonable enough to expect the ball to be delivered.  MCC even clarified that any deliberate delay in releasing the ball should be considered unfair and against the Spirit of Cricket.  This again raises the issue as to what should be considered as “normally have been expected to release the ball,” which makes the rule of mankading a subjective one.

While the debate on mankading is ongoing and has split the cricketing fraternity, one thing is certain: the law permits mankading, unless the ICC and MCC think otherwise, and this is not the last incident where we will see a player mankading another.  It is also worth mentioning another recent incident, which took place between England and Ireland, where Ben Foakes appeared to have waited patiently for Andy Balbirnie to lose his balance after missing a sweep shot and then knocked the bails off to complete a stumping. This incident has been regarded as similar to mankading and against the Spirit of Cricket; however, we will leave this debate for another day.

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 150
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