Chandigarh, March 26
Ravichandran Ashwin is in the eye of the storm after stirring a debate over the ethics of Mankading. Should he have run out Jos Buttler, who was slowly wandering out of his crease in their IPL match in Jaipur last night?
Was it in the “spirit of the game”? Let’s get this one out of the way, because “spirit of the game” is something undefined and subjective, and must be superseded by the well-defined rules. “Spirit of the game” is talked about more in cricket than any other sport. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the custodian of the rules of cricket, has long decreed that players must play within the laws of the sport — and also within the “spirit of cricket”.
But the so-called “spirit of the game” is flouted all the time in cricket — batsmen stay put despite edging the ball into the wicketkeeper’s hands, bowlers put pressure on the umpire to give the batsman out despite knowing that the appeal is incorrect, and fielders claim catches that are clearly dropped. So why is a bowler blamed for not playing in the spirit of the game if he — perfectly legally! — runs out a batsman who is out of his crease at the non-striker’s end?
The officials, at least, were clear about enforcing the law last night — the third umpire, Bruce Oxenford, decided quickly enough that Buttler was out and had to go.
Buttler himself seemed to suggest that Ashwin should have warned him before running him out. But legally speaking, Ashwin didn’t need to. MCC had said in December: “It is worth stressing that giving a warning for such dismissals has often been seen as a convention but has never been part of the Laws.”
Buttler may have a tendency to move out of the crease at the non-striker’s end — that’s unacceptable, because he’s then trying to gain an unfair advantage. He was run out in the same manner, by Sri Lankan off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake, in an ODI in Birmingham in 2014.
However, about last night — if you look at the replays, it’s clear enough that Buttler was not trying to steal an advantage by moving out of the crease when Ashwin bowled. He clearly didn’t rush out of the crease, his movement was slow and apparently not part of a plan to gain an advantage.
The relevant rule has this to say: "If the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out."
Ashwin actually hit his delivery stride, paused and waited for Buttler to move out of the crease. It’s possible that if Ashwin had gone through his bowling action, Buttler would have been inside the crease when the ball was released.
The third umpire had to decide quickly, and he probably made the right call. But Ashwin actually pausing in his delivery stride to catch Buttler out... That just did not seem right. — TNS