There is something about a bowler running out the non-striker who has backed up too far even before the ball has been released that triggers moral outrage in the cricketing world. The people who claim bump-balls as catches, who tamper with the ball, who mouth ugly personal abuses, who don’t walk after edging, have united in a moral war against it. The laws of the game clearly state that the onus is on the batsmen not to leave the crease until the ball has been delivered. But the outrage lies in the fact that some feel cheated by the non-consummation of the cricketing act, as the ball hasn’t been bowled, the batsmen haven’t been involved and yet a wicket has fallen.
The outrage suggests the game is not just skewed towards the batsmen but aligned against the bowlers. There has been a difference in social hierarchy between the “amateur” batsmen (the privileged) and the “professional” bowlers (the working class) in Victorian England, which has percolated widely. The batsman can edge and stay put or back up too early at the non-striker’s end, but the moral onus is put on the bowler. If anything, the bowler should be applauded for showing the awareness to spot the breach, the skills to abort his bowling action and effect the run out in time.
It’s time to listen to two of the world’s best batsmen, Donald Bradman and Sunil Gavaskar, who have laid the blame on batsmen for backing up too early. If the ICC makes it clearer, then perhaps the word Mankading can lose the negative odour of disrepute that hangs around it and can be seen as a tribute to a quick-witted thinking of the legendary allrounder Vinoo Mankad. In 1947, Mankad had not only run out Bill Brown two times for backing up too early, he also had run out Brown, on 99, in a conventional manner in the fifth Test. The next time Brown fished out his bat from the bag, he saw his teammate Lindsay Hassett’s message scribbled on it: “Please keep me in the crease until the ball is bowled.”
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