Cricket has its own unique nature that it is pretty well bounded by the rules and regulations which makes it the gentlemen’s game. The basic laws of Cricket as well as the playing conditions implemented by the governing bodies have framed in such a way that it never disturbs the balance between bat and ball on the field. Though amendments have been introduced many a times based on unusual and rare instances, the rules and regulations always were successful and was enough to cover up the happenings in the game for these many years.
In recent years, MCC Laws 2000 code had five editions revised mainly due to the change in playing style. It was necessary to popularise the game especially since the multi-day and one day games started losing the public attraction. MCC has put forward the new code in 2017, obviously forced ICC to amend the playing conditions also. All the Laws and even minor sub-clauses in the basic laws have its own importance. Most importantly it has acceptance also around the globe. But some of the rarely happening instances still raise the eye-brows of the players and fans – “Running out the non-striker prior to the delivery”. Perhaps this will be the one discussed and analysed most number of times rather than any other clauses.
The law of running out the non-striker prior to delivery is very clearly described in the Cricket laws. Besides playing conditions of ICC, all countries or other recognised leagues do not violate or supersede this law. It is commonly applicable for all levels of Cricket and all globally recognised formats. As per the laws, the bowler is permitted to put the wicket down at non-striker’s end if the striker takes the advantage of an early set off from the crease. The latest editions provides more clarity to this practice interpreting that if the ball accidentally falls from the bowler’s hand thereby putting down the wickets, results in a dead ball. The ball dropped unintentionally by Mitchel Starc to dislodge the bails with Shikhar Dhawan standing outside the crease in a Test match in 2013 was the incident turned out to make an amendment on this clause.
In the Cricket history, there have been many instances of running out the non-striker prior to delivery. Being an umpire I have ruled out the non-striker six times in this manner in my umpiring career at various levels. Irrespective of the levels and formats, this dismissal always confines to a controversy leading to discussions about fairness of the attempt and sportsman spirit.
Running out the non-striker might be the only regulation in Cricket which is exactly complying with the laws but always treated as an act against the spirit of the game. The latest incident took place in the Quaid E Azam Trophy match between Peshawar and Wadpa when seamer Taj Wali “mankaded” Mohd: Irfan who was setting off from the crease in advance. The umpires were convinced that the non-striker was clearly out of the crease and it is a prompt dismissal according to the provisions in law. In order to avoid any doubts, they discussed each other and asked the fielding captain about the seriousness of the appeal and declared it out. But unfortunately still the debate is on with even Cricket experts and experienced players questioning the act.
Nowadays it has become a tradition that the opposition blames the fielding side irrespective of the carelessness or unfair move by the non-striker. There are many cases where the bowler dislodges the bail but the fielding captain recall the batsman thereby giving him a life to move on. Even in such cases also, discussions used to originate from all corners questioning the fairness of dismissal attempt.
If this proceeding has anything illegitimate in it, certainly the umpires would have turned down the appeal. But we haven’t ever seen umpires negating the appeal because it is a crystal clear dismissal according to the laws. Even though the umpire is convinced at the moment appeal is made, he consults with the striker’s end umpire ultimately asking the fielding side about the seriousness of appeal in order to avoid any “heat of the moment” appeals.
Imagine an instance of a normal running between wickets where the batsmen running with full effort to reach the crease but fails to make good of his ground before the fielding side put the wickets down.
Will the batting side expect the fielding side to appreciate the running batsman for his efforts (by withdrawing the appeal for run out) and giving him a “life” to bat further?
Do the fans ever expect a fielder to drop an easy catch for giving the batsman a chance saying “I am dropping the catch now, Don’t repeat this shot, Don’t expect me to drop it again”.
If you raise the eyebrows now, why do you request for the mercy of the bowler to leave you when you commit mistakes and when you take un-necessary advantage by stepping out of your crease early.
Courtney Walsh’s decision to not run-out the non-striker during a World Cup match in 1987 was one of the incidents which created a common concept in viewer’s mind that such kind of dismissal is an unfair practice and it is against the spirit of the game. The bottom line question is that how can it be contrary to the spirit, if it is absolutely in line with the laws.
The foolish concept of warning the non-striker and calling back the batsman should be obliterated from the public mindset. The non-striker is not allowed to start from his crease until the ball is released from the bowler’s hand. If the laws are applicable for all players, why the non-striker only has to be granted a relaxation? How can you treat the fielding side as cheaters? How can the non-striker become “sacrificial goat” and how can the bowler become a “Criminal”?
The mode of dismissals like “obstructing the field”, “hit the ball twice” and “timed out” are very rare in practical cases. If an incident happens out of these three, it can be brought for discussion, because rather than a normal wicket, these are given out as a punishment for an unfair act or it can be classified under a category of misuse of laws by taking un-necessary advantage. Apart from these three modes (“handling the ball” is already merged in to “obstructing the filed” as per latest code), all other dismissals are happening so often and are well accepted by everyone.
Here is the most important fact that “running out the non-striker prior to delivery” is an automatic happening and hence it has to be treated like a normal dismissal only. This need not be considered under the punishment category. If the batting side captain complains against the fielding side for this action, he should be penalised for questioning the laws.
Despite all these, the debate will be always on, until the entire Cricket fraternity get educated precisely without any ambiguity about the so called “Mankading”. The optimal way to resolve this conundrum is to stick to the basics of Cricket. Let the predominant laws take precedence than pseudo-concepts of viewers. Let the balance between bat and ball continue its momentum.