A non-striker leaving his crease before the ball is released deserves to be punished, writes the former Australian captain
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Matthews was unrepentant in the lead up to the Test at Lord's when discussing the Mankad of Joss Buttler in an ODI. And neither he should be.
Sri Lanka's Sachithra Senanayake appeals after running out Jos Buttler during the ODI against England at Birmingham on June 3. Pic/Getty Images
How come, when the administrators blunder in changing the law, then the batsmen take advantage by cheating, it's the fielding side that is vilified?
Under the old law it was straight forward. If the non-striker backed up correctly (feet outside, bat inside the crease) and didn't leave his ground until the bowler released the ball, he couldn't be Mankaded. Anybody who was Mankaded under that law deserved his punishment for 1) being stupid and 2) not putting a high enough value on his wicket.
Changing the rules
Then the administrators — in a case of meddling purely for the sake of it — changed the law and in doing so, encouraged batsmen to leave their crease before the ball was released. This law change legalised cheating — stupidity at it's zenith.
The law has since been changed again but batsmen are now in the habit of gaining an advantage and we can only hope a few more are Mankaded so the ploy is discouraged.
However, cricket missed a great opportunity to eradicate reckless backing up forever when they failed to clone the fiery Australian leg-spinner Bill 'Tiger' O'Reilly.
A young journalist once went to 'Tiger' in the press box. "Excuse me Mr O'Reilly," he asked timidly, "but did you ever Mankad a batsman?"
O'Reilly looked the whippersnapper up and down, then growled, "Son, I never found a batsman that keen to get to the other end."
The advantage to the batting side is huge when the non-striker is allowed to get a start. It's easier for a batsman and a tail-ender to collect two's so the accomplished player retains the strike more often and the ultimate reward can be victory when extra runs are 'thieved' in a tight finish.
Why warn a batsman?
I'm surprised more non-strikers haven't been Mankaded and that the fielding side bothers with the so-called 'courtesy' of warning the batsman first.
Do you warn a batsman before you stump him? No.
Then why warn him before you Mankad him? The situation is exactly the same; the batsman leaves his ground at his choosing and he's aware of the risk involved.
And if anyone, in arguing for the defence, invokes the Spirit of Cricket I'm likely to loose my lentils all over the lunch table.
What is more important, the laws of the game or The Spirit of Cricket? If you play by the laws you'll be contesting the game in the right spirit.
And by the way, how is cheating at the non-striker's end upholding The Spirit of Cricket?
For some absurd reason it's the fielding side who are vilified when a batsman acts stupidly. In 2011 at Trent Bridge, when Ian Bell was guilty of gross negligence in walking off the field at tea time — thinking the ball was dead — and Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran him out, it was the Indian captain who was expected to grovel.
Dhoni should've told captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower, when they came to ask for Bell's re-instatement; "Bugger off back to your dressing room and tell Ian, next time to take greater care of his wicket. And, while he's got some time on his hands, he should read the laws of cricket."
It wasn't the same
The fielding side wasn't always vilified in these cases. When the West Indies fast bowler Charlie Griffith Mankaded Ian Redpath at the Adelaide Oval in 1968-69, no Australian player pleaded the batsman's case.
And we certainly wouldn't have blamed Wes Hall if he'd repeated the dose to the same batsman in the next Test, when Redda was again 'discovered' well out of his ground.
Redda was lucky Wes had a sense of humour. After glaring at him, Hall chuckled; "You must be some kind of idiot man."
It's hard not to agree with Wes' sentiments. And any fielding side that doesn't Mankad a cheating batsman should be looked upon in the same light; at the very least it would highlight the stupidity of changing a perfectly acceptable law.