The Mankad rule: Who was Vinoo Mankad and why is the move so controversial in cricket?
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It's mid-November 1947 and for the first time in the nation's young history, a team of Indians is on the brink of representing their independent country on the international stage.
Just three months after the disbandment of the British Indian Empire into the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, a squad of 17 Indian players travels to Australia to take on the might of a team that would become known as Don Bradman's "Invincibles".
Among the squad is a 30-year-old opening batter and left-arm spinner by the name of Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad — known to his mates as "Vinoo".
Mankad is arguably the best player in the team. He's elegant with the bat and hard to get out, and his orthodox spin proves difficult to play in any conditions.
Having opened the batting in the first and third innings of a practice match against the Australian XI — a squad that includes the likes of Bradman, Keith Miller and Neil Harvey — Mankad now stands in the middle of the SCG in the final innings, ball in hand, preparing to bowl at Queenslander Rex Rogers.
While he considers how to dismiss Rogers at the other end of the pitch, he notices something directly to his left.
The great Australian opener Bill Brown is getting a head start on his runs.
As Mankad starts to enter his delivery stride, Brown has already left his crease to set off for a jog between the wickets. By the letter of the law, Mankad can stop, take the bails off the wicket with ball in hand, and Brown will be run out.
It's a much easier way of getting rid of one of the world's best batters than ploughing away ball by ball and tempting him into a mistake.
And it wouldn't be the first time such a dismissal had been used, with records showing the tactic existing as far back as the early 1800s.
But Mankad has a sense of what cricket pundits call "the Spirit of the Game". As he enters his delivery stride, he notices that Brown has again left his crease by a full yard. He stops mid-delivery, calls out to Brown, and beckons him back with a crooked finger.
It is a warning to not do it again.
And Brown doesn't heed it.
Just a few deliveries later, the Toowoomba-born 35-year-old again tries to gain an advantage by leaving his crease early. In Mankad's mind, he has no choice. He whips around and takes the bails off. Brown, by the letter of the law, is run out.
It's the first of nine wickets Mankad will be involved in during the innings, finishing with bowling figures of 8-84 as the Indian team wins the tour opener by 47 runs.
The dismissal is noticed by the press, but barely commented on due to the unofficial nature of the match.
A month later, Mankad again stands in the middle of the SCG.
This time, it's an official Test match.
This time, the great Bradman stands at the ready at the other end of the pitch, while Brown again stands alongside Mankad.
And this time, there's no official warning as Brown is again caught a yard out of his crease, the bails tumbling through the air as the Indians race around Mankad to celebrate his cunning, his match-awareness, and his willingness to use the rules to his advantage.
Brown raises his bat in the air and swings it in disgust — it's not clear whether it's disgust at Mankad, or disgust that he has again been caught trying to gain a yard's advantage.
He had been warned earlier in the innings, but this time by his opening batting partner, Arthur Morris, rather than the tricky Indian spinner.
“Look out BB," Morris had called down the pitch. "You are doing the same thing again."
And again, Brown didn't listen.
The press box erupts in heated debate. Should Mankad have warned Brown? Should the rule be changed? Should the umpire have given it out? Is it in the much-vaunted Spirit of the Game?
Almost 80 years later, the same debates persist. In the press box. On the television. On the character-limited, black and white, no-room-for-grey-areas forum of Twitter.
And after almost eight decades of furious debate, the chasm between for and against remains just as wide as it was on that historic day at the SCG.
Despite the ongoing debate, the opinion at the time — at least on the field — was somewhat steadfast.
"For the life of me I cannot understand why [anyone] questioned his sportsmanship," Bradman would later write.
"The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out?"
With Mankad's gamesmanship and fairness being questioned, the greatest batter in the history of the game was unwavering in support of his Indian opponent.
"Mankad was an ideal type, and he was so scrupulously fair that he first of all warned Brown before taking any action [in the practice match]," Bradman wrote.
"There was absolutely no feeling in the matter as far as we were concerned, for we considered it quite a legitimate part of the game."
Leg-spinning legend turned media pundit Bill O'Reilly agreed, in a rare show of solidarity with Bradman, who he had often butted heads with during their illustrious careers.
“Mankad subscribed to the ethical rule," he wrote in a significantly more succinct approach to the matter.
"Brown was at fault."
Even Mankad explained that Brown's movement had been a distraction as the left-armer came in to the deliver the ball.
"My reflective vision becomes affected and my bowling concentration suffered," he told a Brisbane journalist at the time.
"I had warned Brown in Sydney not to leave the non-striker's popping crease until the ball had left my hand, but Brown ignored the warning."
In one local newspaper, the Melbourne Truth, the headline screamed "Shocking Display" — but not for the reason you would think.
"Brown might feel aggrieved at Mankad’s action but nobody would support him," the newspaper read.
"Brown's continuing offence in this matter is so blatant that he will have to give serious consideration to it if he desires to retain his position in the Australian XI."
In The Advertiser in Adelaide, reporter Lawrie Jervis went to several senior cricket officials to get their thoughts on the incident, and all the messaging was the same.
"What if a batsman scrapes home by three inches after cribbing a yard at the start?" selector Hugh Bridgman said.
"Isn't that taking an unfair advantage? The rules of the game must be obeyed."
Umpire Jack Scott agreed.
"It's ridiculous to aim criticism at the bowler," he said.
"Aim it at the batsman who tries to crib a few feet every run."
It was by all means not a new way of sending one's opponent packing.
In the Victorian era, English fast bowler Thomas Barker used the tactic five times between 1835 and 1843, with his last coming at Lord's while playing for the MCC.
The incident prompted Wisden to publish an illustration of the incident in a book two years later that warned non-strikers who were "too anxious to obtain a run" to watch out for the Barker method.
"It is dangerous to leave your ground before you are well convinced that the bowler is not watching your over anxiety," it read.
Between the Barker and the Mankad generations, at least another 16 other recorded instances of the dismissal happened, although it was likely to be significantly more.
Yet still, an underlying feeling that "the Spirit of Cricket" had somehow been besmirched remained post-Mankad.
Almost two decades after he had clipped the bails off in a move that all around him on the field agreed was fair, the name Mankad started to become synonymous with questionable tactics.
In a 1969 Test match at Adelaide Oval, West Indian bowler Charlie Griffith took the wicket of Australian batter Ian Redpath for nine runs in the second innings.
On the scorecard, it was simply listed as one of four run-outs as Australia held on for a draw.
But in The Age newspaper, it was described as pulling a "Vinoo Mankad".
Six years later, in 1975, Greg Chappell whipped the bails off at the MCG as England's Brian Luckhurst had his own anxious moment in an ODI, with local reports erroneously claiming that Mankad had "started the fad" almost 30 years earlier.
And then 1979, Pakistani players were so incensed that Australia's Alan Hurst had 'Mankaded' tailender Sikander Bakht in the Perth Test, that they appealed for "handled ball" in the next innings when Aussie opener Andrew Hilditch picked up the pill to hand it to the bowler.
Hilditch was given out. By the letter of law, it was the right decision — by "the Spirit of Cricket", it was questionable.
The Pakistani players had made their point.
It's a typical Melbourne weekend in November of this year, as two sub-district cricket teams face off in Essendon, on a ground wedged between Steele Creek and the Maribyrnong River.
The weather is your standard Victorian early cricket season sort of scene — still too cold to really believe that footy season is over, but dry enough to keep the covers tucked away on the other side of the boundary, ready to be pulled out at a moments notice.
It is a St Bernards home game, and they're bowling at the eastern suburbs team of Kew.
As fast bowler Kyle Adams steams in from the northern end of the pitch, non-striker Andrew Chalkley watches almost every step, only turning as Adams leaps into the air to enter his bowling motion.
Adams, noticing that Chalkley isn't paying attention and has started to leave his crease, pulls out of the delivery stride and instead whips the ball over the stumps.
Chalkley is short of his crease by mere centimetres, but by the definition of the rule book, he has been sent packing.
The St Bernards fielder at mid-off celebrates reluctantly, putting his hands in the air briefly before looking for confirmation from the umpire.
Some teammates run in with high fives at the ready. Others seem a little more bashful.
On the sidelines, a St Bernards supporter utters the prophetic "here we go", understanding that this wicket is not going to sit well with their Kew opponents.
Chalkley stands his ground at first, but the umpire confirms his decision.
"You're a f***ing s**t club if that’s f***ing acceptable," Chalkley yells towards the stands, after having it out with the players on the field first.
"He didn't f***ing warn me.
"Good on yas. Good on yas. Great club."
He's met with a wide variety of responses — from a warning that he needs to watch his language around kids, to an offer of a box of tissues.
And he's told simply that if he did not want to head back to the sheds, he should have stayed in his crease.
It's one of several Mankad videos that have popped up already this summer from local cricket, with varying degrees of dismay and fury from the offending batter.
It's suburban Melbourne. It's a friendly game of cricket. It's almost 80 years since Mankad dismissed Brown — yet still, the fire and the passion for and against the Mankad rages on, a raging bushfire sparked by an ember that almost nobody paid attention to on that day at the SCG all that time ago.
Kew would go on to win the match.
Brydon Coverdale has sat in cricket press boxes from Melbourne to London and everywhere in between, and padded up to play on the rural cricket grounds of south-west Victoria, from Bookaar to Boorcan to Pomborneit.
And he doesn't understand the fuss around the Mankad.
"For some reason it has this stigma attached to it with so many people involved in the game," the former cricket journalist and quiz master from The Chase says.
"And quite often it's the players more so than the commentators and observers. A lot of the players really seem to find it jarring and problematic and I don't really know why that is."
History, romanticism, the battle of bat and ball, and this idea of "the Spirit of the Game" consistently permeates the discussion, but has become tied up in a web of false memories and gentlemanly understandings.
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"The Spirit of Cricket is such a nebulous concept," Coverdale says.
"It's mentioned in the preamble to all the laws, but nobody has really explained what it means, it's just the game is meant to be played in the right spirit. Well, duh, so is every sport.
"I think that cricket somehow thinks that it is better than other sports, that this is some kind of game that follows a certain gentleman's code that other sports just wouldn't understand.
"I think there's this element of the sort of romanticism of cricket, that some people think it should be the battle between bat and ball and whoever is better at their particular skill set on the day gets the upper hand, and [the Mankad] is viewed as something that interrupts that battle.
"To me it's just a fundamental thing for the batters to be aware of where they are and if they're out their crease, they're in danger. It's just basic."
In 2019, Rahul Mankad, the son of Vinoo, said it was unfair that his father's name had been attached to a tactic that was within the rules, but had become clouded by uptight cricket folks believing that something nefarious had taken place.
"When I met Bill Brown just before he passed away in Australia, he said he was fine," Rahul, who died in March this year, told the Mumbai Mirror.
"No bitterness, they parted as friends. The entire Australian team stood by my father.
"The mode of dismissal is within the laws of cricket. It was not as if my father did it the first time, or it hasn't been done subsequently."
Rahul also backed Indian off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, who has made an art of using the dismissal in shorter forms of the game.
"We should maybe call it the Ashwin rather than the Mankad," Coverdale says.
"He has really taken this form of dismissal and run with it. He has had no qualms about using this dismissal and absolutely stands by it every time and he just says 'why shouldn't I do it?'
"He may end up revolutionising that part of the game by backing its legitimacy. He is an all-time great bowler and he is someone who is standing up and saying this is rubbish, why shouldn't we do this?"
"What's the batter doing if they're out of their crease if not trying to gain an advantage? That is the only reason that you're out of crease, there is no other justification for it.
"I think it just got to the point where it became so stigmatised that everyone has just forgotten about it as a dismissal method until the last 10 or so years where it feels like it has gained more traction."
In the past decade, the lawmakers of cricket have changed the rules to make the dismissal more accessible to bowlers.
It was shifted from the "unfair play" section of the rules to "run out". It was decreed that a bowler could use the method even if they had entered their delivery stride, whereas in the past it would have to be carried out before.
And it has all changed at a time where shorter forms of cricket are dominating the world, where batters attempt to get every advantage they can possibly wring out of the match to get runs on the board.
"All of these steps have been deliberately taken because the lawmakers clearly believe that they want to support bowlers who do this," Coverdale says.
"Particularly with things like T20 cricket, it's so fast and frenetic where batters are just constantly trying to gain any advantage anywhere they can, naturally it's going to become more and more of a tool or a weapon if bowlers are willing to do it and captains are willing to let it happen.
"It's just such a messy little rule."
Vinoo Mankad would go on to play his final Test in 1959, and would die just 19 years later, aged 61.
He scored five Test centuries and took five wickets in an innings on eight occasions, averaging low 30s with both the bat and the ball from his 44 Tests.
Along with Keith Miller and Gary Sobers, he would be one of only three non-England players to be etched onto the Lord's honour boards for both batting and bowling, having scored a ton and taken five scalps in the same match at the famous ground.
He was truly one of the great all-rounders cricket had ever seen.
And yet his name has become synonymous with an action that continues to cause furious debate, from the dusty pitches of Mumbai to the suburban grounds of Essendon.
"My father regretted it, he obviously wished it would not have happened," Rahul Mankad would say.
"But at the time he felt that was the only course of action left.
"It's unfortunate that my father's name is tainted because of this."
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The Mankad rule: Who was Vinoo Mankad and why is the move so controversial in cricket? – ABC News