The battle between regulations and ethics is never-ending. There’s no feasible end to this debate as to which amongst the two units should be implied — simply because as the nature suggests, there are two sides of a coin.

Article Detail

The battle between regulations and ethics is never-ending. There’s no feasible end to this debate as to which amongst the two units should be implied — simply because as nature suggests, there are two sides of a coin.

The two entities were in collision on Monday (March 25) when Punjab were defending their 184 against Rajasthan in the Indian T20 League. It was the 13th over and Punjab captain Ravichandran Ashwin was about to bowl the penultimate delivery of his over. As he glided for the delivery, a sneak peek of Jos Buttler moving ahead of the crease forced him to take off the bails at the non-striker's end.

An animated Buttler was left livid and the appalling decision of the officials further took the cricketing world into a massive disarray. Regulations and ethics were once again called into question with one section believing Ashwin’s action as ‘according to the rulebook’, while the others stayed with the morality of this gentleman’s game.

Mankad-ing’s origin dates back to 1947 when the then Indian team toured Australia. Vinoo Mankad – Indian opener and slow left-arm orthodox bowler – is credited to have cradled with the law for the very first time. During one of his overs, Mankad took the bails off from the non-striker’s end, dismissing Bill Brown during the second Test. And thus, began the ‘Mankading’ era.

Mankad came under heavy backlash, especially from the Australian media, for showing ‘unsportsmanlike’ conduct, but the former Australian captain Don Bradman came in his support. “For the life of me I cannot understand why. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered,” Bradman wrote in his autobiography.

What does the law say?

There have been several alterations to the rule ever since and the final judgement was eventually established. Despite being against the ethics of the game, this kind of dismissal was retained.

Speaking of current directives, the Law of Cricket 41.16 mentions, “Non-striker leaving his/her ground early: If the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one in the over.”

Money Sharma / AFP

In an ideal scenario, or as the legends suggest, the morality in such cases lies in the fact that the batsman is primarily given a warning, as a gesture of courtesy because conducting this kind of dismissal is highly against the spirit of the game. The failure to hold on for the next time though would be a dismissal.

But again, is there even a single mention of ‘warning’ in the law? Hence Ashwin was right on his part.

"It is worth stressing that giving a warning for such dismissals has often been seen as a convention but has never been part of the Laws. The fielding side has the option not to appeal, or to withdraw the appeal if they do not want to dismiss the batsman in this way," the MCC quoted in December, while unveiling changes in Law 41.16. The changes will come to effect from April 1.

The foxy essence in Ashwin’s case though was something very peculiar. The footage of the incident shows Ashwin paused right during the expected ‘release of the ball’ before Mankad-ing the Rajasthan batsman.

To term Mankad-ing; it is all about one’s perception, to say the least. Ashwin benefitted and so did Pakistan during the 1987 World Cup. Up against West Indies, former bowler Saleem Jaffar – standing at non-striker’s end – stepped out of the crease even before Courtney Walsh had thrown his delivery. The latter had his opportunity of dismissing Jaffar but refrained himself in doing so. Pakistan went on to win the game.