Mankad - No other word evokes so much emotion amongst the players and spectators in Cricket as this one word. So much that one such incident has made me sit up and conceptualize this article in the middle of the night! Here is my take on it..
For those who don't know cricket, this article is not for you, thanks for coming!
For those who follow cricket, but wonder what the fuss is about, Mankad is basically when the bowler starts running in, realises the batsman at the non-striker's end is out of the crease, and runs him out. Pretty simple, huh?
It's wrong, it's ridiculous, it's against the spirit of cricket...so many negative emotions usually accompany just a mere mention of this word..
Let's break it down - For people to feel emotion, there needs to be a protagonist and an antagonist, with a stronger antagonist evoking a stronger reaction. People have realized this a long time ago. Hence parents tell us stories as kids with "Good" and Bad" characters and the best movies have strong villains. In Cricket, why not pitch the principal participants one against the other? They are duelling as part of the game anyway, why not frame them "Good" and "Bad" to create a story to hook the audience to your product (or 5 different products to be precise - T10, The Hundred, T20, ODI and Tests)?
Emotions associated with the Batsman - Anger, Frustration, Disappointment, Righteousness...
Emotions associated with the Bowler - Guilt, Shame, Ridicule, Contempt...
The Protagonist and The Antagonist
Another important concept to understand is the notion of certainty. The audience should not be confused who is the "Good" and who is the "Bad". Depending on the maturity level of the audience, they should either realise at the beginning of the story (like the young kid), within a short time (like in masala movies), or at the maximum before the climax (like in thrillers). Otherwise the audience will get confused and the story will be consigned to the realms of an "art movie". For all practical purposes, Cricket falls under the masala movie category that needs to appeal to a wide ranging audience. It is also the reason people don't really get Philosophy, which is closer to reality, depicts people as both good and bad, and deals with greyish concepts.
Let us understand the key players, pun intended. It is very obvious from the beginning of the story that the Batsman is the Good Boy and the Bowler is the Bad Boy. [While people with higher maturity levels will start arguing at this point, heck you are just poking your nose into my script..] Good Boy is playing the game within the rules, minding his own business, when the Bad Boy comes along, does something naughty to create trouble for everyone including the Good Boy and when the Good Boy starts crying and the Teacher comes along, says he is playing within the rules! How dare you, Bad Boy Bowler!
That brings us to the concept of The Line, which is central to the rule.. "The Line" that everyone in cricket 'agrees' should not be crossed became the butt of all jokes after Australia started liberally using it, stretching it, manipulating it and what not and other teams started creating their own versions, as any self-respecting nation would do.. This concept reached its height at the infamous Cape Town ball tampering scandal. "The Line" is synonymous with "The Spirit of Cricket" and is analogous to the "Good and Bad" in Philosophy. You think you understand it, but you don't.. Gotcha!
And finally the rule itself, that MCC the self proclaimed guardian of cricket, sits around a board room to decide how the game should be played in the maidans of Kolkata. Smart children create their own rules to play in the backyard, but I think we have already established that most of the people watching cricket are not inherently smart, especially with their time, especially those young fathers watching test cricket...
Anyway, coming back to the story, the MCC Laws state thus -
Stumped - which is essentially the same thing at the other end
Run Out - which is essentially the same thing at both ends
No Ball - which is essentially the same thing if done by the bowler
Mankad - bad, bad, you naughty boy, look away! (the law technically covers this under run out)
As you can see, the above is certified to be confusing by lawyers and challenges every single grey matter in your brain, so let me simplify for you..
As with anything in this world, there are written and unwritten rules that needs to be adhered to.
The Good Batsman at the striker's end can cross the line to whatever extent he thinks he can get away with, without getting Stumped.
The Good Batsman can run anywhere he likes inside or outside the Pitch or the Line or even the Boundary, without getting Run Out. Once he gets run out, the focus shifts to Good Fielding or his persona changes to Lazy Runner (Mind you, he is still not a Bad Batsman!).
The Bad Bowler can cross the line before delivering the ball, in which case:
1. The batting team gets 1 more run
2. The batting team gets 1 more ball
3. The batsman does not lose his wicket
4. The batsman gets a free hit to make fun of the bowler and swing his arms without worrying about losing his wicket the next ball - *&€*&*$@!!
5. The bowler gets a black mark - No balls are specifically recorded and tracked for shaming him long after his career is done (Remember that guy Ishant Sharma?)
The Bad Bowler can do naughty things, like Mankad a batsman at the non striker's end, when the batsman is innocently walking/ running the length of the pitch without paying attention to the bowler. How dare you Bad Boy!
The Good Batsman can evolve into a Smart Batsman if he moves outside the line before/ after the ball has been delivered using the crease, stands outside the line to counter the swing or back up by stealing a few steps at the non strikers' end before the bowler has bowled the ball - To the extent he is admonished by the team and the commentators if he doesn't do that and gets run out! Which idiot will not exploit the freedom to the fullest?
If a few Good Batsmen do not score many runs, it's a Bad Pitch that warrants ICC attention. How dare they tilt the scales towards the Bad Bowler! What messages are they giving to the millions of impressionable young kids watching the game? Do they want them to become Bad Bowlers when they grow up?
The Good Batsman must be begged multiple times to stay within the lines, and if he doesn't listen, a decent guy should simply overlook his inadvertent act. IF YOU DO NOT LISTEN TO ME, YOU WILL BECOME A BAD BOWLER!!
Over the last 120 years, The Gentleman's game has morphed into a Batsman's Game. I cannot think of any other sport that is so heavily weighted towards one set of players. [Chess is slightly more advantageous with White, but that's adjusted by alternating the colour through a tournament]. The rules have been heavily tweaked to favour the batsman, increasingly so over the last few years. Even the terminology has biased connotations now that I think of it. You score a boundary or a century, but lose a wicket. Let's make it more even to enjoy the game more.
Incidentally, it was the second instance for the batsman in question to be Mankad-ed, and he reacted with the same fury and claimed moral high ground as with the first one, so clearly some people never learn their lessons, don't believe they have done anything wrong or are used to complaining about Bad Boys in school. This also shows that the current rules are inadequate and puts the onus squarely and unfairly on the bowler for identifying and penalising the batsman breaking the rules. Imagine what would happen if the batsman is responsible for telling the bowler each time he has overstepped?
Broadly, in the age of cutting edge technology, why should fielding teams even 'appeal' for an OUT like LBW, caught, run out or Mankad?
Dear ICC, there is a simple solution. If you can use technology to deduct 1 run for each foray outside the crease before the ball is bowled, it will eliminate the problem and take the focus off the bowler and umpires in such situations, while the batsman might also be happier off not losing his wicket. Second instance in the same match might be worth 2 runs etc.. but that's my mind wandering way past the current reality. Don't you have a Code of Ethics that this should be part of?
At the very least, hope you realize soon that a good movie requires a good antagonist...
As for Mankad, let us STOP villifying the Bowler for holding the Batsman accountable to the same extent that he is!
The search has just begun!!!
(Used to be an opening batsman)