The controversial mankading of Jos Buttler by Ravichandran Ashwin in the IPL 2019 encounter between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Mansingh stadium has become a major talking point. The cricketing world is divided about Ashwin’s actions, with many supporting him while a fair majority are criticizing his actions. The incident itself was not pleasant television viewing. Buttler was batting brilliantly and on 69, he was guiding Rajasthan Royals to a win. However, in that split moment, Ashwin realized that Buttler was out of his crease and he broke the stumps to run him out in controversial fashion. Buttler, normally a calm cricketer, was livid. When the match ended with Kings XI Punjab emerging victors by 14 runs, there was no eye contact between Buttler and Ashwin. Paddy Upton, the head coach of Rajasthan Royals, exchanged words with Ashwin.
In the post-match press conference, Ashwin reiterated that he had done nothing wrong. “It's there within the rules of the game. I don't understand where the spirit of the game comes, naturally if it's there in the rules it's there. I don't understand the point of sporting or sportive in that point because it's rules. What applies for one man does not apply for everyone else,” Ashwin said. Upton, though, was blunt in his criticism. “I think R Ashwin's actions tonight speak for him and represent him. When I looked in the eyes of his teammates, I'm not sure it represented his teammates. We'll leave it up to the IPL fans to decide if that's the kind of thing they want to see, and we'll leave it up to the cricket world to judge R Ashwin's actions tonight,” Upton said with anger.
This was not the first time that Buttler had been Mankaded, having been on the receiving end during the Edgbaston ODI between England and Sri Lanka in 2014 where Sri Lanka offspinner Sachithra Senanayake ran him out. Even for Ashwin, this was not the first time. In the 2012 tri-series in Australia, the offspinner had mankaded Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne but the appeal was withdrawn by the-then captain Virender Sehwag.
The actions of Ashwin in the Mankading of Buttler has drawn sharp criticisms from England players on social media and in several media outlets. Some former Australia players, including Rajasthan Royals mentor Shane Warne have criticised the actions of Ashwin. But, what does the Mankading law state?
The old vs new law
The old rule, in the wake of the Senanayake mankading was titled in this way. Law 42.15: Bowler attempting to run out non-striker before delivery
The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.
In April 2017, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) tweaked the rules and cleverly changed the title of the law related to Mankading, which stated that it was the batsman’s fault in case he got mankaded. The new law 41.16 notes: "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."
Was Ashwin right?
Technically, if one goes by the word of the law stated in the MCC playing conditions, Ashwin is NOT wrong. The criticism comes from the potentially grey area of ‘expected to release’ the ball. Many experts have pointed out that Ashwin should have warned Buttler. However, in the new laws, it is not necessary for the bowler to warn the batsman. In previous instances, the bowler had to warn the batsman that he was moving out of the crease.
The problem with the criticism of Ashwin is that England and Australia players have used the Spirit of the Game argument when it comes to other issues like walking. The Ian Bell dismissal in Trent Bridge against India in 2011 was out but many said it was against the Spirit of the Game. The controversy was only avoided when MS Dhoni withdrew the appeal.
The unfortunate thing about the Spirit of the Game argument is that it has been used according to the ideology of convenience by all nations. If it does not suit their narrative, then the rule is bad for the game. However, the rule exists and Ashwin stuck to the rules. Cricket must be an equal contest between bat and ball. When a batsman takes a few steps out of the crease so that he can take the run easily, it should technically be unfair to the bowler. Cricket is fast becoming a batsmen’s game and the bowlers are getting sidetracked. It is about time that one rule works in the favour of the bowlers.
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