On December 9, 1992, the “Friendship Series” between India and South Africa in the Rainbow Nation took an unfriendly turn when Kapil Dev ‘Mankaded’ South African batsman Peter Kirsten. Jaideep Vaidya revisits that evening at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, exactly 20 years ago which recorded the seventh and final instance of ‘Mankading’ in cricket till date.
India’s tour of South Africa in 1992-93 was a significant one. It was the series that marked the Proteas’ re-entry into world cricket post the Apartheid era, after 23 long years, and was also India’s first ever tour to the Rainbow Nation. The series also marked the first time television replays were introduced into the game – it gave birth to the third umpire – much to Steve Bucknor’s disapproval. Billed as the “Friendship Series”, the Indian team was showered with adulation from the moment they landed and were greeted with much fanfare wherever they travelled.
Responding to India’s paltry total of 147 in the second One-Day International (ODI), South Africa lost opener Andrew Hudson early to Kapil Dev, who shared the new ball with Manoj Prabhakar. This brought Peter Kirsten, who is Gary Kirsten’s half-brother, to the crease. Kirsten had had a poor Test series, scoring just 76 runs from four matches, but had hit a half-century in the first ODI. Five overs passed without incident and with the score on 20 for one in the ninth, Kapil ran in to bowl to Proteas captain Kepler Wessels.
As Kapil charged towards the bowling crease, he noticed – not for the first time in the series – that Kirsten was backing up too far. Without any warning, Kapil knocked off the bails at the non-striker’s end, turned back and gave the umpire a you-know-that’s-out-now-send-him-packing look, shooed Kirsten off towards the pavilion and then showed three fingers to Wessels, telling him that it was the third time that Kirsten had repeated the act. Umpire Cyrus Mitchley had no choice but to give it out. He was later to say, “As much as I respect Kapil, I didn’t agree with what he did then.”
Even though the dismissal is allowed lawfully, it isn’t considered very sportsmanlike and is definitely not the most popular, especially among batsmen. However, proper cricketing ethics state that the bowler who sees a non-striker backing up, should ‘show the ball’ to the latter – hold the ball over the stumps to indicate that he is aware of the non-striker’s error. This is considered as a warning to the non-striker that the next time he backs up, he will be run out.
Kapil had not crossed the ethical line even though the South Africans believed he had. Kapil had, in all fairness to him, warned Kirsten twice previously in the series before eventually taking evasive action at Port Elizabeth. But that did not stop Kirsten from exchanging a few colourful words with the Indian all-rounder before storming off. Wessels, who wasn’t keeping quiet himself, then decided to transfer his rage into actions and reportedly hit Kapil on the shin with his bat while taking a run.
After the match ended, India lodged an official complaint that Wessels had hit Kapil on the shins intentionally. They also claimed that Kirsten had shown dissent. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, announced the following day that Wessels had admitted to his bat hitting Kapil but said it was unintentional. The jury is still out on that one.
Meanwhile, Kirsten was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for “unacceptable conduct”. This wasn’t the first time the South African was getting reprimanded for showing dissent. Not long before the India series, he was fined twice in the same match against Australia at Adelaide: first for dissenting when a teammate was given out LBW and then again when he met the same fate. Kirsten was fined 40 per cent of his match earnings on that occasion.
This entire hullabaloo, however, had no consequence on the result of the series. South Africa won the ODI series comfortably 5-2. But Kapil Dev and the Indian team were no longer everyone’s favourite sons in the Rainbow Nation. Both teams and their respective media defended themselves to the grave. Dave Callaghan took a shot at the tag given to the series. “So this is what the f*****g Friendship Series is all about,” he said. Pravin Amre, who was part of the Indian eleven on that occasion, told Pune Mirror later, “Peter Kirsten did it (backed up) in the previous two games as well. We had told him but he didn’t change. We actually had a team meeting about it before that game and it was decided that if he does it again we will run him out. Kapil was initially reluctant to do it but agreed that it was unfair play on the part of the batsman.”
The Indian media too left no stone unturned in blasting Kirsten and Wessels. Shekhar Gupta, currently editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, wrote, “Kapil’s teammates were furious. Many told reporters on that tour that the knock left a sizeable bruise on Kapil’s shin — in fact, anybody who saw him double up with pain at that point would have figured that. But he did not retaliate. India did complain that Wessels hit Kapil deliberately, but made no big deal of it. BCCI was afraid of a diplomatic incident and played it down… More important, however, is Kapil’s conduct. The same Kapil who, for two generations of Indians, has represented the aggressive, no-nonsense, never-say-die face of Indian cricket. He took both the insult and the injury with a stoicism not expected of an international cricketer, least of all if he answers to the name Kapil Dev. In so many ways, that incident set the tone of that tour as South Africa beat us in both forms of the game, bullying and glaring.”
Here is the video of the incident:
Whether Kapil crossed the line or not depends on where one stands in the classic law versus ethics debate in cricket. ‘Mankading’ is just one of the gazillion titbits included in the mixed bag that is cricket. Even though twenty years have passed since that evening in Port Elizabeth, ‘Mankading’ is like an active volcano just waiting to be triggered by the next Kapil and Kirsten.
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and Editorial Consultant at Cricket Country. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )