Why the double standards?

Murali Kartik...playing by the rules.-K. RAMESH BABU

Talking of the spirit of the game only when a batsman, who is clearly trying to take advantage of the extra yard or two to run a quick single, is run out by the bowler is hypocritical when you consider how much the spirit of the game is flouted on so many other occasions.

Murali Kartik has been one of the unluckiest Indian cricketers. Despite a man-of-the-match performance against Australia in 2004, where he spun India to a face-saving victory, he was left out of the playing XI for the next Test. He did not play as often for India as he should have. Kartik still plies his trade in the English county circuit where his feisty behaviour on the field and friendly, smiling demeanour off it has won him many admirers and friends. However, all that is now in danger because of some vague spirit of cricket, which is invariably invoked when a batsman is run out at the non-striker’s end by the bowler for strolling out of his crease before the ball has been bowled. It is hard to understand why just this act is termed as being against the so-called spirit of the game and not those where batsmen stay at the crease despite knowing that they have nicked the ball to the wicketkeeper, or when fielders appeal despite being fully aware that the batsman is not out. Why is the spirit of the game not thought of when the fielding side swears and abuses the batsman at the crease, trying to upset his mental balance and equilibrium?

Talking of the spirit of the game only when a batsman, who is clearly trying to take advantage of the extra yard or two to run a quick single, is run out by the bowler is hypocritical when you consider how much the spirit of the game is flouted on so many other occasions.

Last year, Ian Bell was run out to the last ball before tea, when he left the crease after taking three runs thinking that the over was complete. Luckily for India, they had 20 minutes of the tea interval to think about the dismissal. Wiser counsel prevailed in the end as the appeal was withdrawn and Bell was allowed to resume his innings.

What is even more galling when a non-striker deliberately tries to take advantage of the extra yard and the bowler runs him out is that this kind of dismissal is referred to as ‘Mankading’. This was because Vinoo Mankad, the great Indian all-rounder, was the first to dismiss a batsman in this manner at the Test level. On the 1947-48 tour of Australia, he had run out Bill Brown after warning him twice not to leave the crease before the ball had been bowled. However, the Australian media made a big noise about the ‘unsporting behaviour’ and thus the mode of Brown’s dismissal was branded as ‘Mankaded’.

Mankad is one of the greatest Indian cricketers ever and he should be remembered more for his magnificent batting and bowling and not for dismissing a batsman, who was only trying to steal an advantage.

Kartik, another left-arm spinner, will probably have to pay the price for his act. He may perhaps lose out on a county contract next year. Kartik was, as expected, unapologetic after the incident because he believed he had done nothing wrong. He had followed the tradition and accepted practice by warning the batsman not to venture out before he had delivered the ball. His cause, though, has not been helped by his captain and his county expressing their regrets. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

It is about time the cricketing world woke up to the fact that there are other areas where it should look to enforce the spirit of the game. Besides, the term for such a dismissal should henceforth be ‘Browned’ and not ‘Mankaded’ anymore.