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Murali Kartik’s controversial action perfectly justified; time to relook at the rules

Murali Kartik © AFP
Murali Kartik has been criticised severely for ‘breaching the spirit of the game’ © AFP (File photo)

H Natarajan defends under-fire Murali Kartik and reasons out why the Mankading rule needs to be changed.

I have met Murali Kartik just once, but have interacted many times with him on phone, email and Whatsapp. To me, Kartik has always come across as intelligent, articulate and one who has a sense of fairness and balance in what he says and does. He is also very respectful.

Kartik has been under lot of fire for Mankading Bengal’s Sandipan Das in a Ranji Trophy game at New Delhi’s Jamia Milia Ground on Sunday. A lot of people have lampooned Kartik for ‘breaching the spirit of the game’. For me, the spirit of the game is always paramount, but in this case I fully support Kartik’s action. The reason is quite simple: Kartik had twice warned Das, but the batsman chose to ignore both warnings and continued to take unfair advantage. He asked for it.

Kartik is a fiercely-competitive cricketer — he had Mankaded a batsman in similar circumstances in a county game last year,  but he is not unfair. In my book, the Bengal team contravened the spirit of the game by refusing to shake hands with the Railways team after the game. Instead, they should have shown the displeasure, if not anger, against Das for frittering away his wicket in such a senseless manner.

If we are talking of rules, Kartik was more than a gentleman as the rules does not require him to warn the non-striker. But he gave not one, but two warnings.

Bengal coach Ashok Malhotra told the media at the end of the day’s play: “I can understand if you are playing one-day cricket where a batsman tries to steal a single. This is a four-day game and he was just an inch out. I am not talking about rules, but about spirit of the game.”

My counter to that is: Will Bengal not run out a batsman out if he is even one centimeter out even though he is not trying to take a single? Of course they will! Remember how Krishnamachari Srikkanth was run out on his debut against England when he casually left the sanctity of the crease?

The word “Mankaded” was coined during India’s tour of Australia. On December 13, 1947, during the second Test at Sydney, the great Vinoo Mankad ran out non-striker Bill Brown who was out of the crease before the bowler had delivered the ball. What is not known so widely is the fact that it was the second time Mankad had dismissed Brown in this fashion on the tour, having done it in an earlier match against an Australian XI. On that occasion he had warned Brown once before running him out.

Expectedly, many Aussies accused Mankad of lacking sportsman spirit, but there were some — including the legendary Don Bradman — who defended Mankad. In fact, Bill Brown reportedly said that he deserved what he got. This was revealed by Vinoo Mankad’s son Rahul in an exclusive video chat with CricketCountry.

Why should a batsman gain an unfair advantage? A bowler is penalised for no-ball even if he oversteps by a centimeter, a batsman is stumped/run out even if his foot is fractionally out of the crease. Are they given prior warnings? So why give the non-striker this special treatment? It makes no sense at all. I think the time has come for the rule about Mankading to be rewritten. Professionals should know what is right and what is wrong and do not need warnings. Had the rule been in place, the controversy would not have germinated in the first place.

(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan  and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)

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