Why are we still having a discussion about the morality of the Mankad?
In the most recent ‘Mankading’, Sri Lankan off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake dismissed Englishman Jos Buttler in the fifth and decisive game at Edgbaston. Buttler had received two warnings in Senanayake’s previous over for leaving his crease before the Sri Lankan had bowled the ball, yet he still cried foul upon his dismissal.
Despite the Mankad being an entirely lawful dismissal, England captain Alastair Cook lambasted his opposing captain Angelo Matthews’ refusal to recall Buttler by describing it as “a pretty poor act”. But this is what Cook, a batsmen, would be expected to say.
Cook argued that Buttler “was half a yard out of his crease”. However, would he be so lax if he was dismissed by a bowler whose foot overstepped by half a yard?
If his opponents argued that a ball bouncing half a yard inside the rope cannot be judged a six, would Cook’s home fans boo them off the ground?
Would he happily walk after being given out leg before to a ball that only pitched half a yard outside leg stump?
Increasingly, the batsmen have a significant advantage over the bowlers. Bigger bats, over limits for bowlers and frequent use of video technology on front-foot no-balls all contribute to an unbalanced duel between batsman and bowler. In Twenty20s, conceding a-run-a-ball has become a decent bowling effort.
At the SCG in 1947, Vinoo Mankad dismissed Australian non-striker Bill Brown following a warning and similar dismissal in a previous non-Test match. Brown was without a helmet or a huge modern-day bat and playing on a pitch left uncovered overnight. It could be argued he was hard-done by, given he and his fellow batsmen were obviously disadvantaged against the quicker bowlers.
Yet in the Sydney Morning Herald the following day, journalist and former NSW player Ginty Lush could only rail Brown’s “foolish” actions. “Mankad can scarcely be called a bad sport for trapping Brown…Brown was foolish to take liberties with Mankad,” he wrote.
67 years ago, the Mankad dismissal was recognised as the batsman’s error, rather than a bowler taking advantage of an innocent mistake. The batsman bit off more that he could chew and he was rightly punished.
At Lord’s on Sunday, Angelo Matthews avoided conflict when he chose to warn, rather than dismiss Buttler for his early leaving of the crease. Buttler went on to score a match-winning century and take the England-Sri Lanka series to a fifth game in Edgbaston.
Buttler bit off more than he could chew as the Edgbaston game reached its climax and he was punished accordingly. Matthews and Senanayake have been punished unjustly unjustly (though most pundits agree it was fair game).
If batsmen are to be kept in line in a day-and-age of fast-paced and flashy cricket, we all need to banish the stigma of the Mankad.