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The spirit of cricket (Comment: Close-in)


IANS New Delhi
The word "Mankade" has been etched quite prominently in the history of cricket. In 1947, one of India's great cricketers, Vinoo Mankad, ran out Bill Brown in a Test match in Australia for being out of the crease when Mankad was in his bowling delivery stride. Although, Mankad had warned the batsman, even when they played a first class game earlier, the stigma of his action has remained forever. Cricket, has always been looked at as,"a gentleman's game" and the famous phrase commonly used in the English language, "it's just not cricket" for anything that is unfair or dishonest explains it so correctly.
There were, over time, many incidents of unsportsmanlike behaviour which were acceptable by law but detrimental to the very core of what the game of cricket stood for. Cricket owed much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the laws, but also within the spirit of cricket.
The first person to bring disruption into the very spirit of the game was the MCC captain Douglas Jardine in 1932, during the famous "Bodyline series" in Australia. The recent incident of Ravichandran Ashwin, the captain of Kings XI Punjab, running out or Mankading, as its popularly known, Jos Buttler of Rajasthan Royals in the IPL 2019 has created quite a controversy. The cricket world is caught in a dilemma of whether it is right or wrong. Is it right for a cricketer to use every possible lacunae in the laws of the game to get an advantage in the quest to win? This is a question that is being asked as the world is progressing towards truthfulness and transparency.
The irony of this incident is of the two cricketers who were involved in such an action on the field previously. Ashwin had run out a Sri Lankan player during an ODI match in 2012, wherein, the Indian captain Virender Sehwag made amends by withdrawing the appeal. Whereas, Buttler in 2014 in England against Sri Lanka was run-out by their off-spinner, Senanayake in his delivery stride when he was out of the crease at the non-strikers end. Jos Buttler had been warned the over before and for him to have once again been out in a similar manner and not learnt from his previous mistake, does show him in poor light.
The cricket law and ruling favours Ashwin, but for him to do so without a warning and what seemed to be deliberate, by waiting in his stride, does not bode well for the way he perceives the game of cricket. The sad part of the incident was that none of the other Kings X1 players came forth to defuse the situation or stand-up against their Captain's unsporting action. In this case even the umpire was at fault, as he could have, in those important seconds, called it "dead ball".
The four laws of cricket that are not understood well by players at all levels are, "Handling the ball", "Obstructing the field", "Hitting the ball twice" and the Mankad way of "Run-out". The "Time out" and "the tampering of the ball" are easily understood, but the former four are where players fall prey. There have been times when a batsman, as a good gesture, picks the ball up to hand it to the nearest fielder or bowler and has been given out after an appeal. I was once out for "hitting the ball twice", when I kicked the ball back to the bowler after his appeal, which was negated by the umpire. The joke was that I had not even hit the ball once, although the umpire thought so and my football action thereafter, was within the law for my dismissal.
The first laws of cricket were introduced in 1755, nearly 264 years ago. It was only in the year 2000, in keeping with the Preamble on the""Spirit of Cricket", that the current "Code of Law"" were introduced. This was the Dexter/Cowdrey initiative and it said, "Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this Spirit causes injury to the game itself and the Preamble goes on to explain the roles and responsibilities of captains, players and umpires in respecting and upholding the Spirit of Cricket.
The idea is "to play hard but play fair". Every cricketer should be well versed about the code that exists. Winning and losing is a part and parcel of the game, but how one plays it is important. This is what ultimately matters and is remembered for in years to come. This needs to be ingrained in each and every cricketers DNA, only then will the game rise in stature and be correctly looked at as a "gentleman's game".

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First Published: Mar 29 2019 | 12:38 PM IST

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