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The Mankading Debate – To Mankad or Not To Mankad

Senanayake Mankading

By all accounts Mankading has been a touchy subject in the cricket community and whenever a Mankading incident happens, it splits the Cricket Community right down the middle. As many would know, the term Mankading came into existance from an incident that happened in 1947 during India’s tour to Australia.

During a practice game against Australia XI, Bill Brown, the non striker, was backing up too far and Vinoo Mankad the bowler didn’t approve of this. So he warned Bill Brown not to leave the crease too early and when Bill Brown didn’t listen, and backed up too far for Mankad’s liking, Mankad ran in to bowl, but instead of bowling the delivery, he paused near the stumps and took the bails off, and thus Mankading was born. However since it was just a practise match, it didn’t cause too much of a fuss, that was to come later.

During the same tour on 13 December 1947, India were facing Australia in the second test. Vinoo Mankad was bowling and at the non striker’s end stood, none other that Bill Brown. As Mankad ran in to bowl, he found Bill Brown, not having learnt any lessons from the practice game earlier had once again backed up too far. So Mankad without any warning, simply ran up to the stumps, stopped and took the bails off, to run Bill Brown out, yet again.

Since it had happened in a test match this time and not just another practise game, the incident caused quite a furore. The Australian media, never the kindest on its best day, launched a scathing attack on Vinoo Mankad and accused him of unsportsmanlike conduct. Notably the great Don Bradman was leading Australia on the tour, however, backed Vinoo Mankad.

Newspaper Snippet Describing the First Mankading
Newspaper Snippet Describing the First Mankading

Since then this method of running out the non-striker has come to be known as Mankading, and Vinoo Mankad is one of the few sportsmen who have become a term in the glossary of the sport they played.

The most famous example of this perhaps is Jean-Marc Bosman, in football When a player transfers from one club to another, upon the expiry of his contract, its known as a Bosman trasnfer, and the player’s new club doesn’t have to pay the former club any fee.

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The debate on whether Mankading is unsporting, thus, dates back to the first Mankading incident, and even though 58 years have passed little or no clarity has been achieved on the issue.

Those who support the practise of Mankading argue that the non-striker backing up too far given him and thus the batting side an unfair advantage. If Mankading is disallowed, then the non striker can just stand halfway down the pitch thus making the task of completing a run much easier or worse still, whats stopping the non striker from just standing next to the batsman, so he doesn’t have to bother running at all to complete a run?

Its hard to disagree with this, so just why is there a morality issue around Mankading?

Rule no. 42.15 very specifically addresses Mankading and allows this as a mode of dismissing the non-striker. The only rider is that the bowler must not have entered his delivery stride when he rempves the bails. While it doesn’t go into details on at point is the bowler deemed to have ‘entered his delivery stride’, but this little point apart, Mankading is clearly very legal.

So why then the controversy? It may have something to do with the fact that its like sneaking a wicket through the back door. The spirit of all sports involves a contest and the spirit of the contest in Cricket is meant to be between bat and ball. A bowler and the fielding side are expected to take wickets by bowling well and beating the batsman. The flow of cricket contest is very stop-start or on-off. Contest starts when the bowlers bowls a delivery and the batsman plays it, and depending on the shot comepletes the runs available or the ball goes for a boundary. This is the phase during which the contest between the batting and bowling side is ‘on’. Then play stops, the bowler goes back to his run up and till he bowls the next delivery play is in stop mode or ‘off’ mode.

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Kapil Dev Mankading during the 1992 Cricket World Cup
Kapil Dev Mankading during the 1992 Cricket World Cup

No incident of note is meant to happen during the ‘off‘ phase of play, Cricket as a contest happens, and in spirit is only meant to happen during the ‘on‘ phase of play. The act of Mankading tends to conflict with this basic flow seen in cricket, as Mankading takes place during the ‘off’ phase of play, as its before a ball has been bowled. This is why to a lot of cricket followers, and perhaps even most of them, Mankading seems un-natural or odd or against the spirit of the game.

Wickets are meant to be taken during the contest and taking a wicket in the ‘off’ phase doesn’t seem right. Of course those who support Mankading will say this on and off phase is all well and good, but if the non-striker just stays in his crease, like he should, one may add, there will be no debate. However even by leaving the crease what great advantage does the non-striker truly gain for his side? If you think about it – nothing.

The reason its nothing is, that the batting side cannot score a run till the delivery is bowled, or in other words, no runs can be scored till the play is in ‘off‘ phase. The non-striker can back up all he wants and even run to the striker’s end if he must, but till the bowler bowls the delivery, all the backing up amounts to nothing. If the bowler sees that the non-striker is backing up too far, he can simply not bowl the delivery, and tell the non-striker to return to the crease, and thus whatever advantage the non-striker may have wanted to gain, can be easily negated.

The bowler doesn’t have to run out the non-striker to negate an advantage during the ‘off’ phase of play. Not only does the bowler not have to, run out the non striker to negate the advantage gained by backing up too far, the bowler ideally shouldn’t run out the non striker to negate the advantage. The reason being that by Mankading the non-striker, the bowler is not just negating what really is a very tiny advantage of backing up a little further down the wicket, he is actually gaining his side a huge advantage of an extra wicket. Just as the batting side can’t score runs in the’off’ phase of play, similarly, the bowling side, shouldn’t be able to take wickets during the off phase of play.

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In spirit an advantage must be gained only during the phase the contest is on, and therefore sneaking in an advantage during the ‘off’ phase of play definitely seem to go against the spirit of the contest and the game. If the non-striker is backing up too far for the bowler’s liking, he must be asked to return to the crease, and the ball not delivered, and thus the tiny advantage of backing up too far is easily negated.

If the non-striker doesnt listen, then by all means Mankading can be invoked. There are some things that go beyond the rules, and hopefully this helps explain why Mankading must only be resorted to as a final resort. Cricket is a game where there are many customs that aren’t found in the rules. For instance no rule says a great player must be given a guard of honor, but its still done. In cricket it is considered against the spirit of the game to run overthrows if the throw deflects off the bat of either batsman, even though there is nothing in the rules that prevents it.

Mankanding without first having a word with the non-striker, for reasons explained above, falls in a similar category.

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