12 June 2014

If there's 'Mankaading' then there's 'Buttlering'

'Buttlering' gives a batsman an edge of a couple of yards while a bowler who errs by a fraction of an inch is no-balled.
These days batsmen who get out don’t always walk back to the pavilion.  No, I am not talking about batsmen who having snicked a ball to the keeper pretending they have not, hoping that the umpire would have missed it.  The rules have changed and sometimes the umpires ‘go upstairs’ to see if the delivery was legit. They let the cameras decide if the bowler has overstepped and therefore delivered a ‘no ball’, in which case the batsman stays.

What this means is that a fraction of an inch is all it takes for a wicket taking delivery to be penalized with a run to the opposition.   It’s all good.  There’s a popping crease marked on the wicket for a reason. 
Still, it appears that the laws and traditions are very strict for the bowler but go easy on the batsmen and nothing shows this up better than what might be called ‘Buttlering’.

During the 5th ODI between England and Sri Lanka Jos Buttler, the English batsman was declared out after Sri Lankan spinner Sachitra Senanayake ‘Mankaaded’ him; i.e. whipped the bails off at the non-striker’s end before he got into his delivery stride after finding Buttler out of the crease.  Ravi Bopara, with whom Buttler put together a partnership that almost brought England a victory in the 4th ODI said ‘it was the done thing’.  The ‘done thing’, let’s call it ‘Buttlering’ turned some twenty plus singles into ‘twos’ in that 4th ODI.  ‘Buttlering’ did not go unnoticed. Warnings were issued.  Buttlering in the 5th ODI prompted further warnings and was put to a stop by Sachitra ‘Mankaading’ Jos. 

Now since batsmen often get ‘run out by a whisker’, an advantage of even an inch or two can make a massive difference.  While a fraction ‘off’ can deny a bowler a wicket because it would be called a ‘no ball’, a fraction ‘extra’ secures safety for a batsman.  In the former case, the bowler is penalized and in the latter the batsman is rewarded.  Is this cricket, as the saying goes? Sadly, it is.

That’s a batsman vs bowler affair.  But there’s inconsistency for batsmen too.  If a lead of a few feet at the beginning of a run is fair (i.e. ‘the done thing’), why should a few inches short in the event of a batsman not touching the crease when turning for a second run be called ‘one short’ by the umpire? 

The umpire is alert to where the bowler’s foot lands when he delivers. That’s part of his job. The umpire is not required to check if the non-striker is behind the crease (i.e. either a foot or the grounded bat) at the same moment.  It can’t be too difficult to write something into the law to deter Buttlering, which is nothing but blatant gamesmanship and a deliberate abuse of a lacuna in the law.  The umpire can take note and if a single (or two or three) is taken, declare ‘one short’. 

As things stand, however, the bowler gets shortchanged while the batsman has the opportunity to steal a few coins.  They add up, as the 4th ODI clearly showed.  If Buttlering is sanctioned then checking for no-balls after a wicket is taken must be done away with.  Indeed, if the transgression is similar (in length) to done-thing-length or Buttler-Length, then no-ball should not be called.  If someone really wants clarity, consistency and hard line rules, then an adjustment should be made to the length of the track, say 24 yards instead of 22.  Don’t like it?  Well then, let’s not treat Buttlering in international cricket as though it was something that happens in the village greens where coconut tree is a fielder and a ‘six’ into the grumpy neighbor’s garden is ‘out’. 

Technology has invaded cricket.  Rules have been fine-tuned.  Players are required to show greater degrees of professionalism.  Buttlerism persists though and is played down and even applauded by fellow cheats like Ravi Bopara while Mankaading is booed. 

Something is wrong here and the ICC must do what’s necessary to correct it. 

P.S. For an analogy in politics please read 'Doing the done thing'