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Bowlers have been running out non-strikers since the first half of the 19th century, but the stigma attached to it is recent. The MCC’s recent intervention has been a welcome move, writes Abhishek Mukherjee.
Thomas Barker is a largely forgotten cricketer from the first half of the 19th century. Barker could bowl fast, both roundarm and underarm. “So violent was it, that he sometimes ran up to the crease and propelled his instrument of attack as though his head would follow the ball,” wrote William Denison.
Of all Barker’s wickets, 211 came in matches that were given first-class status. However, none of the five first-class dismissals he is remembered for – in 1835, 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1843 – are among these 211. They were all run outs, of non-strikers who were too casual to forsee the threat, leaving the crease prematurely at their peril.
The last of these wickets was of Edward Martin of Hampshire. Barker was playing at Lord’s that day, for the MCC. In those days, any cricketing incident at Lord’s became the subject of discussion (it still does), but Barker’s was not. Dismissing the non-striker that way was not looked down upon.
Felix on the Bat, Nicholas Felix’s book of cricket instructions, was published two years after Barker ran out Martin at Lord’s. It featured an illustration, warning non-strikers “too anxious to obtain a run”. The instructions were simple: “It is dangerous to leave your ground before you are well convinced that the bowler is not watching your over anxiety [sic].”
Felix, too, seems very clear in his stance: there was no attempt to blame the bowler. Neither is there a mention of warning.
In 1870 – again, at Lord’s – Eton captain George Harris ran out Conrad Wallroth of Harrow the same way. Later Lord Harris, George would become a significant amateur, as Kent and England captain and administrator. Spencer Gore, the first man to win the Wimbledon, wrote that Harris “put himself on to bowl (quite rightly, to my mind), and, pretending to bowl, caught Wallroth tripping, and he paid the penalty.”
By then, four more batters had been run out in the same way in first-class cricket – including two in Australia.
The dismissal found its way to India after the Great War. When Lionel Tennyson brought a team to India in 1937/38, Khadim Hussain of Sind ran out Joe Hardstaff.
The dismissal gets a name
A decade later, Vinoo Mankad toured Australia with India. The exact course of events is often not described in detail. In a tour match, in Sydney, Bill Brown stepped out of the crease. Mankad warned him the first time. When Brown did it again, Mankad ran him out.
Bill O’Reilly was characteristically clear in his column: “Mankad subscribed to the ethical rule … Brown was at fault.”
Surprisingly, Brown did an encore in Brisbane shortly afterwards. Mankad warned him, and the matter ended there. Perhaps emboldened by that, Brown was at it again, in the Sydney Test match.
This time there was no warning. Brown threw the bat away, but that was not going to change the umpire’s mind. This time Ray Robinson came out in support for Mankad – that too in the headline: “Brown learns the hard way; run out again.”
In Farewell to Cricket, Don Bradman was just as clear: “There was absolutely no feeling in the matter as far as we were concerned, for we considered it quite a legitimate part of the game.”
The Australian public, too, generally sided with Mankad in their letters to the various newspapers. One of the sternest opinions came from one AW Richards, who wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald: “If Brown does not know the rules or will not accept decisions in a sporting manner, he is not a proper person to play for Australia.”
Another reader, with initials IWM, nearly echoed Felix: “If a schoolboy was dismissed in this way, the sports master would probably stand him down for a couple of matches. The batsman would be severely reprimanded for bad taste in having thrown down his bat.”
Barring Jack Fingleton (and back in England, KS Duleepsinhji), Mankad generally received praise. Cricket historian B Sreeram pointed out that Brown himself tried to run out the South Australian openers in the same manner – albeit as a joke, much like Charlie Dean’s act in the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy final. The Australian newspapers reported it as “doing a Mankad”.
Fast forward two decades, when Charlie Griffith ran out Ian Redpath – without a warning – in the Adelaide Test match of 1968/69. The Age report described it as “pulled a ‘Vinoo Mankad’.” In 1974/75, Greg Chappell ran out a debutant Brian Luckhurst in an ODI. Percy Beames’ piece opened with “Mankad started the fad”. In the Sydney Morning Herald in 1978/79, Kersi Meher-Homji noted that the term ‘Mankaded’ had already been coined.
The stigma and the full circle
Alan Hurst ran out Sikander Bakht in the same season. By then, the perception towards the dismissal had changed drastically. The Pakistanis were so incensed that when Andrew Hilditch picked up a ball and returned it to the bowler, Sarfraz Nawaz, the latter appealed for handled the ball and claimed the wicket.
Over the next four decades, the mode of dismissal became frequent. Keemo Paul did it at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup; R Ashwin at the IPL; and in 2021, Maeva Douma of Cameroon ran out four Ugandans in the same match. A curious stigma became attached to the name, to the extent that Mankad’s family became uncomfortable at the association. His son Rahul requested the cricket media to stop using it.
Each run out caused a stir. At Lord’s on September 24, 2022, Deepti Sharma became the third to effect a run out at the Home of Cricket, after Barker and Harris. The MCC responded to Sharma’s incident with a brief statement, which stated – in no uncertain terms: “MCC’s message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday, cannot happen.”
The associated stigma has indeed been lifted. Things have indeed come full circle at Lord’s.