It’s the manoeuvre that polarises opinion like no other whenever it rears its head, so it was little surprise the latest execution of a Mankad, performed by Ravi Ashwin to dismiss Jos Buttler in an IPL game, sparked fierce debate among the cricket community.
The controversial tactic involves the bowler checking his run up to take off the bails at the non-striker’s end with the backing-up batsman out of his crease. Named after the brilliant Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, the run-out is technically legal but widely considered to be against the spirit of the game.
Reaction to Ashwin’s effort, as his team Kings XI Punjab beat the Rajasthan Royals, was predictably divided. Opinions ranged from painting the spinner as some kind of pantomime villain – or worse – to blaming Buttler for leaving his crease before the ball was bowled.
Former Australia spinner Shane Warne labelled the tactic “disgraceful and embarrassing” and warned Ashwin, the Kings XI captain, that his career would be defined by such a “low act”.
“Ashwin’s actions were simply disgraceful and I hope the BCCI doesn’t condone this sort of behaviour in the IPL,” Warne wrote on Twitter.
“As captain of your side you set the standard of the way the team wants to play and what the team stands for! Why do such a disgraceful and low act like that tonight? You must live with yourself and FYI – it’s to late to say sorry Mr Ashwin. You will be remembered for that low act.
“Any player in the game that does that to anyone is an embarrassment to the game and as captain it’s even more disgraceful.”
The question of whether Ashwin warned Buttler, who had his eye in and had made 69 from 43 balls, about overly-eager backing-up was a key point in the debate. It is generally accepted a warning to the batsman should be delivered before a Mankad is executed.
“If Jos Buttler had been warned well that’s fine … if he hasn’t and it’s the first time I think Ravi Ashwin is completely out of order,” former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote.
The former Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson said it was not cheating or against the spirit of the game.
“Personally I would warn someone if I was to do it but the batsman should also play fair by staying behind the crease,” he added. “It’s a bit like the underarm serve in tennis right?”
Former Australia Test batsman Dean Jones lent his support to Ashwin, and emphasised the legality of the move. “Please everyone … read the new laws … a bowler does not have to offer a warning to the batsman,” Jones tweeted.
The term Mankading was first coined after India’s tour of Australia in 1947-48, when Mankad twice dismissed Bill Brown, in a game against an Australian XI and in the second Test match.
Buttler has been the victim of a Mankad dismissal before, by Sachithra Senanayake during an ODI against Sri Lanka at Edgbaston in 2014. At the time Buttler admitted it was his own fault and that “it is all part of the game”.
Buttler had been warned by Senanayake that time. But he was clearly furious as he shouted out on his way off the pitch following the latest controversy.
Royals coach Paddy Upton was also unhappy with the use of the controversial tactic and exchanged words with Ashwin at the conclusion of the match.
“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 if it represented his teammates,” Upton said after the game. “I think 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 Ashwin’s actions tonight.”
Ashwin himself suggested the rules must be changed if there is to be clarity on what is and is not acceptable on a cricket field.
“On my part it was very instinctive and it was not planned or anything like that,” Ashwin said. “It is there in the rules of the game. I don’t know where the understanding of the spirit of the game comes from because quite naturally if it’s there in the rules, it’s there.
“So probably the rules need to go back and be sorted.”