Tag Archives: Eoin Morgan

If Mankading is immoral make it illegal

The Cricket Under 19 World Cup is not usually an event that gets publicity but this year’s version in Bangladesh has. This is partly because of the pre event pull out of Australia for security reasons, partly because New Zealand and holders South Africa were upset by Nepal and Namibia respectively – but mainly because of a controversial incident in the game between West Indies and Zimbabwe where the winners would qualify for the quarter finals.

The match went to the last over with Zimbabwe needing three runs to win with one wicket left. The West Indies bowler Keemo Paul instead of bowling the first ball of the last over stopped to flick off the bails with non striker Richard Ngarava out of his ground. The umpire had no choice but to give him out after referring to TV replays and West Indies had won by two runs.

Cue uproar. Although Paul’s actions were legal under the laws of cricket running out a batsman for backing up too far is considered immoral. So much so the action even has a name – “Mankading”. This is named after the first man to dismiss a batsman by this method in Test cricket the Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad who on 13 December 1947 he ran out Australian Bill Brown who was the non striker backing up. Although he had done this to Brown earlier in the tour it was considered unsportsmanlike by the Australian press and is considered taboo. It has only happened three more times in Test cricket and not since March 1979. In one day cricket it has happened four times the last occasion was to England’s Joss Buttler in 2014. And it always causes controversy. England’s one day captain Eoin Morgan tweeted the following :

” Disgraceful behaviour in the U19CWC. WIs should be ashamed ”

While Buttler – a victim of “Mankading” himself  – said on social media :

“Can’t believe what I’ve just seen. Embarrassing.”.

And Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann weighed in with ” Unbelievable. Not out”.

But the fact is under the laws of cricket it was out. Paul had broken no law – just a vague unwritten moral code called the “Spirit of Cricket”. And unwritten laws always cause trouble precisely because they are unwritten. But there is a simple solution. If ” Mankading ” is so taboo why not make it illegal. There have been three examples in the history of one day cricket where actions were taken that were not illegal but considered unsportsmanlike or against the spirit of cricket. On each occasion the law was changed to make the action in question illegal.

The first one was on May 24th 1979. Somerset were away to Worcestershire in the Benson and Hedges Cup. They would qualify for the quarter finals unless they lost to Worcestershire Glamorgan beat the Minor Counties (South) – a certainty unless it rained – and both counties overtook Somerset on bowling strike rate ( number of balls bowled divided by number of wickets taken) which was used as a tie breaker if teams were level on points. So Somerset captain Brain Rose hatched a plan. He would bat first and declare after one over. It would mean that Somerset would lose the game but Worcestershire could not overtake them on strike rate and Somerset would be in the quarter finals. And he did. The match score was Somerset 1-0 declared in one over lost to Worcestershire 2-0 after 1.4 overs. Somerset were in the quarter finals.

But not for long. Although what Rose did was legal it was considered a “disgrace to cricket”, ” farce” and ” not in the spirit of the game “. Glamorgan – denied a quarter final place by Rose’s scheme – appealed to the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB) and Somerset were disqualified for not complying with the spirit of cricket. The rules were amended to prevent declarations in one day cricket. Rose’s scheme was now illegal.

Later in 1979 came another incident. In a World Series Cup game on November 28 1979 West Indies needed three runs off the last ball of the match to win. Although star all rounder Ian Botham was bowling to number eleven Colin Croft England captain Mike Brearley positioned all ten fielders including the wicketkeeper on the boundary in order to make it harder for Croft to score the required boundary. Botham bowed Croft but again Brearley’s tactics – though legal – were considered against the spirit of cricket. Again the rules were changed to stop the scheme – in this case to limit the number of fielders allowed on the boundary (at the end of a one day innings teams are limited to five men outside the 30 metre circle).

The last example ” celebrated ” – if that is the correct word – its 35th anniversary on February 1st this year. In a World Series Cup game between Australia and New Zealand the Kiwis needed six to tie the game off the final ball. Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered his younger brother Trevor to bowl the ball underarm – that is to roll it along the ground making it impossible for Kiwi batsman Brian McKechnie to hit a six. Chappell junior obliged (one of the problems with sport in my opinion is its authoritarianism. Players are expected to obey the captain or coach making it very difficult for Trevor Chappell to disobey his captain – never mind his older brother). McKechnie blocked the ball threw his bat away and the controversy begun. The great commentator Richie Benaud was furious calling it a “disgraceful performance from a captain who got his sums wrong today” and even New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called it an act of cowardice appropriate for a team wearing yellow. But again the Chappell plan was legal under the rules of cricket at the time but considered against the spirit of cricket. Again the rules were changed to make underarm bowling illegal.

Cricket has to make up its mind about “Mankading” once and for all. If they think it is a legitimate tactic stop complaining when anyone does it. If they think it is unfair make it illegal. Both are legitimate points of view. But the current position – where “Mankading” is legal but if someone does it they cop abuse from press fans and players is unsustainable. Cricket must decide. Is “Mankading” fair or not? If it is stop moaning about it. If it isn’t make it illegal. The current fudging of the issue is of no use to anyone.

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Who will rule the World?

The first if the three major sport World Cups played this year starts tomorrow (actually today in the UK because of the time difference) namely the Cricket World Cup which is being held in Australia and New Zealand. The first point is that the tournament’s format is terrible. A 14 team event lasts 44 days (the FIFA World Cup last year had 32 teams and lasted 32 days) and it takes a month to reduce the number of teams from 14 to 8 (and it is highly likely that we know who the last eight will be). With that said how will the tournament go?
A key feature of One Day international (ODI) cricket in recent years is that scores have been rocketing upwards. Two examples of this from this winter were Rohit Sharma’s 264 for India and AB de Villiers’ amazing 31-ball century for South Africa last month. Paradoxically that makes bowling more important. It is clear that unless a fielding side can take early wickets with the new ball, have a wicket taking spinner and have good “death bowling” then they will be hammered. Since the top eight sides all have destructive batting the sides that do well will be the ones that have the bowling to stop these strong batting line-ups.
So let’s take a team-by-team look at the teams in the World Cup.

Group A – Australia – The hosts are the favourites and rightly so. Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shane Watson, the vastly improved Steve Smith, captain Michael Clarke(when fit) and six hitting machine Glenn Maxwell make up a scary batting line up even by this tournament’s standards. And the fast bowling is formidable. Mitchells Johnson and Starc plus youngsters Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Two weak spots. They don’t have a wicket taking spinner. Maxwell’s bowling is far less scary than his batting and Xavier Doherty is average at best. And will the hype get to them? They flopped in 1992 as hosts. Could history repeat itself?

England – When England left Sri Lanka last year with their tails between their legs their World Cup chances looked slim. But the sacking of Alistair Cook and his replacement by Eoin Morgan has produced some improvement. Probably not enough. They were outclassed three times by Australia in their warm up tournament. There are signs of an exciting batting line up of Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, James Taylor, Joe Root, Morgan and the explosive Joss Buttler. However they are inconsistent. The bowling is a worry. If James Anderson and Stuart Broad don’t take wickets with the new ball and Steve Finn does not bowl quick it is very batsman friendly. If England can get to the Semi Finals – and they haven’t done that since 1992 – it will be an achievement.

New Zealand – New Zealand are usually the Oakland As of cricket. A team of underdogs punching above their weight. Not this time. This New Zealand team is seriously good. Three world class batsmen in captain Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, plus big hitters Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi make a formidable batting line up. The bowling has depth in pace with Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Adam Milne and Mitchell McClenaghan plus a vetran spinner in Daniel Vittori. If they cope with the pressure this is the best chance New Zealand has ever had of getting to the Final.

Sri Lanka – One man holds the key to the 2011 Finalists chances. The batting is strong and experienced lead by Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardane and captain Angelo Matthews. They also have a reliable spin attack. But Sri Lanka in order to perform well need Lasith Malinga the best death bowler in the world to be fit and firing. He is just coming back from injury and went at six an over in both Sri Lanka’s warm up games. If he is at his beat Sri Lanka could get to the last four at least. If he is not they will not get beyond the last eight.

As for the other three teams in the group Bangladesh could cause an upset – but only one – the fact that Afghanistan are here at all is a fairy tale – in 2008 they were in Division Five of the World Cricket League playing the likes of Jersey – but they and Scotland probably have no more realistic hope than to win the game against each other.

Group B – India – the holders have a strong batting line up led by Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikar Dhawan and captain MS Dhoni but the bowling (especially the fast bowling) is not as good and their form is awful – they haven’t won an international match on their tour to Australia and confidence is low. If they lose their first two games to Pakistan and South Africa they will be under huge pressure from a demanding public(India is as fanatical about cricket as Brazil is about football and over a billion people in India will be watching them). Could get to the last four but unlikely to go further.

Pakistan – What Winston Churchill said about the USSR – “A riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped inside an enigma” – could well apply to Pakistan. They could win the whole thing – or suffer a humiliating defeat by Ireland and go out before the last eight. One suspects they will struggle this time. Apart from two recent games in New Zealand they haven’t played outside Asia since 2013 and will need experienced players like captain Misbah-ul-Haq , Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi to fire to have a chance of a last four place. Still they beat England in a warm up match and can’t be written off.

South Africa – based on talent this team should be in the Final. AB de Villiers – the best batsman in the world – Hashim Amla , Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are a world class core, Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller are exciting young batsmen and Imran Tahir is a wicket taking – if sometimes expensive – spinner. However they have a reputation for being “chokers” – not performing well in big games. A reputation is very hard to get rid of. South Africa could yet again win all their group games look unbeatable and then blow up when the pressure of knock out sport comes in the last eight (perhaps even losing to England?).

West Indies – Oh dear. From 1975 to 1983 they were the team every one wanted to beat. Now they could be the team everybody beats. For some reason best known to themselves they appointed a 23-year old rookie Jason Holder as captain and left out Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard – probably because they lead a players’ revolt in India last year. They still have world class batsmen Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels but the bowling is awful – as de Villiers showed in South Africa. There is a chance they don’t get out of the group. If they get beyond the last eight I will be amazed.

Of the other teams in the group Ireland humiliated Pakistan and England in the last two World Cups and if anyone is to stop the last eight comprising of the “big eight” it will be them. Zimbabwe beat Australia last year and could cause another upset while the UAE are probably the weakest team here and are unlikely to win a game.

So who will win? If I had to predict I would say that the Semi Finalists will be Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka with the Final on March 29 in Melbourne being between the hosts – Australia and New Zealand – with the Aussies favourites to win. But it is not a certainty by any means. Let the cricket begin…