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Mankad – Fair Play or Fairly Harsh?

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On Tuesday, England faced Sri Lanka in the 5th and final ODI, the tiebreaker of a series that saw both teams with a lot to prove. With Lasith Malinga having shown an impressive display with the ball to close out a narrow win for the Sri Lankans in the 4th ODI, England were tipped as slight underdogs.

The result of this pivotal match, however, caught just a fraction of the media attention that followed, after a controversial run out involving two players who each already had a keen eye upon them. Jos Buttler, in contention for a test call-up with England after an impressive 121 (74) in game 4, was standing at the non-strikers end in the second half of an underwhelming England innings when, after wandering out of his crease to begin backing up, he was run out by bowler Satchithra Senanayake before the ball had been delivered.

This practise is known as ‘Mankading’ after the 1950’s Indian player, Vinoo Mankad, who famously ran out Bill Brown during India’s tour of Australia while he was backing up. Every time it has occurred since then, the debate has re-ignited – is it fair? There are several instances of mankad in test cricket – so what’s wrong with it?

Many people say that although it’s allowed in the laws of cricket, it’s against the spirit of the game to take a wicket from the other team in such a ‘cheap’ manner, since it’s almost the last thing they expect to happen and are not expected to be prepared for it. It gives the feeling of a wicket that is less ‘earned’ than one that requires a good piece of bowling or fielding.

Many, however, argue that since it’s in the rules, and cricket is a competitive game, there’s no reason to rule it out as a legitimate method of dismissal. Past players Jonathan Agnew and Michael Atherton were quick to defend Senanayake, claiming that Buttler had been warned multiple times that he was leaving his crease too early and, having shown no sign of changing his ways, was correctly dismissed for gaining an unfair advantage.

The cricketing community on Twitter was set alight at with these opinions, with supporters of Mankad using the hashtag #TeamSenanayake to add their contributions.

Several other players, past and present, disagreed, with Michael Vaughan expressing his attitude particularly vehemently on Twitter, saying that this is ‘no way to play the game’ and ‘was not in the game’s best interests’.

Even the England captain Alastair Cook, who normally refuses to involve himself in such debates when they involve his own team, was quoted as saying that Sri Lanka ‘crossed the line’.

The debate will continue, if not forever then at least until the laws are clarified, but the question still remains – Is it right that one dismissal dominates the headlines, even when it was so unimportant to the match?

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