How to solve the mankad problem: Cricket365’s Mankadifesto

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Ravichandran Ashwin mankad PA

By now, you’ve probably heard the news. There has been a mankad. And this time it’s happened in the IPL rather than some trivial international or some such, so now it really matters.

Mankads remain vanishingly rare in cricket but in spite of this – or arguably because of it – are among the most divisive things that can happen in the world’s greatest sport. There are absolute zealots on both sides.

On one side, let’s call them, I dunno, ‘Handsome and Powerfully Correct’, are those who bloody love mankads, can see the obvious truth that batsmen are the only ones at fault and, quite often, just really enjoy the sh*tstorm that a mankad will inevitably generate.

On the other side we have ‘Whining Hysterical Idiots’ who clutch their pearls and spew forth great torrents of drivel about the spirit of the game (which doesn’t exist) and slippery slope moral panic nonsense about how there will be mankads all the time now (there never are) and how it’s the worst way to take a wicket (it’s the best) and a sign of cowardice (given the furore it will create it’s an act of extreme bravery) or cheating (it isn’t).

So who’s right? That’s not for us to say. We’re neutral and impartial observers here.

But what is clear is that the mankad has placed cricket at an impasse that needs to be negotiated. The MCC has made frequent tweaks to the mankad law in recent years, each one of them making the point ever more forcefully that the bowler is in the right and it is the batsman’s behaviour that needs to change. They’ve stressed this again in response to Ashwin-Buttler.

Every amendment to wordings and playing conditions has been designed to make mankads easier and to remove the stigma attached to the bowler. Most notably, the law is now covered under “Unfair Play” (Law 41) rather than Run Out to really drive home the point: batsmen need to stop taking the piss all the f*cking time.

While well-intentioned, it hasn’t quite worked. There are still adult humans – people who are allowed to vote in elections, hold down jobs, drive cars and have families – who think even attempting a mankad should be enough for a bowler to be charged with bringing the game into disrepute. This is a ludicrous, undefendable position that falls apart under the slightest scrutiny, but it is widely held.

There is also a clear disconnect between those who write about the game and those who play it. The vast majority of players and former players hate mankading very nearly as much as they hate the idea of a commentator who isn’t a former player.

This is not the only voice that should be listened to, but nor should it be entirely ignored. For whatever reason the solution of ‘just stay in your crease until the bowler lets go of it, you silly twat’ is utterly unpalatable to current and former players.

So, in the spirit of bringing the game together and ending this feud that erupts at least once every two years or so, we will offer a solution and are even prepared to listen to some of what is being said by the people who are flat-out wrong. After this, we’re going to sort something far more straightforward, such as Brexit.

The following, then, represents the official Cricket365 plan for What To Do About Mankads. A mankadifesto, if you will. Anyone who still doesn’t agree with them after this is frankly a lost cause. We’re compromising here even though we really shouldn’t have to.

We’ve got two fundamental starting points and two relatively minor law tweaks that we think/hope/pray might add clarity to both the act itself, the rights (bowlers) and wrongs (batsmen), and add a hint of sporting jeopardy for the bowler.

 

1. Mankads are good and legitimate

This is the vital starting point. This is to our mind unarguable. There is a place in the game for mankads even if you don’t like them. They provide a necessary check on batsmen who would otherwise be free to roam wherever the pleased at the non-striker’s end. A bowler is as entitled to attempt a mankad as a wicketkeeper is a stumping.

 

2. No warnings

There are those on both sides of the mankad divide who think the issuing of a pre-mankad warning is either necessary to make a mankad okay or offers some mitigation for the nefarious bowler. Both are wrong. The only warning necessary for a mankad is the same as the warning for every other mode of dismissal: its existence within the Laws of the game. Demanding a warning only for this specific dismissal perpetuates the unhelpful othering of mankads and fuels the idea that it is some form of slightly underhand sharp practice.

 

3. Rewrite the Law again

I know, I know, this is tiresome but the Ashwin-Buttler incident did expose ambiguity in the Law is it currently stands.

Even the pro-mankad lobby has been split on whether Buttler should actually have been given out in this specific incident. He is still in his crease when Ashwin stops, only leaving it a frame or two later.

Law 41.16 currently states:

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.

The key phrase here is “when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball”. Almost all analysis of Ashwin-Buttler has revolved around the time at which Ashwin could have been expected to release the ball.

This has involved countless carefully composited videos overlaying previous Ashwin deliveries to determine whether Buttler was still in or not. Some of this was from the man who framed the current law, lending it plenty of authority.

But it seems a ridiculous premise. Not least because it renders the Law utterly unenforceable in any cricket not blessed with cameras, third umpires and an army of people watching with access to editing software. It also allows batsmen – as Buttler did – to not pay any attention to the bowler and simply rely on some vague assumption of when the ball should be delivered. What was telling in Buttler’s case was how – even in those videos designed to exonerate him – he is paying no attention to Ashwin whatsoever. This seems mad, especially from a man who has already been mankaded.

There is an alternative reading of the Law and one that, we would humbly contend, makes more sense. If the Law refers to the “instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball” within that delivery’s specific delivery action, then there is less ambiguity and, more importantly, some hope for any umpire to make a reasonably informed judgement.

The “normally” here would mean that a bowler couldn’t simply complete his entire delivery swing and then go for the stumps. But it means that until the delivery arm is at its highest point – the instant at which the bowler would normally have been expected to release and, not insignificantly, the ICC’s interpretation of the law – then the batsman must remain in his crease.

Under this interpretation of the Law, Buttler is rather more clearly out. Ashwin has not commenced his delivery action and cannot therefore have reached the instant when he would normally have been expected to bowl.

Making clear in Law 41.16 that it refers to the delivery action rather than hypothetical points in time definitely helps. For instance:

If the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant in his/her delivery action 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.

 

4. Make an unsuccessful mankad a no-ball

We’ve torn ourselves this way and that on this one but have come to the conclusion that it might be the least imperfect solution to the less ridiculous fears and concerns of the anti-mankaders.

We don’t really buy the idea that there will suddenly be this mad flurry of game-disrupting mankad attempts at all levels of the game – it’s not happened after previous mankads, and won’t happen now. And even if it did happen, we’d be initially willing to wait to see whether this could be adequately covered under the time-wasting section of Law 41 before taking direct action.

There is another consideration, though: the mankad attempt carries no risk at all for the bowler. It’s rarely articulated beyond “not cricket… spirit of the game… just not on… kids watching” harrumphing but we do wonder whether this is actually the crux of the issue. As a sporting contest, the mankad is undeniably one-sided. While it remains entirely the batsman’s fault if he’s left his crease early, the bowler does have a ‘free shot’ at dismissing him. We’re not bothered about it, but if being super generous with our good specs on can just about see why some are. This is therefore the area where we will offer a compromise.

Luckily, it can be done by adding a single word to the existing Laws.

Law 21.6 – colloquially known as ‘Finn’s Law’ – defines the following type of no-ball:

Either umpire shall call and signal No ball if, other than in an attempt to run out the non-striker under Law 41.16 (Non-striker leaving his/her ground early), the bowler breaks the wicket at any time after the ball comes into play and before completion of the stride after the delivery stride.

You can add one word to this to alter the mankad caveat (great band, but too commercial these days), instantly making a failed mankad attempt a no-ball, costing runs and free-hits.

Either umpire shall call and signal No ball if, other than in a successful attempt to run out the non-striker under Law 41.16 (Non-striker leaving his/her ground early), the bowler breaks the wicket at any time after the ball comes into play and before completion of the stride after the delivery stride.

Suddenly, it becomes a bigger consideration for a bowler to go for it. He’s now not just facing the wrath of former players and angry tweeters, but actual in-game implications. He needs to be sure the batsman is not where he’s supposed to be; he can attempt as many mankads as he likes, but will pay a fee for unsuccessful attempts.

It’s not perfect – it helps that it’s framed within an existing law and does at least have a near-parallel within the game already with the unquestioned legitimacy of allowing a stumping off a wide, but does still seem a bit like the othering of mankads we discussed in point two. But it feels workable and at least worth a shot.

Amongst all this, we must consider what we have just decided to call the Great Mankad Paradox because it sounds pretty smart. The one way that would end the mankad for good in a matter weeks. Ready? If you really don’t like mankads and want, long-term, to stop them happening at their current alarming rate of once every two years or so, then what you need to happen in the short term is loads of mankads.

It’s the surest way to end it. Bowlers declaring open season on mankads would result in a short period of gloriously chaotic carnage but slowly, surely, even the most inattentive and dull-witted batsman would learn to stay in his crease and pay attention to what’s going on. There endeth the mankad.

We don’t want that to happen, though. We bloody love mankads. So keep it to yourselves, yeah?


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