Ricky Ponting having a ‘hard conversation’ with Ravi Ashwin about mankading is just pointless, writes SA Cricket magazine editor RYAN VREDE.
The laws of the game are designed as a framework in which the game operates. Act within that framework and you’re good. Act outside them, there’ll be sanctions. Simple.
Yet ‘the spirit of the game’, an unspoken collective agreement that guides behaviour not stipulated in the laws, is the grey area that exists between legality and illegality.
Mankading, or in the context of the spirit of the game, the decision not to, is the most controversial of actions that are governed by the spirit. It has no basis in law.
I understand that a collective agreement on restraint for things that benefit the whole – despite those things not being governed by a law – is important. For example, it is not illegal to be in public without a mask. But sensible people wear them because the science shows masks to be highly effective in preventing the contraction and spread of coronavirus. In other words, it is in the spirit of humanity that you wear one.
Mankading, a topic ignited once more when Ponting recently told ‘The Grade Cricketer’ podcast that he would have a ‘hard conversation’ with Ashwin, a serial mankader and Dehli Capitals player under Ponting, when he arrives in the UAE to start preparations for the IPL.
‘I’ll be having a chat with him about it, that’s the first thing I’ll do,’ Ponting said. ‘Look, he’s a terrific bowler, and he’s done a great job in IPL for a long period of time now, but I must admit watching that last season [Ashwin mankading Jos Buttler], as soon as it happened and he did that, I actually sat our boys down and said, “Look, I know he’s done it, there’ll be others around the tournament who’ll think about doing this well, but that’s not going to be the way that we play our cricket, we won’t be doing that.”
‘So that’s going to be a conversation and that’s going to be a hard conversation I will have to have with him, but I’m pretty sure he’ll take it on the chin. I think, even him, looking back now, he will probably say it was within the rules and he’s right to do it, but this is not within the spirit of the game, not in the way I want, at least with the Delhi Capitals anyway.’
Set aside the irony of Ponting, who captained some of the most verbally vile Australia teams in history, now speaking about what is acceptable in the spirit of the game and what isn’t, but he will effectively also be reprimanding one of his key players for playing by the rules.
There are laws that govern the types of verbal assaults Ponting’s Australia teams were guilty of during his time in charge. But he and his team benefited from a more tolerant culture in cricket at the time. It was chalked down to it being ‘a man’s game’, that most toxic of phrases that functions to excuse reprehensible behaviour. If Ponting were a captain today, he’d likely be well acquainted with match referees around the world and accumulate demerit points at the same prolific rate he collected runs.
There is no law that governs mankading, which has been Ashwin’s legitimate counter to criticism, while the spirit of the game should play no role in this case.
Of cours,e there have to be laws governing when a bowler can run a non-striker out, and there are. The ICC’s interpretation of the law defines the point of release as when the arm is at the highest point. If there is a purposeful pause to trick the non-striker into leaving his ground early, that needs to be addressed as well. But to completely dismiss this as a legitimate form of dismissal, and demonise bowlers for it, is ludicrous.
The tradition of giving the non-striker a warning is equally troubling. If the objective of the game is to win within the laws of the game, why would you warn someone about your intention to beat them?
Part of the skill of batting is making up the 22 yards between creases as quickly as possible. You’re exploiting the spirit of the game when you try to shorten that distance by backing up outside of your crease.
There should be a law to counter stealing ground. Oh, wait, there is.