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IPL 2020: Why is everyone still talking about Ashwin's Mankading?

Ravichandran Ashwin's dismissal of Jos Buttler was one of the biggest IPL controversies last year. Now, the debate has been reignited

Ashwin reacts after dismissing Jos Buttler during the IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab on 25 March 2019 in Jaipur. (Photo by Money Sharma/AFP)
Ashwin reacts after dismissing Jos Buttler during the IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab on 25 March 2019 in Jaipur. (Photo by Money Sharma/AFP)

On 25 March last year, a couple of days into the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL), Kings XI Punjab spinner and captain Ravichandran Ashwin created a furore. He dismissed Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler by dislodging the bails at the non-striker’s end before the delivery was bowled—the first “Mankading" in IPL history. Buttler was miffed, exchanging words with Ashwin as he left the field. Cricketers past and present chimed in. “So disappointed in @ashwinravi99 as a Captain & as a person," former Aussie spinner Shane Warne tweeted. England’s Eoin Morgan was also critical, tweeting “Terrible example to set for young kids coming through."

Ashwin defended himself in the post-match press conference. “On my part, it was very instinctive. It was not planned or anything like that. 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."

With the IPL's new season starting in Dubai from 19 September, the controversy has unsurprisingly flared up again, with Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting telling Grade Cricketer Podcast that the first thing he’d do when he joined the squad was have “a hard conversation" with Ashwin, who was bought by the franchise in the 2020 auction. “I think, even him, looking back now, he will probably say it was within the rules and he's right to do it, but this is not within the spirit of the game, not in the way I want, at least with the Delhi Capitals anyway."

There is some irony in the hard-as-nails Ponting and other Australians wringing their hands about Mankading (though others like Ian Chappell defended Ashwin’s actions). It’s a legal mode of dismissal—the bowler can run the non-striker out from "the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball"—yet one that’s seen by many as not being in the “spirit of cricket". In a curious case of the sport’s gentleman’s game hangover, the bowler is expected to warn a batsman wandering out of their crease—and, if possible, not dismiss them anyway. In baseball you steal a base at your own risk, but cricket frowns upon bowlers trying to prevent a batsman from taking similar advantage.

Mankading was coined for the first Test cricketer to effect such a dismissal. In 1947, the great Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad dismissed Australian batsman Bill Brown this way. The Australian media went crazy and the name stuck. No less an authority than Donald Bradman felt the bowler was within his rights. "For the life of me, I can't understand why (the press) questioned his sportsmanship," he wrote. "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?"

After the Ponting comment, there’s been an upswell of support for Ashwin and for de-stigmatizing Mankading. Speaking to the CricketNext website, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik protested the unofficial name of the dismissal. “Why can't it be called anything to do with Bill Brown? He (Mankad) followed the rules and did it. The ICC and MCC call it a run out. So the name Mankad shouldn't be used in a negative connotation." Delhi Capitals chairman Parth Jindal said it took “a lot of courage" for Ashwin to do what he did. And former pacer Javagal Srinath, speaking to Ashwin on an episode of the video series DRS with Ash, said: “Don’t look for any empathy. Don't invoke the spirit of the game. The spirit of the game is with the runner. He cannot move out of the crease."

Whether or not Ponting manages to talk Ashwin out of Mankading while at Delhi Capitals, the bowler seems to be the only one who can see this incident in a humorous light. On the anniversary of the dismissal, he tweeted a photo of him dislodging the bails with the words: “As the nation goes into a lockdown, this is a good reminder to my citizens. Don't wander out. Stay inside, stay safe!"

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