The last week has once again seen the oft referred to, but impossible to define, Spirit of Cricket invoked to condemn Afghanistan’s Under 19 team for completing a mankad dismissal against Pakistan. From Karachi to Kent, and Brisbane to Barbados social media has been awash with aghast cricket fans lamenting the desecration of the game they love. It was hardly surprising given this is the response to such a dismissal ever since it was first effected in Test Cricket by Vinoo Mankad in 1947, but it really grinds my gears.
One of the major reasons why the uproar frustrates me it that is the non-striker rather than the bowler who is attempting to steal an unfair advantage. One of the most respected voices in cricket shares this view. After his team became the first victim of Mankad at Test level 73 years ago, Don Bradman had this to say.
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.Don Bradman 1947
Perhaps aided by the fact his team won, Huaira shared the view of the greatest cricketer who ever lived. “I should’ve been in the crease, and I’ll learn from the mistake,” he said post-match. “I’ll ensure it isn’t repeated again,” he vowed, rather than pleading the Spirit of Cricket as a defence, acknowledging its hard to be run out backing up if you stay in your crease.
A quick glance at social media finds a large number of people who hold opposing views. Despite the fact that the non-striker is literally sneaking out of his ground to steal an advantage, those outraged at the events believe the bowler was the one guilty of an underhanded act. It must be said this is very similar to the logic that sees people claim to be victims of revenue-raising when caught speeding by mobile speed cameras.
Just like Hawaiian Pizza is one of the biggest selling pizza on the planet despite many people thinking pineapple on pizza is an abomination, its a matter of taste. Just because you find something distasteful does not make it any more or less so to anybody else. It is for this reason that the game is played under an agreed set of rules rather than a straw poll whether you think pineapple is an acceptable topping. Wait. I mean whether you find something distasteful or not.
As for the matter of whether it breaches the ‘Spirit of Cricket’, it is telling to look at how the custodians of the game have dealt with similarly controversial manipulations of the rules. Within two years of Bodyline, the laws of cricket were revised to outlaw it, underarm bowling was banned almost immediately upon Trevor Chappell’s infamous delivery in 1981. Yet in contrast, seven decades after Vinoo Mankad dismissed Bill Brown in Sydney, the dismissal named after him remains legal. Kind of odd that, if it truly was outside the spirit of the game.