The 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) has come alive. It is not down to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) taking flight again, Andre Russell or Chris Gayle bringing the Caribbean magic, or indeed Rishabh Pant’s blitzkrieg in Mumbai this past weekend. They are all minor factors in light of what transpired in Jaipur on Monday evening. 

The word is ‘Mankading’, named after legendary Vinoo Mankad, who made it fashionable all those years ago to dismiss a non-striker out of his crease. In common parlance, it is nothing more than a run out — the batsman is short of his crease, only the ball has not been delivered, and it is the bowler (not a fielder) who completes the dismissal, stopping mid-action.

Also read: Ashwin 'mankading' Buttler divides cricket world

By now, you very well know that R Ashwin running out (or Mankading) Jos Buttler in the Rajasthan Royals (RR) versus Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) game is its first-ever instance in the history of IPL. Punjab won, Ashwin shrugged off the matter, Buttler did shake his hand but coach Paddy Upton had a lot to say. So did the cricketing universe, which is split down the middle over legality — and spirit — of this dismissal. 

Before diving in, let us get into some previous history. Buttler has been dismissed in this manner before, against Sri Lanka in 2016, when spinner Sachithra Senanayake caught him outside the crease and warned him. Buttler didn’t pay heed and was later run-out, with Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews not calling the batsman back. 

Interestingly enough, and this is important to note, Buttler had admitted his mistake after that incident and termed it as ‘batsman’s error’. 

Ashwin too has prior history with Mankading. Back in 2012, during a tri-series in Australia, he ran out Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne in this fashion, taking the bails off as the batsman was already out of crease. Stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag though took back the appeal and the batsman was given a warning as well as a life. Sehwag later revealed that Ashwin had indeed warned Thirimanne prior as well.

Also read: Full list of 'mankaded' batsmen since 1947

Here, we need to consider what the rules say.

Law 41.16.1 of MCC’s rule book states that, “if the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be run out.”

Furthermore, there is no provision in MCC’s guidance notes on 'Spirit of Cricket' saying that the bowler must warn the batsman before Mankading. 

In summation of all of the above, let us try to answer questions emanating from Monday’s game.

Who was in the wrong — Buttler or Ashwin? 

In the past 24 hours, anyone with even an iota of interest in cricket will have seen those replays a hundred times, if not more. Social media is also rife with images/videos of Buttler walking out of his crease previously in that 13th over. There can be no doubt herein that the batsman was taking advantage of the situation leading up to the incident. 

Let us talk about that particular delivery though. Watching the video live, it is a weird one to call. 

On this occasion, it is not possible to conclude that Buttler did take advantage by walking out. It is further complicated by the fact that Ashwin stopped in the middle of his delivery stride, waiting for Buttler to walk out, waited some more (for him to react or thinking to himself), and only then, he took the bails off. 

Did Ashwin do anything wrong? No. 

He is not liable to give warning to the batsman, who has a previous history of walking out of his crease. Additionally, the law stands by what the bowler did in this situation, which is why the TV umpire ruled Buttler out as well. 

Was Buttler in the wrong? Yes, and not because he was conclusively accruing any advantage on that particular delivery. 

Instead, it is because the law clearly states that the non-striker is liable to be run-out at any point when the ball is in play as the bowler hits his delivery stride. Debates can rage over whether Ashwin was past his delivery point or not, but it doesn’t take any responsibility away from Buttler. 

He should have been watching the bowler and his release point. He didn’t, not on that delivery, or on any other delivery in that particular over. Would Ashwin be allowed to stretch his foot ahead of the popping crease? No, it would be deemed a no ball and the batsman would be given a free hit every single time. 

Just like it is the bowler’s responsibility to not over-step, it is the non-striker’s responsibility to watch the ball and stay in his crease until it has been released. End of argument! 

What about 'spirit of cricket' though? 

In the movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, protagonists are often met with a moral dilemma. They want to adhere to the Pirates’ Code. But time and again, they act selfishly in tough situations because, well, the Code is more of a guideline than anything else. As such, pirates bend their moral compass according to what suits them. It is the same case with the proverbial 'spirit of cricket'. 

Anybody — and everybody — gives a different definition of cricket’s spirit. There is no real rulebook, which states what it actually is. And, moreover, this definition changes to suit their whims and fancies. 

This definition was different when Ian Bell walked carelessly out of his crease in 2011, thinking he had hit a boundary and was run out, only for MS Dhoni to call him back. This definition was different when the English team urinated on a cricket pitch after winning the Ashes. 

This definition was different before the ball tampering scandal hit Australian cricket, and it is a different definition now, as they are trying to clear up that humongous mess. 

This definition was different when match-fixing repeatedly set back cricket in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and it is still different when administrators try to arm-twist things in their favour.

This definition is different when batsmen edge behind and do not walk, instead leaving umpires to make that decision. This definition is different when bowlers appeal vociferously, trying to hoodwink umpires into making a decision, but then do not ask for DRS. 

This definition is different for Shane Warne, because he is brand ambassador of Rajasthan Royals. This definition is different for ex-cricketers and cricket fans, depending on whether they support Ashwin or Buttler. 

In truth, ‘spirit of cricket’ is the biggest hogwash sold in the history of this game, and let nobody tell you otherwise.