Kapil Dev is agitated. He wants to know, “Will cricket always remain a batsman’s game?” Why is the onus on “keeping alive the spirit of the game” only on the bowler? Can you play cricket “without bowlers” and how long are the bowlers going to be at the “receiving end.”
The incident involving R. Ashwin and Aaron Finch in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) once again brought the Indian off-spinner in the news and this time for not running the batsman who had backed too far. “Ashwin should have run him out. As simple as that,” thundered Kapil, who had once run out South African batsman Peter Kirsten similarly in a one-day international at Port Elizabeth in 1992-93.
“I did feel bad about what had happened but then I had to because Peter just won’t mend his ways of straying down the pitch even before I had bowled,” said Kapil. “Not that I enjoyed doing what I did but he was not being fair. His argument was that he had to do it to match the running speed of his [partner] Jonty Rhodes. That was not my headache.”
It certainly was Ashwin’s headache because, as Kapil emphasised, the stakes are much higher now. “There is such scrutiny that a no-ball is watched so very closely by the technology available. Of course, no-ball is not a legal delivery but then is the batsman not ‘stealing’ the run by standing outside the crease to gain unfair advantage?” asked Kapil.
As Kapil pointed out, “Isn’t there a law in this regard?” According to ICC Law 42.15, “The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker.” When the law allows, insists Kapil, the bowler should “run out” the non-striker. “It’s a rule. There’s no spirit of the game involved here,” said Kapil.
For Kartik Murali, the “spirit of the game” is a “ridiculous” argument. “It’s spirit of the game if a bowler plays by the law. Where is this written? This spirit of the game! Which book has this been explained in? Which book store can I purchase this phantom book from that explains the spirit of the game.”
Kartik has run out the non-striker six times for backing too far. Playing for Surrey, Kartik ran out Alex Barrow of Somerset at Taunton in the 2013 County Championship. There was uproar but Kartik defended his act and was supported strongly by Sunil Gavaskar. “Each time on those six occasions I had warned the non-striker. If it comes to it I would do this ten times in an innings. Why should the batsman get unfair advantage?” added Kartik.
ALSO READ | Injured Amit Mishra ruled out of the tournament
The debate on the “spirit of the game” has always invited widespread responses. Sunil Gavaskar has always supported the bowler and had sprung to the defence of Kartik. In Kapil’s opinion, a simple solution is “penalise the batsman with a short run ruling. Or a five-run penalty can be a strong deterrent. Two runs to win off the last ball. You run two. And then the umpire rules one run short. I want to see how many batsmen would stand outside the crease if the rule of short run is introduced for backing too far,” said Kapil.
Kartik observed “Ashwin did the right thing because he would have been savaged by those who talk of spirit of the game. But I would have run out Finch.”
Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake appeals for a run out of Jos Buttler during an ODI against England in Birmingham, on June 03, 2014. Buttler was to be ‘Mankaded’ again in IPL 2019. – GETTY IMAGES
Kapil wanted to know, “Is upholding the spirit of the game a responsibility that lies with the bowlers only. What about the batsmen? As it is bowlers are not treated on the same level as batsmen. Fielding restrictions, the bouncer rule, wide-ball judgement, all put the bowler under severe scrutiny. In my opinion, Finch, or any other batsman backing too far, is basically ‘stealing’ a run. He is stealing. And that it not in the spirit of the game! In athletics, don’t you get disqualified for repeated false starts? Do that in cricket and penalise the batsman for trying to steal a run. Stop putting the onus on the bowler alone.”
On a concluding note, Kapil noted, “It should be the third umpire’s job now. He watches the no-ball for the bowler over-stepping. Now watch the batsman too for over-stepping. High time this issue is dealt with in a fair manner to the bowlers. In the spirit of the game!”