Deepti Sharma
India’s Deepti Sharma runs out non-striker Charlie Dean of England in the third One-Day International at Lord’s, London, on September 24, 2022. Image Credit: Twitter/@mufaddal_vohra

What’s with the England cricketers? Their non-strikers can steal yards to score runs, but the bowler shouldn’t run them out. Wow, that’s some logic.

Deepti Sharma is the latest bowler to be hauled over the coals for running out a non-striker who left the crease before the ball was released (a mode of dismissal commonly referred to as Mankading). Her run-out of Charlie Dean in the third One-Day International at Lord’s on Saturday (September 24) was heavily criticised by English men cricketers. Predictably, the Indian cricketers threw their support behind Sharma.

Dean is not the first English cricketer to back up too far before the ball is delivered. ODI captain Jos Buttler was a serial offender until better sense prevailed. When Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake ran him out in 2014, English captain Alistair Cook had the audacity to ask Sri Lanka to withdraw the appeal. Buttler, playing for the Rajasthan Royals, was run out identically in IPL 2019 by Kings XI Punjab captain Ravichandran Ashwin.

Both the Buttler incidents revived the spirit of the game debate. The Deepti Sharma episode evoked mixed reactions on social media. Most of the vitriol came from Englishmen, with media personality Piers Morgan leading the charge, followed by wicketkeeper Sam Billings, whose tweets seem to dissect the delivery stride. Billings failed to realise that Sharma must have watched Dean leave the crease prematurely several times before deciding to run her out.

Billings and Morgan were not the only Englishmen to slam the run-out. Former England captain Michael Vaughan, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Liam Livingstone and others weighed in, all of them invoking the spirit of cricket. What’s the spirit of the game you all are referring to? If cricket was played in the true spirit, batters would be recalled after dodgy decisions, and sledging would never have a place on the cricket field.

WHAT’S MANKADING?
Mankading refers to the mode of dismissal when a non-striker is run out before the ball is delivered. The term was first used after India’s Vinoo Mankad ran out Australia’s Bill Brown for backing up too far in the Sydney Test of 1947. Mankad had reportedly warned Brown in a previous tour game for trying to obtain an unfair advantage before the ball was bowled.
The Australian press slammed the decision as a violation of the spirit of the game. Defending Mankad’s action Don Bradman, Australia’s captain during that Test, wrote in his book Farewell to Cricket: “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 has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out?”

“There’s surely not a person who has played the game that thinks this is acceptable?” Billings tweeted. Here I have a response from someone who has played fantastic and aggressive cricket during his illustrious career.

Ian Chappell, a former Australian captain and respected cricket commentator, wrote in ESPN cricinfo in 2014: “If you play by the laws, you’ll be contesting the game in the right spirit. And how is cheating at the non-striker’s end upholding the spirit?”

In this case, Dean was unfairly seizing the advantage in contravention of the laws of cricket, and Sharma put an end to it. So, who’s the culprit?

What the law says
Law 41.16 in the MCC book of laws says: “If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be run out.”
Previously, this was listed under ‘Unfair Play’ (Law 41). In last week’s update of Playing Conditions the mode of dismissal was moved to the ‘Run Out’ section (Law 38).

Alex Hales and Monty Panesar were the only English cricketers who seemed to understand that Dean was wrong and Sharma was right. “It shouldn’t be difficult for the non-striker to stay in their crease till the ball has left the hand…,” Hales tweeted. “You can be run out by #mankading. Bear in mind it’s in the laws of the game,” was Panesar’s response.

The MCC, the custodian of cricket’s laws, reiterated that the Charlie Dean dismissal was legal. In a statement, it said: “MCC’s message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday, cannot happen.

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“Whilst yesterday was indeed an unusual end to an exciting match, it was properly officiated and should not be considered as anything more.”

That surely won’t be the last word on the run-out, unfairly called Mankading. More bowlers should run out erring batters so that the stigma on the dismissal is erased and the spirit of the game debate well and truly buried.