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UK media’s ‘mankad’ meltdown — after controversial ODI runout, why Deepti Sharma story won’t rest

New Delhi: When Indian right-arm off spinner Deepti Sharma halted her delivery stride to run out England batter Charlie Dean at the non-striker’s end — in the third and final women’s ODI in London Saturday — little did she know that her application of the laws of cricket would cause a near-nationwide blowback from opposition players, fans, the media, and even commentators.

The ODI was not only seamer Jhulan Goswami’s farewell match but also part of the ongoing cycle of the Women’s Championship which determines qualification places for the next Women’s World Cup. By whitewashing England 3-0 in the series, India currently occupies first place in the Women’s Championship table, with six wins from six games.

While prior incidents, such as Keemo Paul dismissing Richard Ngarava in the 2016 ICC U-19 World Cup or R. Ashwin running out Jos Buttler in the 2019 Indian Premier League, were deemed controversial to some degree, Saturday’s incident managed to attract a significantly greater attention.

Be it from male cricketers such as Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Sam Billings, or from English cricket journalists, the blowback is largely on the question of law vs ‘spirit of the game’. The act of a bowler halting her or his delivery stride to dismiss a non-striker who is backing up out of the crease, historically termed as ‘mankading’ after Indian cricketer Vinoo Mankad, is legal, according to the International Cricket Council, but is culturally seen as unsportsmanlike.

The criticisms, therefore, go beyond the letter of the law and the debate enters philosophical territory, with an action recommended but not required of the bowler — warning the batter if they have backed up too far, leaving the non-striker’s crease prior to the ball leaving the bowler’s hand.

Whether Sharma or her teammates had warned Dean of her transgressions prior to the run-out has been central to the ‘spirit of the game’ discourse, despite what the laws of the game say.

Backed by Goswami, Sharma had told the media that Dean was warned multiple times, after which a plan was devised to catch her in the act. However, England’s captain Heather Knight, who did not play this series following a hip surgery, threw a spanner in the works by alleging that Sharma and her team were “lying”, and that “no warnings were given”.

“India were deserved winners of the match and the series. But no warnings were given. They don’t need to be given, so it hasn’t made the dismissal any less legitimate…but if they’re comfortable with the decision to affect the run out, India shouldn’t feel the need to justify it by lying about warnings,” Knight had tweeted Monday.


Also read: One last Jhulan Goswami day—pioneer swing bowler who lifted women’s cricket in India


How media reacted

Earlier this week, UK publication The Daily Telegraph devoted an entire page of its sports coverage to three opinion pieces by cricket correspondents Nicholas Hoult and Scyld Berry, and writer Simon Heffer on Sharma’s run-out of Dean and the ‘spirit of the game’.

Hoult branded the dismissal as cricket’s “most glaring example of underhanded gamesmanship” and lamented what he felt was “whataboutery” directed towards Broad, after the England bowler criticised the mode of dismissal.

Berry, on the other hand, called on the Marylebone Cricket Club to change the laws of cricket and deem it legal for batters to leave the non-striker’s crease once the bowler has begun their “armswing”, rather than once the ball has been released from the bowler’s hand.

Meanwhile, Heffer believed Sharma’s dismissal to be “predictable” and saw fit to hold the broader “win-at-all-costs mentality” and the business-minded, T20-focused “climate of greed fostered by cricket authorities around the world” as responsible.

The most significant data in relation to the dismissal, however, was revealed by American cricket journalist Peter Della Penna, who parsed through the full ODI match replay and found 72 instances prior to the dismissal in which Dean was backing up outside the non-striker’s crease, before the Indian bowlers had completed their delivery strides.

“None of Dean’s partners had the same issue staying in the crease. No. 11 Davies in particular was always with a keen eye on the bowler’s hand until the ball was released. With a few exceptions, Dean never looked at bowler’s hand to see the ball released and carelessly took off,” Penna tweeted.

Cricket writer Rajesh Tiwary also supported Penna’s position and called into question the continued pejorative usage of the term ‘mankad’, in light of complaints flagged by Vinoo Mankad’s family as well as the ICC officially renaming the mode of dismissal to run-out.

“Running a non-striker out is no great skill. Mankad was one of India’s first cricket heroes and we need to celebrate his hundreds and wickets, not an odd run out,” Tiwary tweeted.

‘She had every right to dismiss Dean’

Amid the scrutiny, Sharma also found plenty of supporters among the English cricket team, such as England men’s opener Alex Hales and Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie.

Former Indian Women’s cricketer Anjum Chopra, too, said she doesn’t understand the “confusion” around Sharma’s actions, given that she had every right to dismiss Dean.

“The ICC has made these laws and it has been derived from the UK itself…if it was not in the laws of the game, both on-field and TV umpires would have said the batter was not out,” Chopra added.


Also read: Divided on Messi vs Ronaldo, but neurologists agree headers cause long-term damage to footballers


Source: The Print

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