Ravichandran Ashwin has been in the thick of things of late and it has not been for the right reasons. The Kings XI Punjab skipper came under the spotlight when he decided to 'Mankad' Jos Buttler on March 24. After initially backing Ashwin for his controversial action, the lawmakers of cricket have now taken a U-turn and said that the dismissal was not in the 'spirit of the game'.
"Having extensively reviewed the incident again and after further reflection we don't think it was within the spirit of the game," MCC's manager of the Laws, Fraser Stewart was quoted as saying by British newspapers.
In this law versus ethics battle, the term 'spirit of the game' has been very conveniently thrown around which is why there have been only four instances of the 'Mankad' dismissal in international cricket. The rarity of this has been one of the major reasons why Ashwin's act of dismissing Buttler was largely frowned upon. But the Marylebone Cricket Club, who are the lawmakers of the game, have argued their perspective and perhaps that justifies the criticism Ashwin has been receiving.
"We believe the pause was too long between the time Ashwin reached the crease and the moment it was reasonable to expect the ball would be delivered. When Buttler could have reasonably expected the ball to be delivered, he was in his ground," Stewart added.
The manager of the Laws does make a legitimate claim as Ashwin did pause for a couple of seconds before dislodging the bails to dismiss Buttler. But, in their original statement, the MCC said, "...it has never been in the Laws that a warning should be given to the non-striker and nor is it against the Spirit of Cricket to run out a non-striker who is seeking to gain an advantage by leaving his/her ground early."
The lawmakers may not have been referring to the particular incident but simply addressing the mode of dismissal. On looking closely, they have deemed Ashwin's actions against the same spirit of the game because, according to them, Buttler was not trying to gain an advantage. "We didn't come down either way (in the original statement). We now think at the key moment Buttler was in his ground," he said. "Buttler, it is fair to say, did not make a concerted effort to get back into his crease after Ashwin had delayed his delivery, and didn't help himself in that respect," Stewart said.
But Stewart has also said that non-strikers should not leave their crease early as that is also against the spirit of the game. "It is also unfair, and against the spirit of cricket, for non-strikers to leave their ground too early. All these debates wouldn't be necessary if non-strikers remained in their ground until the ball is on its way down the pitch," Stewart said.
This was not the first occasion Buttler was dismissed at the non-striker's end and neither was it the first time Ashwin attempted a 'Mankad'. While there will never be a clear winner in the debate involving something as abstract as the laws of the game, it must be said that both men are equally responsible for what went down in Jaipur on March 25.