The IPL has started. It will run like a virus scan in the background of our lives for the next few weeks. Tune in if you can, all the matches are available on Willow in the states. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has its moments.
And today was one of those moments.
As Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler was chasing the target set by Kings XI Punjab, bowler R Ashwin committed the greatest cricket sin of all: he Mankaded him.
As Ashwin was running up to make his delivery, Buttler creeped out of his crease, Ashwin stopped short of bowling the ball and clipped the bails off of Buttler’s wicket. Out. And from there the Royals’ chase fell of a cliff, losing seven wickets for just 16 runs to lose by 14 runs. It was a perfectly legal move by Ashwin — there is nothing in the laws of the game that prohibit such a stumping — but it does, according to many, violate the hallowed Spirit of the Game. As such, there were confrontations on the pitch after the “incident” and Twitter went absolute batshit, with most people thinking the law needed to be changed yesterday, and that Ashwin should never be able to play cricket again (no one actually went quite that far, but people got close!).
There were other voices of reason who said that what he did was fine and that people need to chill out. Which is basically where I stand on the matter. Ashwin’s explanation that the move was “instinctful” confirmed my position. He wasn’t actively try to get Buttler out via some underhanded move, he simply saw him out of his crease and muscle memory took over so Buttler was out. All the pearl clutching across the internet over the move is a little silly.
Just another reminder that cricket is always full of surprises. And while the IPL can be a little much, it is still cricket, and cricket is always great. And it’s great because there’s something called a Mankad, and because there is an unwritten gentlemanly code that governs players’ decisions. Most sports have their share of unwritten rules — the phantom tag at second in baseball, etc — but no sport has as many as cricket, and no sport enforces them so vehemently. Cricket always stands out in a crowd — sometimes for good, sometimes for not. Today fell firmly into the former category. I like a sport that keeps you guessing what will happen next, and cricket most assuredly does that. What will tomorrow bring? Another Mankad? A 14 ball half century? A five wicket haul? A nonsense super over? A match won on the final ball? There’s only one way to find out.