R Ashwin And ‘Spirit Of Cricket’

If something is not necessarily illegal according to the rulebook, players can or may do it on occassions where they are badly looking for wickets or runs.

The whole debate around the ‘spirit of cricket’ is back in the main discourse. The man at the centre of the debate this time around had been at the centre of many such debates in the past. We are talking about Ravichandran Ashwin. However, in this instance, Ashwin has not run-out a non-striker batter for walking out of the crease before the ball is bowled, the ‘Mankading’ which he had made headlines for twice in the past.

The controversy

This time the controversy has to do with what Ashwin, the batter, did during the IPL game on Tuesday between Delhi Capitals (DC) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Ashwin, who represents the DC, flared the tempers after he tried to sneak in a run, off an overthrow by Rahul Tripathi. The throw had ricocheted off Rishabh Pant at the non-striker’s end.

As Ashwin tried to go for another run, Morgan wasn’t too pleased by the off-spinner’s attitude and the duo ended up having a go at each other. KKR’s Dinesh Karthik and Nitish Rana intervened to distance the two in the middle.

The whole debate around the ‘spirit of cricket’ came back, leading to people questioning whether Ashwin going for that run was ethical. The ball had hit the non-striker batsman from his own team. Though the rules do not necessarily hold such run illegal, many players across the world, in the ‘spirit of cricket’, choose not to run when the throw had hit them or their partner.


Shane warne, the legendary Australian leg spinner, was very upset over the developments. Warne, calling it ‘disgraceful’, said: “The world shouldn’t be divided on this topic and Ashwin. It’s pretty simple – it’s disgraceful & should never happen. Why does Ashwin have to be that guy again ? I think @Eoin16 had every right to nail him.”


Many, like Mr Warne, had the same question- “Why does Ashwin have to be that guy again?” This is not the first time that Ashwin is caught up in debate around the similar issue.


Mankading is a particular type of run out which is named after legendary Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad. ‘Mankading’ is a method of run out where a bowler dismisses a non-striker by hitting the bails before bowling when the latter is outside the crease.

In 2012, in a one-day international against Sri Lanka at the Gabba, Ashwin mankaded Lahiru Thirimanne and and appealed to the umpire. The two on-field umpires discussed the event amongst each other before calling Indian captain Sehwag to ask whether he wanted to stand with the appeal. Sehwag and Sachin withdrew the appeal and the game continued.

In another similar incident, during the IPL in 2019, Punjab captain R Ashwin mankaded Rajasthan’s Jos Butler.

The incident took place in the 13th over of the Rajasthan Royals innings when Ashwin, while bowling his fourth and the last over of the spell, stopped and took the bails off before bowling a delivery which left non-striker Buttler stunned.

The incident left Buttler furious who looked in ominous touch (69 off 43 balls). He had a heated exchange with Ashwin before leaving the field.


R Ashwin mankading Jos Butler in an IPL match in 2019.


Ashwin’s Response

R Ashwin, after the Tuesday’s incidence with Eoin Morgan, took to Twitter to explain his side of the story.

The Indian off-spinner, who’s been selected in India’s T-20 world cup team, claimed that he turned to run the moment he saw the fielder throw the ball, and hadn’t seen the throw had hit Rishabh Pant at the non-striker’s end.

However, Ashwin added that he would have done the same, had he even seen the ball hit Rishabh Pant. He said he’s “allowed to” take such run. On the other hand, he alleged that he’s not a “disgrace” as Eoin Morgan called him for doing it.

Ashwin emphasized that “in Morgan And Southee’s world of cricket, they can choose and stick to what they believe is right and wrong but do not have right to take moral high ground and use words that are derogatory.”

In an impassioned address to cricket fans, Ashwin stressed: “There are millions of cricketers with several thought processes that play this great game to make it their careers, teach them that an extra run taken due to a poor throw aimed to get you out can make your career and an extra yard stolen by the non striker can break your career.”

Taunting all those people terming him “good or bad” based on his actions, Ashwin said such people “have already made a living or doing what it takes to be successful elsewhere”.


Double standards?

After the verbal spat between Ashwin and Morgan, many fans across the world reminded Eoin Morgan of the four runs scored by England in the tightly contested World Cup final in 2019 against NZ. The match, that was awarded to England on the basis of boundaries scored by the teams, saw an intense run chase, in which Stokes accidentally knocked the ball coming in from deep midwicket fielder and deflected it off to the third man boundary, while attempting to dive for his crease with an outstretched bat in a bid to complete his second run.


A grey area

Dinesh Karthik, Ashwin’s teammate from Tamil Nadu and KKR’s wicket-keeper batter, said after the match that it is a “grey area” to comment on.

“I know that Rahul Tripathi threw the ball and it hit Rishabh Pant and then it ricocheted of that and Ashwin started to run. I do not think Morgan appreciates that, he is someone when the ball hits the batter, he expects them not to run because of the spirit of cricket. It is a very grey area, a very interesting topic. I have my own opinion on it but I can just say I am happy to play peacemaker and the thing has come to a good standstill right now,” Dinesh Karthik said after the match.

It is indeed a grey area. In the case of extra four runs awarded to Ben Stokes, after he dived and the ball hit his bat and raced to the boundary, he could not even get up and attempt a run. He, in fact, did not attempt to sneak a run after the ball hit his bat. He rather signalled that it wasn’t intentional. Batters generally do not attempt a run when a throw is deflected after hitting them or their partner. But according to cricket rules, which do not work in tandem with the ‘spirit of cricket’, four runs were awarded to the England team, because the ball directly reached the boundary after the deflection, and there was not an issue of the “spirit of cricket”, as Stokes did not intentionally knocked it off the boundary, but also did not run after the ball hit the bat.

But that brings us to the important question: If a boundary can be awarded in such case, why can’t batters take runs when the same happens? It is certainly not against the rules.

There’s huge competition all around the world to make it to the international cricket. Let’s not even get to the part where you have to consistently perform well when you are in the team. Every player in competitive cricket is incessantly trying to leave his/her mark by taking wickets or making runs for the team.

If something is not necessarily illegal according to the rulebook, players can or may do it on occassions where they are badly looking for wickets or runs. It doesn’t, by any measure, make them a ‘disgrace’.

If cricket experts and former players are so concerned about ethics in cricket, they should rather speak about blatant corruption in cricket, match and spot fixing practices, and hegemony of rich nations.

As far as the ‘spirit of cricket’ is concerned, the International Cricket Board (ICC) is authority enough to bring in rules that would restrict practices that are not suitable for the “gentlemen’s game”. If mankading or taking runs after deflection of throw are banned by the cricket body, there’s no reason why players like Ashwin will do it.

However, as long as it is legal in framework of laws, you cannot call it against the “spirit of cricket”, because ultimately the game, at present, does not consider it illegal.

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