A potential debate was avoided at IPL 2020 when Delhi Capitals spinner R Ashwin warned Royal Challengers Bangalore opener Aaron Finch for backing up too much at the non-striker’s end but didn’t take the chance to run him out for the same. While bowling the third over of the Royal Challengers chase in Dubai, the bowler stopped short of delivering what would have been the fourth delivery and went through his action without letting go off the ball.
Finch, on 12 then, ventured well out of the crease with his eyes on his partner Devdutt Padikkal, even as Ashwin reacted with a wry smile with Finch a few steps down the pitch. Umpire Nitin Menon alerted Finch about it and the cameras immediately panned to the Capitals dugout to show head coach Ricky Ponting, who had disagreed with Ashwin on running out batsmen at the non-striker’s end even before this IPL had started.
Ashwin, who has previously dismissed a batsman this way at the IPL, had been tweeting about the issue before this season started, suggesting bowlers get a “free ball” if non-strikers were found backing up too much. Ponting, in turn, had said he would have a “hard conversation” with the spinner about the mode of dismissal upon reaching the UAE for IPL 2020. The debate around this type of dismissal stems from the fact that, while it is very much within the laws of cricket, there are those that think it is against the spirit of the game.
Ponting said on the podcast the Grade Cricketer in August: “Look, he’s a terrific bowler, and he’s done a great job in IPL for a long period of time now, but I must admit watching that last season [Ashwin running out Jos Buttler], as soon as it happened and he did that, I actually sat our boys down and said ‘look, I know he’s done it, there’ll be others around the tournament who’ll think about doing this well, but that’s not going to be the way that we play our cricket, we won’t be doing that’.
“So that’s going to be a conversation and that’s going to be a hard conversation I will have to have with him, but I’m pretty sure he’ll take it on the chin. I think, even him, looking back now, he will probably say it was within the rules and he’s right to do it, but this is not within the spirit of the game, not in the way I want, at least with the Delhi Capitals anyway.”
The dismissal Ponting referred to was from last year’s IPL when Ashwin, then captain of the Kings XI Punjab, ran out Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals, as the batsman was found backing up at the non-striker’s end. It led to a big controversy with the MCC calling Ashwin’s pause before delivering against the spirit of cricket. Incidentally, Ponting sits on the MCC’s World Cricket Committee and has been the coach of the Capitals since 2018, and Ashwin joined the franchise between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Ashwin had said after the Kings XI vs Royals match that his actions were “instinctive” and he dismissed Buttler by staying within the laws of the game.
“There’s ways that you can actually stop batsmen cheating like that,” Ponting said on the podcast. “If the bowler was to stop and the batsman was a foot out of his crease for instance, you just penalise him some runs or something. Do that and then they won’t do it again. You’ve only got to do that once at the start of a tournament and then all the players see it, and I guarantee that players won’t be fudging any ground from there on.
“I chatted to some of the match referees about it during last year’s IPL as well. If the umpires make a stance and do something to actually warn the batsman that they might be cheating, then that’s better than having the ugly incident of a mankad.”
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