Why cricket must not baulk at acting on the Mankad

In the shorter variations of cricket, where every run counts, there is a requirement to seek out such advantages, however small.

In a sense, there is no material difference between that act of a batter at the non-striker’s end and trying to steal second base in baseball. The base runner fully knows the risk the pitcher might pick him off, or that the catcher may throw to second base, hoping the second baseman can tag him.

Credits:Simon Letch

Dismissing a non-striking batter in this manner hasn’t suddenly become legal, although it has become somewhat de rigueur with the evolution of the sport from five-day Tests towards three-hour matches.

However, before last October, the rule permitting such a dismissal was buried in the penultimate section of the laws under the heading of “Unfair Play”, which implies it could be unfair. This part of the laws is curious. The rule that effectively outlaws tampering with the ball is also under this heading.

Typically, a dismissal of a non-striker – by application of the rule – has been preceded by one or more warnings from a bowler, demonstrating to a non-striker that he could dismiss the blink in that fashion, such were the liberties being taken.

Proceeding after two warnings is fair; proceeding with shock and surprise, perhaps not. The laws left it to the discretion of the umpires.

The same rule has now been shifted to form part of rule 38, governing run-outs. As far as the laws of cricket are presently concerned, bowlers withdrawing from their actions mid-stride to dismiss non-striking batters who’ve backed up too far isn’t distinguished from a batter on strike being stumped or any other form of run- out.

Watch the Big Bash long enough and “Mankading” is at the forefront of some bowlers’ thinking. The ICC Under-19s Women’s World Cup is ongoing in South Africa. Examples of bowlers dismissing non-striker batters abound and no doubt the Mankad is coached into some players. Yet stigmatization of the tactic remains.

There are at least two ways to consider all this – either professionalism has permeated to the rising stars of the women’s international game such that no inch is conceded; or that the “spirit of cricket” is fictitious.

Considered logically, the rule mandating that non-strikers can suffer consequences if they back up two or three meters further than permissible is necessary and rational. Otherwise, there would be nothing stopping them straying with impunity.

Adam Zampa attempts a Mankad in the BBL earlier this month.

Adam Zampa attempts a Mankad in the BBL earlier this month.

Consider, also, that bowlers are penalized if they overstep the same crease during their delivery. It’s the non-striker batter contravening the rules, that’s the trigger for the dismissal.

Yet there is something of the dark arts about a blink being dismissed in such circumstances. It’s a pantomime of sorts, whereby the bowler pretends to bowl.

And that art of deception is the distinguishing feature between “Mankading” in cricket and a pitcher picking off the first baseman in baseball. The pitcher is outlawed from “baulking”, which is pretending to throw a pitch to deceive the baseman when they have no intention of pitching at all. A baulk by a pitcher results in a dead ball.

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A Test batter hasn’t been dismissed through “Mankading” in more than 40 years. But however you try to justify things, it still grates that “Mankading” has become so in-vogue in the shorter forms of the game, where a bat losing their wicket is the ultimate penalty.

Short forms of the game plainly aren’t played within the same spirit of integrity that red-ball cricket is. Cricket’s laws must evolve with the times. It is necessary that batters be forcibly dissuaded from leaving the crease while a bowler is mid-delivery.

Bowlers offering “warnings” shouldn’t be mandated, but “dismissing” a batter through such sleight of hand shouldn’t result in a non-striker’s dismissal either.

T20 and one-day matches are already played under special conditions relating to field placements, no balls and free hits. Such matches should be played under special conditions where a batter “dismissed” through a Mankad should cause their team to be deducted 20 runs, rather than the batter being dismissed.

That, one suspects, would stop the opportunists dead in their tracks, and at the same time cause the stigma of the deception to evaporate.

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