India women’s ‘Mankad’ against England reignites conversation around ‘Spirit of Cricket’

India women’s ‘Mankad’ against England reignites conversation around ‘Spirit of Cricket’
Charlie Dean of England reacts after being run out by Deepti Sharma of India to claim victory during the 3rd Royal London ODI between England Women and India Women at Lord's Cricket Ground on 24 September, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

India women’s final match in their tour to England ended in dramatic fashion with Deepti Sharma ‘Mankading’, or running out, Charlie Dean at the non-striker’s end. The act has raised debate on the ethics of the dismissal.

On Saturday, England women put on a rearguard fight, led by No 9 batter Charlie Dean (47) and No 11 Freya Davies (10), in their attempt to chase down the 169 runs India had set for them.

Dean, the more accomplished batter, did well to ensure she was on strike as often as possible, pushing for quick singles when Davies was on strike.

Halfway through the 44th over, with Davies on strike, Deepti Sharma strode in to bowl but instead of releasing the ball, she held onto it and whipped the bails off at the non-striker’s end where Dean was well out of her ground.

Dean was given out and the match was won by 16-runs by India to seal a historic 3-0 One Day International (ODI) series whitewash over England. The dismissal is known as ‘Mankad’, after Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad who ran out Bill Brown in this manner on India’s 1947-48 tour to Australia.

Sharma’s actions would be regarded as excellent match awareness in most sports — as she followed the letter of the law to dismiss her opponent — but cricket is not most sports.

Deepti Sharma

Deepti Sharma of India runs out (madkads) Charlie Dean of England to claim victory during the 3rd Royal London ODI between England Women and India Women at Lord’s Cricket Ground on 24 September, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The cricket fraternity was divided by Sharma’s action with a few of England’s men’s current cricket stars, Stuart Broad, Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone Alex Hales and James Anderson all chipping in on social media to share their opinion; mostly admonishing the actions as “against The Spirit of Cricket.”

Meanwhile, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) — the custodians of the Laws of Cricket responsible for the debating, decision making and drafting of its Laws — issued a swift statement, defending the actions of Sharma

“MCC’s message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday, cannot happen. Whilst yesterday was indeed an unusual end to an exciting match, it was properly officiated and should not be considered as anything more,” read the statement.

“Respectful debate is healthy and should continue, as where one person sees the bowler as breaching the Spirit in such examples, another will point at the non-striker gaining an unfair advantage by leaving their ground early.”

The debate that raged on social media regarding the manner of the dismissal, led by England’s men’s cricketers, is founded in its perception of the Mankad. It is regarded as an underhanded way of getting a wicket and until recently was placed in the ‘Unfair Play’ category in the Laws of Cricket.

Gentleman’s game

Cricket is known as the ‘gentleman’s game’ because when it was first played in England — where the sport was invented, and later spread to other parts of the world during colonisation — exclusively by aristocrats, they decreed that cricket would be played in ‘a gentlemanly manner’. 

Meaning you would respect your opponent and the laws of the game. The ‘gentlemanly manner’ would later become known as ‘the Spirit of Cricket’, an unwritten code of ethics of the game.

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While the preamble to the Laws of Cricket is titled ‘Spirit of Cricket’ it speaks mostly of “respect” and “fair” play without providing specific examples of actions on the field, as is done in other sections of the Laws of Cricket.

“Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the laws but also within the Spirit of Cricket.  The major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains, but extends to all players, match officials and, especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents,” reads part of the preamble to Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) Laws of Cricket.

“Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket. Respect your captain, teammates, opponents and the authority of the umpires.”

Playing the game within the Spirit of Cricket — determined by aristocratic ideals of respect and fairness — is regarded as more important than winning a cricket match by some.

That is why Sharma’s actions have been condemned to such great lengths by current and former players — despite her not doing anything illegal, according to the Laws of the game.

Charlie Dean

Charlie Dean of England speaks to the Indian team after she was run out by Deepti Sharma of India to claim victory during the 3rd Royal London ODI between England Women and India Women at Lord’s Cricket Ground on 24 September, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Two sides

A detailed analysis by ESPNcricinfo’s Peter Della Penna, who checked every delivery of England’s innings since Dean’s arrival at the crease, showed that she had left the crease early 72 times, before being dismissed on the 73rd occasion.

Sharma had also claimed that she had warned Dean about leaving her crease early before finally dismissing her.

“It was our plan because she repeatedly [did it]… we had warned her also. We did it according to the rules and guidelines,” said Sharma.

However, Dean’s actions were never questioned. She knowingly tried to steal as much ground as possible to get back on strike. This is no slight on Dean, as many batters have done the same in a similar situation, trying to steal every inch in order to gain an advantage.

However, knowing you’re bending the rules, the consequences should be accepted, even if you got away with it 72 times before.

Sharma followed the letter of the Law, Dean did not. 

Winning matters

The (questionable) actions of both players are a result of their desire to win a cricket match for their country.

In a time when cricket has turned into a professional sport and those involved in the games’ livelihoods depend on the results of fixtures, ‘the Spirit of Cricket’ can become an afterthought for players.

It is therefore unfair to judge their actions through the lens of the Spirit of Cricket when they haven’t broken any Laws of the game.

Players want to win and condemning their actions when doing their utmost — within the Laws of Cricket — to achieve a positive result is nonsensical.

If the Laws of Cricket conflict with the Spirit of Cricket that is a slight on the lawmakers, not the players. DM


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