On Tuesday, Sri Lanka and England were playing the last ODI of the series at Birmingham. England were batting, Jos Buttler was the batsman at the non-striker's end and Sachitra Senanayake was the bowler. As Senanayake charged in, he stopped and took off the bails at the non-striker's end, then appealed to umpire Michael Gough for a run out.
The batsmen had set off for runs already, but eventually, Buttler was given out, leaving the England dressing room - in particular their captain Alastair Cook - fuming.
The run out was perfectly legal. The batsman had backed up - that is he had left the crease - when he was dismissed. The row was over whether it was ethical. The England players believed Sri Lanka had 'broken the spirit of the game', while the Sri Lankans defended themselves stoutly.
Knocking off the bails at the bowler's end during your run up seems to be a strange way of getting a batsman out. So how did this phenomenon begin?
It first happened in 1947 in a test match between India and Australia. Vinoo Mankad, the Indian bowler, ran out Australia's Bill Brown. He knocked off the bails at the bowler's end. Bill Brown had left the crease and was subsequently declared dismissed following an appeal. In fact, Mankad had done this to Brown in an India v/s Australian XI match earlier during the tour, but on that occasion he had warned him in advance.
Like on Tuesday, the Australian media in 1947 also railed Vinoo Mankad with accusations of being unsporting, though Australian legend Don Bradman defended him. This kind of dismissal came to be known as "Mankading".
The laws were later changed to disallow 'Mankading'. The bowler could only get a non-striker batsman out if the former was in his run up but not in his delivery stride.
However, in 2011, the ICC changed the rules once again, allowing 'Mankading' as long as the bowler's delivery swing was not complete, even if he had entered his delivery stride. The law states that 'The umpires shall deem the bowler to have completed his delivery swing once his bowling arm passes the normal point of ball release.'
There have been several instances of 'Mankading' in cricket ever since the very first one in 1947.
Instances of Mankading in Test cricket
1) Ian Redpath by Charlie Griffith, Australia v West Indies, Adelaide, 1968-69
2) Derek Randall by Ewen Chatfield, England v New Zealand, Christchurch, 1977-78
3) Sikander Bakht by Alan Hurst, Pakistan v Australia, Perth, 1978-79
Instances of Mankading in One Day Internationals
1) Brian Luckhurst by Greg Chappell, England v Australia, Melbourne, 1974-75
2) Grant Flower by Dipak Patel, Zimbabwe v New Zealand, Harare, 1992-93
3) Peter Kirsten by Kapil Dev, South Africa v India, Port Elizabeth, 1992-93: This was a very controversial dismissal. Kapil Dev ran out Peter Kirsten at the non-striker's end, appealed quickly as was rewarded quickly by the umpire. Following this, he had a few choice words for the batsman at the striker's end. The fact that this was India's first ever tour of South Africa (South Africa had returned to international cricket after being banned for 20 years due to apartheid laws in the country) made it all the more acrimonious.
4) Jos Buttler by Sachithra Senanayake, England v Sri Lanka, Birmingham, 2014
There are however, instances where the bowling team refused to indulge in Mankading. That is, they withdrew the appeal after the umpires consulted the team captain and the bowler. Sometimes, the bowler stopped at the popping crease and indicated to the batsman that he had left the crease, saving him his wicket. Interestingly, all of these incidents resulted in a loss for the bowling team.
1) In the 1987 World Cup, Courtney Walsh famously refused to 'Mankad' Saleem Jaffer of Pakistan. He let Jaffer off with a warning. The incident allowed Pakistan to win the match, and cost West Indies a place in the semifinals.
2) In a test match between Bangladesh and Pakistan in 2003, Mohammad Rafique, the Bangladeshi bowler, refused to run out Umar Gul via Mankading. Pakistan won the famous test match by just 1 wicket, denying Bangladesh a historic win. Bangladesh are yet to win a test against Pakistan as of 2014.
3) Indian bowler Ravichandran Ashwin 'Mankaded' Lahiru Thirimanne of Sri Lanka when he backed up too much before the ball was bowled in a group match of the Commonwealth Bank Series 2012 held in Australia. However, the umpires Paul Reiffel and Billy Bowden reconsidered the appeal, then asked captain Virender Sehwag if he wanted to withdraw it. Sehwag discussed the matter with Sachin Tendulkar and the appeal was withdrawn. There is also controversy as to whether Ashwin warned Thirimanne before Mankading him. Ashwin says he did, then-Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene says he did not. Thirimanne made 62 and Sri Lanka ended up victors by 51 runs.
Though 'Mankading' is still not considered an honourable act, what is even more demeaning is the umpires conferring about the dismissal after the appeal. Often, the umpires have consulted the bowling captain to find out if he wishes to withdraw the appeal. As Cricinfo puts it, such consultations make the bowler's act seem very underhanded, even though it is perfectly legal.
There is also the question of whether the batsman should be allowed to back up at all - because in doing so he shortens the distance he has to run to complete a run - even before the ball has been bowled.