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The Marleybone Cricket Club that defines how the gentleman’s game is to be played recently removed Mankading from the list of activities considered unfair. Though not illegal, Mankading someone is not the proper thing to do.

Cricket has to be a gentleman’s game where winning is an outcome that shouldn’t mar fairplay. The runner is technically out because he had stepped out of the crease before the ball could be bowled. But the standard there is whether the runner was trying to gain unfair advantage by getting a headstart and stealing a run when there was none or just backing up to gain momentum in case there was a run. The intent is the standard, not the action itself.

Even when the runner was trying to steal a run by giving himself a handicap, some bowlers have only warned them. The famous case was that of Courtney Walsh and Salim Jaffer in the 1987 World Cup. If Walsh had Mankaded Jaffer, West Indies may have well won the quarter finals. Jaffer was clearly trying to steal a run and Walsh would have no less been a gentlemen had he hit the stumps with the ball. But Walsh didn’t and he ended up becoming more than a gentleman.

The Harbhajan-Sreesanth clash, both teamsmates in Punjab Kings XI, in the inaugural IPL set the tone for the premier league. A fairplay award was then instituted since the organizers didn’t want the high stakes to mar the spirit of the game too much.

Such competitiveness and bending the rules is ironically more the rule in international cricket and even the IPL where the stakes are much higher. The Harbhajan-Sreesanth clash, both teamsmates in Punjab Kings XI, in the inaugural IPL set the tone for the premier league.

A fairplay award was then instituted since the organizers didn’t want the high stakes to mar the spirit of the game too much. It is a testimony to Dhoni’s leadership that CSK have won the fairplay award more than others.

Mankad (Vinoo) himself was the first to Mankad someone. In our times, Kapil Devi Mankaded Peter Kirsten of South Africa in 1992 after giving him a warning in an earlier match.

Sledging, batsmen not walking even when they know they are out, batsman running on the line of the throw so that the ball doesn’t hit the stumps during the run, and so on are also not in the spirit of the game but which are fairly common at the higher levels. In the local league and state-level, however, the scene is quite different.

Chennai gully cricket and lower TNCA league cricket may not exactly be the gentleman’s game. Mankading is quite common on the grounds of Chennai. In the tennis ball 10 over and six overs game played all over the city, the rule of thumb is two steps. The runner can take two steps so he can charge for a run if there was one. If he takes more than two steps, he is calling for action.

But those who aspire to take cricket seriously as a career and as a profession imbibe the spirit of the game. The academies are very clear about this. Punctuality is maintained and discipline is primary. Colts are taught to wait their turn. Someone may fancy himself as a star bowler but he has to wait for the coach to lob the ball at him. On top off all this is peer pressure. In the addas and tea shops outside the ground, bad behavior is amplified and stigmas get attached.

If any player seems to be tipping over and starting to not observe the spirit of the gentleman’s game, he will get identified and his one ungentlemanly action will dog him throughout. It’s a small world where players know each other and switch teams. Also, corporates run many league teams with long legacies. It’s bad for their image if any players is not a gentleman. Umpires are often friendly and form an easy relationship with the players. They are quick to step in cool things down. Their careers too are at stake.

Coaches are like teachers who advise the young talents to not argue or sledge on the field. Along with the copybook, the spirit is also infused in the cricketers who then carry it all their life.

Coaches are like teachers who advise the young talents to not argue or sledge on the field. They instruct them to play in the V, not go over the top. No cross batted shots or reverse sweeps either while they learn the basics. Along with the copybook, the spirit is also infused in the cricketers who then carry it all their life.

Tamil Nadu has a legacy of gentle behavior. Southern stars have excelled in academics too. Kumble studied at a well known engineering college. Srikkanth was an engineer and so was Ashwin.

Local folklore talks about Babu Alaganan who was a thorough gentleman. He was scrupulous about fair play. Alaganan was an occasional golfer and his behavior in that game was legendary too. Apparently, he would disallow himself shots that didn’t seem kosher.

Good behavior has a history in Tamil Nadu cricket. There have been occasional eruptions. Chemplast and Jolly Rovers can get into a skirmish in First Division. Some captains use individual rivalries to bring out the best. But that’s about it. No one sledges. No spinner blocks umpire’s vision during his follow through. No batsman runs in the line of throw and no bowler will get in the way of runners even if that meant not getting possession of a ball during a run.

Not many have heard of Ashwin Mankading in the TNCA league.


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