So, we're back to discussing 'non-striker leaving the crease early' once again. No, there has been no recent incident of a non-striker being run out before the ball is delivered, popularly called 'Mankad'.
The discussion, though, has once again been triggered by R Ashwin, who took to Twitter to explain why such an act by the non-striker gives an unfair advantage to the batting side.
Ashwin even went on to suggest that every time a non-striker leaves the crease early, runs should be disallowed. Alternately, he also suggested a 'free ball', a concept which he didn't explain further.
Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!!Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned. #noball #dontbackup — Ashwin 🇮🇳 (@ashwinravi99) July 28, 2020
Ashwin's explanation and intent is perfectly legitimate. It is indeed a fact that a non-striker backing up early gives him an advantage. Here are some examples of the importance of 'two feet' that Ashwin talks about in the Twitter thread:
Chennai Super Kings' Shardul Thakur was run out after MS Dhoni missed a ball from Royal Challengers Bangalore's Umesh Yadav and attempted a bye. Thakur was not backing up early, as evident from the below picture, and went on to fall just short. Had he moved out early - and Umesh not run him out - there was every chance that he could have made it in time.
Screen-grabs that show exactly how the last ball of #RCBvCSK panned out. The Mankad after-effect. A couple of inches *do* matter. And why R Ashwin was right all along. (via @Reddit_Cricket) pic.twitter.com/qLuqA8OBuH — Saurabh Somani (@saurabh_42) April 22, 2019
The more famous game with a similar situation: Hardik Pandya's last over and MS Dhoni's run out of Mustafizur Rahman in the ICC World T20 2016. Mustafizur was already out of his crease at the time of release by a small margin.
If that margin was a bit more, he might have made it to the other end before Dhoni. He could have afforded to risk it too, assuming Hardik wouldn't have run him out, as Bangladesh had another wicket in hand.
In perhaps every single cricket game across the globe, across levels, non-strikers have been chipping away small margins and accumulating runs without paying for the 'grave disparity'.
However, Ashwin's suggestions of disallowing runs/free ball are redundant because the Law already has a provision to prevent such action from the non-striker: just run him out.
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 fact, there is even a law that says it is unfair for batsmen to attempt to steal a run during the bowler's run up.
If you disallow runs for a non-striker leaving the crease early, then what about the striker standing outside the crease? Just like the striker is allowed to take a risk, the non-striker too can take a chance. It's up to the bowlers to prevent that using the provisions in the law: just run him out.
Ironically, it's the bowler who is subject to public shaming when he tries to stop it in a lawful way. Top umpires like Simon Taufel, and even the custodians of the law MCC have repeatedly said such an action by the bowler is not against 'spirit of cricket'.
But despite that, if each such incident is followed by outrage on social media, it is nothing but mob mentality.
It is easier said than done, but it's up to the bowlers to not give in to mob mentality. The only way to overcome that is by making it mainstream.
Now here's an example from a much less popular game, from a completely different cricket contest: the Celebrity Cricket League 2012 final between Karnataka Bulldozers and Chennai Rhinos.
Once again, with 2 needed from 1 ball for Karnataka, Chennai's Vikranth runs out the non-striker before releasing the ball. The incoming batsman is thus forced to stay inside the crease and not 'steal a couple of inches'. And guess what happens? He is run out by a small margin at the striker's end while trying a bye.
Although it's not the highest quality of cricket, there's no better advert for the power of 'mankad' than this. (watch from 9:40 in the video).
There's an argument that the form of dismissal is not a contest between bat and ball, as it doesn't involve 'skill' from the bowler. Being alert and preventing the opponent from conquering territory unlawfully is also a part of game-skill. And here's what it does:
Should it be called Mankad?
There's another sub-part to the dismissal, even among supporters. Should it be called 'mankad'? The term was first coined in 1947 when great Indian allrounder Vinoo Mankad ran out Australia's Bill Brown at the non-striker's end during a Test match at the SCG, despite repeated warnings.
For the record, the Law calls it just a run out.
"Continuing to call a run out at the non striker end as a Mankad is injustice to the legend himself. Let's just make the game even and accept the fact that it is a run out," R Ashwin posted on his Instagram story on Tuesday. He even called on the 'Bill Browns' in world cricket to stop taking advantage.
Indeed, BILL BROWNS must stop running themselves out. Bill brown was the batsmen who was run out for trying to take advantage by an Indian legend ‘mankad’. The Bill browns should stop it!! https://t.co/8a7MbGcszs — Ashwin 🇮🇳 (@ashwinravi99) July 28, 2020
Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar was another who wanted the dismissal to be named after the batsman.
"I have grave objections to that because it's putting one of India's cricketing legends in a bad light," Gavaskar had told Sony Max. "He has been one of India's all-time great cricketers. "If it ... has to be referred by somebody's name, it should be (named after) the non-striker. Who, despite being warned twice by Mr Mankad ... he left (his crease). And the third time was when Mankad removed the bails and so suddenly there was an uproar created.
"I think it should be called (getting) 'Browned' because it was Bill Brown who was outside the crease. He was at fault, not Mr Mankad. Our legend's name should not be spoiled. If you want to call it anything, just say the batsman was 'Browned', not 'Mankaded'."
But think about it - why not Mankad? The term can be seen as a credit to the man who showed bowlers the way when non-strikers take law into their hands. Something like a Dil-Scoop - a shot named after Tillakaratne Dilshan, the batsman who first played it.
Saying that calling the dismissal a Mankad is an injustice/insult to the legend is like accepting there is a sense of wrong in the form of dismissal itself. It's not the dismissal that is wrong, the artificial shame associated with it is.
As I see it, calling it a Mankad is another feather to Vinoo Mankad's glorious cap.