As one who has always backed the bowler in cases pertaining to running out non-strikers who gain an unfair advantage by backing up too far or too early I am overjoyed to read that Ravichandran Ashwin is gaining support for the act. The Indian off-spinner has never been shy of running out batsmen in this manner something that is erroneously looked upon as “against the spirit of the game.’’ Nothing can be further from the truth for the so-called spirit of the game works both ways. In any case, it is now there in the rules that the bowler can run out a batsman in this manner and that should be the end of the matter.
This mode of dismissal was again in the news recently when Ricky Ponting – of all people – said that he would tell Ashwin not to run out batsmen in this manner. In his capacity as coach of the Delhi Capitals, he said he would have a “hard conversation’’ with Ashwin for while “he may say it is within the rules this is not within the spirit of the game.’’ Coming from Ponting who as captain of the Australian team stretched the laws of the game to their very limit and sometimes even transgressed them this is quite laughable. In any case, Ashwin’s stand has always been clear. “It’s there within the rules of the game so I don’t understand where the spirit of the game comes in.’’ After all the relevant law is clear that the non-striker may leave the crease only after the ball is delivered so as not to gain an unfair advantage.
Under the circumstances it was gratifying to read the comments made by Javagal Srinath on the subject. The former Indian fast bowler is now a much-respected match referee and he has a clear message for batsmen the world over – do not invoke the spirit of cricket if you are run out at the bowler’s end backing up too far. In a recent interview, he said he was “perfectly fine’’ with bowlers running out batsmen who tried to gain advantage by leaving the crease early. In fact, he was even more emphatic in spelling out his thoughts. “Don’t look for any empathy. Don’t invoke the spirit of the game. The spirit of the game is with the runner. He cannot move out of the crease. If he is doing it he is not invoking the spirit of the game. I believe that the batsman should stick to the crease.’’
Ashwin also found support from his new IPL boss Parth Jindal who felt that the bowler had shown “a lot of courage’’ in running out Jos Buttler while captaining King”s XI Punjab in last year’s IPL. “`Rules are rules’’ Jindal said highlighting the example of MS Dhoni’s run out in last year’s World Cup semifinal. “He was run out just by inches. If he wasn’t India would have possibly made it to the finals.’’