A Second Question For Cricket Rules Purists

Alas, my previous attempt to resolve the Mankading dispute failed to change anyone’s minds or bring about world peace. Here’s my second shot:

Let’s do a quick recap. Samir Chopra, a writer I very much respect, said on Twitter that he just doesn’t know what all the fuss is about; his prescription: “run out the bastards” (whether or not he was carrying a pitchfork is still being determined). I have argued that there is at least some room for the “spirit of the game” discourse; as proof of faith, I asked the rules purists if they would have bowled the infamous underarm last ball. Some — @HomerTweets, e.g. — said, yes, and he had no problems with Bodyline either. OK. Others pointed out — very reasonably — that this debate isn’t about rules v. spirit, but bowlers v. batsmen (a bout the latter group seems to keep winning).

So here’s my second question: would you appeal for a batsman’s wicket if he timed out? There was an incident like this recently between India and Australia (unfortunately, I can’t find the exact match report; does anyone else recall the details?). Some wickets fell unexpectedly, and either Tendulkar or Laxman was in the bathroom, which meant more than two minutes passed before anyone emerged from the pavilion. Now, Australia could have appealed for the wicket, but they didn’t. Why? As Kartikeya suggests, the question of empathy proved paramount — how would I feel if I couldn’t start my innings because of this kind of wicket? So imagine that on the way to the pitch, a batsman falls on a banana skin and temporarily incapacitates both himself and the next padded-up player. Would you stick to the rules if this team, scrambling to find a replacement, took more than the timed out rule allots?



15 thoughts on “A Second Question For Cricket Rules Purists

  1. Mankading is quite different from a time out. A time out is almost outside the control of the batsman, and the batsman isn’t trying to take advantage of a situation. Mankading is a clear case of batsman Vs. bowler, each side trying to push their advantage.

    In general, I don’t think anyone should be vilified for following the letter of the rule book– including time outs. Body line is different, because you’re talking about intentional physical harm, but that’s also par for the course in many, many sports including cricket. Intentional physical harm is not a “spirit of cricket” thing, it’s a “spirit of man” thing.

    Let’s make your examples even more stark: what if a World Cup win or loss depended on that single call? That is, if you, as the captain, went by the rulebook, you win the world cup. If you went by the “spirit of cricket”, you lose. What do you do?

    I’d say, win the World Cup.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      You could use time out for your advantage, right? Say in a tight Test match in which your team is playing for the draw and is losing wickets?

      • Russ says:

        Yes! Suppose, in what might be the final over, the number 11 comes out with two left-handed gloves (oh, the hilarity!) and then waits around for a replacement, delaying the fielding side and preventing any added play, in a rancorous test match where the fielding side will be lambasted for their on-field behaviour. They may as well time-out a batsman, no? One more incident won’t matter, and it means winning a game they’d otherwise probably draw. Moreover, the batting side is deliberately flouting a law that exists, most probably, for precisely that eventuality.

        Two points: 1) Crime and punishment are generally meant to be proportionate. People ignore laws they think are unjust; and they rail, or as juries, refuse to convict, when the punishments are likewise. Dismissing a batsman by timeout or Mankad or runout gardening or handled ball, is disproportionate to the crime committed (potentially a run, but generally not, or potentially a draw, but again, generally not). A bowler is not beating the batsman in a contest, but legal technicality, like shooting them in the back in a duel.

        2) As I said on Cricket Couch, the Mankad law has a moral dimension in its construction. The ‘unfairness’ of it relates to the bowler ‘tricking’ the batsman by pretending to bowl and then running them out. When it was changed, it was done so to prevent ‘unfair’ play on the part of the bowler, but did so by allowing batsmen further leeway. By changing it again they have struck a balance, one where the moral element is reduced. The history of a Mankad as a shady practice is predicated on a particular type of instance where the construction of the law allowed that event to occur. Under the new law that is no longer the case.

        Finally, this tension is always in cricket (or sport, generally), between the rationalist professional playing to win, the gentlemanly amateur playing to play, and the player who plays for self-respect. Only the first is necessarily going to Mankad a batsman, but the trend is running in their direction.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      You know, I think I would hate it if a captain timed-out a batsman. And what’s more, I would be perfectly happy to vilify the captain for doing so. People will inevitably respond “a rule is a rule,” but even in your own comment, Devanshu, you betray more nuance — what about the “intent” of the batsman? What about “undue advantage”? What about the “spirit of man”? I sense at least some amount of hesitation on your part to endorse an originalist interpretation of the rulebook.

      • True- I betray *my* preferences as captain. Any individual player is allowed to play with laws that they are comfortable with. But none of them should be vilified for playing by the rulebook. The laws of cricket is the superset, de facto rulebook. You can be commended for choosing to not apply certain rules, but should never be vilified for following them to the letter. In the five dismissals you posted earlier, I think each one is justified. I *personally* may not have appealed for Inzamam, but it’s a perfectly reasonable appeal. No vilification.

    • MTJAG says:

      Excellent example! And let’s take that example and look at it in another way too –

      1.World cup game, 1 run to win
      2. non-striker takes off before the bowler releases the ball from his hand (against the rule 42(16)) ,
      3. batsman unable to connect but runs for it anyway since he must
      4. Keeper gathers and hits the stumps
      5. replay shows that the non-striker JUST made it by inches.

      So the bowler could have mankaded him (well within the rules) , and won the world cup game for his team . He would have gotten vilified by many for lacking “sportsmanship”. The non-striker broke the rule , wins the game for his team, and doesn’t hear a word about breaking the rule or being ethical, does he?

      That’s what I find ironical!

      My alternate recommendation (if the rules continue to remain ambiguous and the views divided) : Let all teams in a tournament decide on if “a warning” is required in such a situation at all or not (something like the call on UDRS I suppose)! Howzzat? 🙂

      • Chrisps says:

        MTAG, this is the big hairy scenario. It exposes the inequity of the two roles. My best suggestion would be for the captain of the fielding team to approach the two batsmen and two umpires and say that he has instructed his bowler to run the non-striker out if he is seen to be taking an unfair advantage. That at least takes out the ‘surprise’ element of the run out of the batsmen backing-up. It’s not a complete solution by any means and would attract lots of criticism, particularly if the match ended in this way (i.e. Last batsmen dismissed in this way).

        DB – you are nagging away on this theme very successfully – truly in the corridor of uncertainty.

  2. golandaaz says:

    What people say they will do and what actually happens is not always the same. I can speak for me, personally that I can see myself both. It depends. For me at least. Its instinct, its context, its a whole lot of things than asking whether you support abortion rights or not. Its not even about how badly I want to win a game or how deep rooted my sporting hatered for the opposite team/player is.

    There is no prescribed behavior for ‘spirit of the game’. It something very personal. For example I did not find India upholding the spirit of the game in the Ian Bell run out case. It was an after thought. I was unimpressed. To me it revealed a confused team.

    Courney Walsh not running out the last man in a WC Semi final was genuinely sporting. It upheld the spirit of the game for me. I felt nice about the game. It was all about how ‘I’ felt. Its a personal thing for me

    Ok…now I am ranting

  3. Krishna Kumar says:

    I agree with Devanshu. The empathy point revolves around “intent” and “advantage”. If someone is purposely doing something to gain an advantage, then you should have no qualms applying the law. In the timeout example, suppose rain was imminent and a wicket was the difference between a DL win or loss, and the next batsman took his sweet time to get to the crease, then yes, an appeal is the right thing to do. On the other hand, elapsed time held no advantage or there was an unavoidable reason, an appeal is the wrong thing with respect to the spirit of cricket.

    Even, let us look at the Mankading example. Suppose a batsman had grounded his bat in the non-striker crease, but was standing outside. Now just 2 seconds before the ball was about to be delivered, some insect flies into his eye and he drops his bat. The bowler Mankads him. I find that to be outside the “spirit” because there was no intent for the batsman to be outside the crease.

    Look, everyone knows the rules. I have played zillions of matches and everyone knows that you are supposed to be in the crease or have the bat grounded. If you don’t follow that, you know that the rules permit you to be run out. Why is this so hard to understand? Either the batsman is ignorant of the rules, in which case they shouldn’t be playing at this level. Or they know the rules and are taking a calculated risk that they won’t be run out, in which case they rightly deserve what they get. Or they know the rules and are being reckless – again what they deserve.

    Anyway (as I Twittered you), you also need to look at the origins of Mankading to understand the “spirit” issue too. Mankad did this against Australia at a time when an Indian win against Australia was unthinkable. Naturally the practice was tainted as the act of a loser who could not win a match by any other means. That is true too – if you can get the batsman out through bowling, you wouldn’t think of Mankading. But suppose Mankad himself was the person who was maybe “Lindwalled”, the origin would have been less fraught with these kinds of issues.

    See Cricinfo scorecard: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62677.html. Notice that India had lost the first Test by an innings and 226 runs, after conceding 382 and not crossing 100 in their innings (58 and 98). Then in the 2nd Test, they make 188 and the first wicket they try to take of Australia was Bill Brown. It was almost as if India had no other answers to Australia. (Obviously wrong as Australia got bowled out for 107). And then India lose the remaining 3 matches, two of them by an innings.

    The history is very important. Read and discuss.

  4. Samir Chopra says:

    Russ: Disproportionate? How does that enter the picture? The bowler dismisses the batsman when he is trying to score a run all the time! That’s what playing cricket is about – the question of proportionality is an obfuscation here. I try and hit a six off you and you send my stumps flying. Over and out. Where is the proportion here?

    • Russ says:

      The difference is he is not trying to get a run, merely an advantage; there is a difference. And my comment dealt with DB’s broader question on time outs and other dismissals outside the immediate contest between bat and ball; in any of those, proportionality is an issue – for example, being dismissed timed out strikes me as a disproportionate penalty for lateness, but perhaps it needs to be there. I have no problem with a Mankad by the by, provided it is not achieved through deception (which it no longer can be). But proportionality is an issue in any law construction, you know that.

    • Russ says:

      One other note; there is no reason particularly why a runout ought to be possible in these circumstances. We could ban backing-up, apply a 1-run penalty to any batsman who leaves the crease before the ball is bowled; take it completely out of the fielding team’s hand. Because the action exists outside the contest between bat and ball, it shouldn’t be assessed in the context of that contest. It isn’t the same.

  5. Samir Chopra says:

    I plug this paper all the time so let me do it again:

    Not Cricket: http://t.co/zdKmG48V

  6. raj says:

    Isn’t it quite simple? In mankding, the rule and spirit are one and the same -huh? The bowler is not breaking the rules nor the spirit of Cricket there – it is the batsman. What the bowler is breaking is just some hoary tradition.This is differnt from underarm where you as the bowler would have been within rules in 81 but not within spirit. Today ofcourse you’d be breaking both rules and the spirit. Simple enough?

  7. Great piece! You are asking all the right questions here!

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