Quite a furore was created in the current CBN series game between India and Sri Lanka played in Brisbane when Sri Lankan batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, at the non-striker’s end, was run out by Indian off-spinner Ashwin when the batsman was found to have left the crease before the ball had been delivered. In other words, Thirimanne was found to be taking a ‘foul start’. When Ashwin appealed to umpire Paul Reiffel – with Thirimanne well out of his crease – the latter without doing his avowed duty of giving his decision walked across to his partner Billy Bowden. After a three-way discussion, with Bowden and the Indian skipper Sehwag, Thirimanne was permitted to continue. Despite this let-off, Thirimanne still continued with his walkabouts. Something that confused most. Indeed the Laws of Cricket are very clear on this issue. Last year, to dispel any doubts on this vexed matter, the MCC reiterated and stated very clearly that “the bowler is permitted before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker.” Can it be any clearer?
Hence, the Indian bowler Ashwin was not doing any act that even bordered on questionable sportsmanship. That question should be posed to the Sri Lanka batsman who was wittingly or otherwise taking an unfair advantage by taking a foul start. Remember, just one run could quite easily make the difference between victory and/or defeat, and more so in the shortened version of the game.
Take for instance, when a batsman hits a ball to (say) cover point and through poor fielding permits the batsman to scamper for runs, naturally the bowler and the fielding side stands to lose. If the cover-fielder however, collects the ball fast and finds the batsman yards out of his crease, does the fielder warn the batsman and ask the latter to get back to his crease? On the same principle why does one expect the bowler who finds the batsman, at the non-strikere’s end out of his crease to act similarly?
So far in the history of ODI cricket there have been 26 instances of games being tied (plus two more in World Cup games) that includes the tied game versus India (at Adelaide) in the current CBN series, whilst not forgetting the close call when Sri Lanka lost to Australia in a nail-biting encounter by a mere 5 runs in Perth. So let us be pragmatic on this issue. If one is involved in a fun-match (say) between “Married vs Bachelors” or “Smokers vs Non-Smokers” then it is another kettle of fish – warn the corpulent married cousin or an emphysematous, cigarette-puffing friend at the non-striker’s end to get back to the crease. But in a competitive/tournament/international encounter, if a batsman takes a foul start then in all probability he is cheating or is clearly unaware of the Laws, situations both of which are definitely untenable. As a former reputed cricketer/coach/mentor told one of my contemporaries who committed a Thirimanne-like faux pas: “Young man you are a competent batsman, an active fielder and a reasonable bowler but not a good cricketer.”
The act of the bowler running a batsman at the non-striker’s end had been sometimes described ‘Mankading’ in a deragotary sense. This term originated during the Indian tour of Australia in the 1946/47 Test series when Indian left-arm spinner Vinoo Mankad ran out Australian opening batsman W.A. Brown at the non-striker’s end. Here’s what Don Bradman has to say on this issue in his autobiography “Farewell to Cricket” and there, as the saying goes, I rest my case.
“An early sensation came in Australia’s innings when Brown was once more run out by Mankad, who, in the act of delivering the ball, held on to it and whipped the bails off with Brown well out of his crease. This had happened in the Indian match against Queensland (No,Bradman is making a mistake here. It happened during the game against an Australian XI played at Sydney where, incidentally, Bradman registered his hundredth first-class hundred though the hosts lost the game by 47 runs thanks in the main to Mankad who captured 8/84 in the second innings. MW), and immediately in some quarters Mankad’s sportsmanship was questioned.
For the life of me I cannot understand why. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball is delivered. If not why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage. On numerous occasions he may avoid being run at the opposition end by gaining the false start.
I am well aware that few bowlers ever seek to take advantage of such an opportunity. It would be well nigh impossible for some of them to do so…..only the slower types of bowlers have a chance. Mankad was an ideal type and he was so scrupulously fair that first of all warned Brown before taking any action. There was absolutely no feeling in the matter as far as we were concerned, for we considered it quite a legitimate part of the game.
I always make it a practice when occupying the position of a non-striker to keep my bat behind the crease until I see the ball in the air. In that way one cannot possibly be run out, and I commend this practice to other players.”
Thirimanne please note.