David Leggat: MCC likely to retire the contentious Mankad

The rule, and the term, relates to the running out of a batsman at the non-strikers' end by the bowler just before delivering the ball. Photo / iStock
The rule, and the term, relates to the running out of a batsman at the non-strikers' end by the bowler just before delivering the ball. Photo / iStock

Change is in the pipeline for one of cricket's more contentious issues - to Mankad or not to Mankad.

And high time too.

The MCC's powerful world cricket committee has suggested a change in the way the mode of dismissal is handled by umpires.

The rule, and the term, relates to the running out of a batsman at the non-strikers' end by the bowler just before delivering the ball. It's usually done to punish a batsman cribbing an early start out of his crease. Depending on your perspective it is either a perfectly reasonable course of action or, at best, seriously sharp practice.

It became so named for Indian allrounder Vinoo Mankad who, in a test in Australia in 1947-48, ran out Australian opener Bill Brown during his run-up. He had already done it to Brown in an earlier tour game. The action infuriated Australia's media and the name stuck. Intriguingly, Mankad received the highest level of backing, in the form of the legendary Don Bradman, who was Australia's captain at the time, and a good friend of Brown.

"For the life of me, I can't understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship. 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? By backing up too far or too early, the non striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage."

There have been four instances of it happening in tests, one by New Zealand bowler Ewen Chatfield, when dismissing England's livewire Derek Randell at Christchurch in 1978. The most recent example was in the under 19 World Cup when West Indian fast bowler Keemo Paul ran out Zimbabwe tailender Richard Ngarava in the final over of the match, with three runs needed for a Zimbabwe win. The West Indies were offered the chance to withdraw the appeal, but chose not to, and were unapologetic.

"It's not a big deal for us," Windies captain Shimron Hetmyer said. "It's probably not in the spirit of the game, but we're happy to have won."

A "Mankad" has fallen into the category of "spirit" up till now - you either play with it, or you don't - and that's a nebulous business.

The MCC proposal is a rule change to Law 42.15 to read: "The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker." And further: "A non-striker who is out of his crease before the point of release is either taking an advantage or is acting carelessly, and runs the risk of being legitimately run out."

The MCC committee is a powerful group, loaded with high profile former players. The proposal is likely to be approved, and amen to that. The rule would make abundantly clear an aspect which invariably inspires contrasting reactions.

Giving a batsman a warning has generally been the protocol. But this would mean not any more. A possible downside? The number of attempts at performing a "Mankad" could slow the game down. Still, on balance, this is a sensible clarification of a muddy area, and long overdue.

- NZ Herald

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