A Question For Cricket Rules Purists

Some argue that the R. Ashwin ‘mankading’ incident was much ado about nothing. In case of a dispute, all umpires and players need to do is read the rules and properly enforce them. There should be no reference to any authority outside of the text; the only thing that matter is the words and what a reasonable person can infer about their meaning. [See, "Originalism" for more.] The worry is that the rules will, as Cricinfo put it, “lose out” to the ‘spirit of the game,’ a set of vague, amorphous principles that no one has ever defined.

Compelling. But this interpretive framework fails before one judicial test: “The Underarm Bowling Hypothetical.” Say you are the captain of a fielding side, and your opposition needs to score six off the last ball to tie. Do you, like Greg Chappell did in a similar situation, instruct your bowler to underarm bowl the ball? [Assume that this technique is permitted by the rules.]

If you say ‘yes,’ fine. You’re a dogmatist. (You’re also going to have deal with a large crowd of angry Kiwis, but that’s another matter.) If you at least admit some hesitation before answering, you see the power of the ‘spirit’ doctrine. So quit talking about the rules as if they’re the only factor to consider. There is something outside the text.

 

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10 thoughts on “A Question For Cricket Rules Purists

  1. Krishna Kumar says:

    I have never understood this Mankad stuff as being outside the spirit of cricket.

    A bowler gets no-balled for putting his foot mere inches from a line. What should be the penalty for a batsman who starts yards down the pitch when the ball is about to be bowled?

    Instead of the “spirit”, we should be talking more about the bias towards batsmen. Bowling restrictions (such as number of bouncers), fielding restrictions, PowerPlays, leg-byes, etc.

    Anything that favors bowlers usually starts out as being called cheating. Exhibit A: Reverse swing bowling.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Yeah, I like what you’re saying Krishna. Reframe the debate as not one between rules v spirit, but about how tradition/conventions/rules define what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Swing bowling is a good e.g. Thanks for the comment.

    • good comment. and totally agree with you Krishna.

  2. Russ says:

    I think you are confusing the issue by saying “players and umpires”. I want the umpires to apply the law precisely as written because the alternative invites chaos. Unlike umpires, players onfield actions are unconstrained except by morals, only after the fact are they interpreted by law. The “spirit” is really a question of whether you are willing to draw advantage from grey areas of the law, or legal technicalities. “The spirit” is also a culturally specific thing, infused strongly with English Christian morality (“do unto others etc.”), perceptions of respect, attitudes/expectations of authority, and fairness with respect to the listed punishment and the crime committed.

    Backing up before the bowler bowls is the proverbial dive in football. I have no problem with the Mankad because I hate diving, and I expect umpires to give it out without hesitation. In many cultures a dive is part of the game and sending the diver off unduly harsh.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      I would agree, Russ, but you, as a longtime reader of this blog, know that I hold the cricket umpire in high esteem. Just as I oppose mandatory minimum sentences (which preclude a judge from using his discretion to fit punishment to particular crimes), I’m willing to give the umpire some latitude in interpreting the rules and regulating player behavior.

  3. golandaaz says:

    After the Ian Bell non-run-out and this non-mandaked-out 2 things emerge. India want to come across as the nice guys and the influence of Sachin.

    I draw the first conclusion because of comments by Sehwag…We are soft, that’s who we are. Does not give me a feeling that he was proud of the decision. Just that they did not want criticism. Reveals a very very negative state of mind.

    In both cases from what I read Sachin was consulted.

    I don’t believe India is doing it because there is any desire to be “sporting”. Its one man’s personality grudgingly (just my own sense) being accepted by the team.

  4. Erez says:

    “If you say ‘yes,’ fine. You’re a dogmatist.” – Not really. The underarm incident, as well as the practice of bouncing your opponent to submission was a case of “one can do anything as long as it is not prohibited by the laws”. Dogmatism is more on the side of saying the umpire had no right to consult with the other umpire and the captain and had to give the batsman out the moment the appeal was given.

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  6. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank

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