Ashwin’s mankading incident – against the spirit of the game?

Buttler and Ashwin exchanged words after the Englishman's dismissal – AFP

Jos Buttler was involved in his career’s second mankading dismissal on Monday in Jaipur. Chasing a total of 185 against Punjab, Rajasthan were in the driver’s seat until Ashwin mankaded Buttler out.

Running in to deliver the penultimate delivery of his final over, Ashwin stopped after entering his delivery stride. Buttler didn’t have his eye on the bowler and slipped out of the crease. As soon as he saw that, Ashwin simply turned around and broke the stumps at the non-strikers’ end with the batsman out of his crease. The decision was sent up to the third umpire, who didn’t need much time to send Buttler on his way.

This is not for the first time, a batsman has been dismissed in such a manner. Keemo Paul had done the same against Zimbabwe during the Under 19 World Cup a few years back but the fans and supporters of game were against such kind of a dismissal. It’s against the spirit of the game is what many followers of the sport believe. England captain Eoin Morgan’s tweet read, “terrible example to set for young kids coming through. In time I think Ashwin will regret that.”

It caused a huge storm on Twitter:

But many experts felt it was well within the rules.

The law in question is – Law 41.16- Non Striker leaving his/her ground early.

This was previously Law 42.15 and is the Law that enables the bowler to run out the non-striker before the delivery. In the light of much publicity and controversy, this Law has been thoroughly debated, with two changes being made:

Extending the point at which the run out of the non-striker can be attempted to the instant at which the bowler would be expected to deliver the ball. This will have the effect of keeping the non-striker in his/her ground for longer.

Changing the title of the Law, to put the onus on the striker to remain in his/her ground. It is often the bowler who is criticised for attempting such a run out but it is the batsman who is attempting to gain an advantage. The message to the non-striker is very clear- if you do not want to risk being run out, stay within your ground until the bowler has released the ball.

The question here, though, was whether Buttler would have been inside his crease had Ashwin not stopped at the point of delivery. The updated law 41.16 says: “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.”

The wording “expected to release the ball” leaves room for subjectivity, which is where Ashwin’s assertion that he hadn’t even loaded becomes critical. If the bowler hadn’t even loaded, as Ashwin said, is it possible to estimate a time when he was “expected to release the ball”?

Royals’ coach Paddy Upton, though, didn’t bother about the technicalities. He was miffed, and it showed in the press conference. “I think R Ashwin’s actions tonight speak for him and represent him, when I looked at his team-mates,” Upton said, “and I’m not sure it represented his team-mates. I think we’ll leave it up to the IPL fans to decide if that’s the kind of things they want to see, and we’ll leave it up to the cricket world to judge R Ashwin’s actions tonight. But for us, we’re certainly here to play cricket and entertain the fans and be good role models for people who love the game.”

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Ashwin said of the incident: “Look, it was very instinctive. On my part, it was very instinctive. It was not planned or anything like that. It’s there within the rules of the game. I don’t understand where the spirit of the game comes, naturally if it’s there in the rules it’s there.”

Responding to a comparison drawn between this incident and the 1987 World Cup match between West Indies and Pakistan – where Courtney Walsh did not run non-striker Saleem Jaffar out in the last over of the match, despite the latter being well out of his crease – Ashwin said the question of ‘sporting’ didn’t arise when it came to rules.

“I don’t understand the point of sporting or sportive in that point because it’s rules. What applies for one man does not apply for everyone else. Neither was Jos Buttler playing there nor was I played so it’s very pertinent to just not compare two people…”