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IPL: Well played Ashwin, now the ball is in batsmen’s court

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“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.”

These were the words from the legendary Sir Don Bradman, defending India’s Vinoo Mankad after the left-arm spinner had run out Billy Brown while backing up, during India’s tour of Australia in 1947.

Coming from the great batsman himself, that should have killed any debate if there was one. But 73 years on, it still rages on in the name of sportsmanship, spirit of cricket, gentleman’s game and what not.

Anyone and everyone roasted Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin when the then Kings XI Punjab skipper ran out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler last season. The MCC went as far as to say it was against the spirit of cricket.

‘Mankading,’ as it came to be known (although former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar) refers to it as ‘Brown’) has, although not ugly, raised its head again in the ongoing season.

And R Ashwin, not one to back off, was in the thick of things yet again. But rather than ‘Mankad,’ the offie was rather, a bit polite this time, so to say. He stopped in his delivery stride but didn’t whip the bails off even though Royal Challengers Bangalore opener Aaron Finch was well outside the crease.

Ashwin then took to Twitter to send out a warning to all the batsmen that he won’t be as nice as he was to Finch, if they go on an excursion.

Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, Ashwin’s coach at the Delhi Capitals, may have his views saying this is not the way they will play their cricket but the fact of the matter is that batsmen get an unfair advantage by backing up.

As cricket tilts more and more heavily towards batsmen – with powerplays, fielders within the circle among other things, it is perhaps time to give some licence for the bowlers too.

The non-striker’s bat should be on the crease as the bowler delivers the ball, as simple as that. There are no two ways about it and the game’s lawmakers should maybe penalise the batting side.

As for now the batsmen might do well to look over their shoulder when Ashwin comes on to bowl.

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