The Emirates Twenty20 has been a neat addition to the UAE sport landscape. Despite being played in cricket’s most modern format, in a ground in Dubai’s desert, it still feels like a quaint evocation of the past.
A time when idlers in flannels played the game for fun on rolling village greens. Little children play pick up games just beyond the boundary rope. They only stop when its time to eat packed lunches with their mums and dads, or to lob the ball back when the professional players on the main field hit it in their direction.
The fact MCC, the ancient custodians of the “spirit of cricket”, play in it only adds to the warm, fuzzy, dated feel.
Weird then, that the cricket in the middle – really just a glorified warm-up before the county season – should have provoked genuine anger and spite.
Rohan Mustafa, the UAE all-rounder, was at the centre of it during the national team’s morning fixture against Lancashire.
Not for the first time in the past month while bowling his off-spin, Mustafa opted to warn a non-striker for leaving his crease too early. He did it twice against Lancashire, in fact.
Such malevolence. Both batsmen took issue with him. When he then went out to open the batting for UAE, he was met with a volley of abuse.
At one point, he left the batting crease to angrily discuss it further with the wicketkeeper.
Just to confirm, his crime was to warn a batsman that if he continued to steal yards, he would run him out.
The mode of dismissal is known as a “Mankad”, after the former India player Vinoo Mankad who performed the dismissal in a Test against Australia.
In the seven matches the national team played in the Asia Cup, plus one in the Emirates T20, Mustafa has warned at least six players. He has yet to follow through on the threat, even though he would be within his rights to do so. And yet he is seen as the bad guy.
At that Asia Cup, Amir Kaleem, a left-arm spinner for Oman, ran out a Hong Kong batsman by the same method. With no warning, either.
Kaleem, who is either Machiavelli or market-leader, depending on your viewpoint, may be unique in that he actively aims for Mankads. He has said as much.
When the UAE played against him in Dhaka, they were wise to it. He pulled out of his bowling action on two separate occasions, trying to catch out both Amjad Javed and Mohammed Shahzad. Neither of the UAE batsmen had motioned down the pitch at all.
With their bat, and two feet behind the line, they looked at Kaleem in humoured fashion, as if to say, “Nice try, but you won’t catch us out.” It was not too hard to solve.
It was decent strategising on UAE’s part. They were not so arrogant to think Kaleem was some villain who should not be allowed to use the laws to his advantage.
After that, as well as a more high-profile case at the Under 19 World Cup, officials apparently briefed the players ahead of the World Twenty20 to avoid Mankads. Presumably because the rules are not already skewed far enough in the batsman’s favour.
For some reason, the idea a batsman can be run out backing up seems to stir bitter hatred. It should not.
From the experience of watching Kaleem, it totally changes the way players and spectators look at the game. The focus is on both ends of the pitch. To be honest, it is exciting.
If non-strikers are stealing, like England’s Sarah Taylor did so obviously in the women’s World Twenty20 against India when she was reprieved by the bowler, they should be fair game.
India took two wickets in the next two deliveries in that game. If Taylor had been run out, it would have been three in two.
If Mankads did become more common, it would just be a new problem for batsmen to solve.
Like a few years ago, when Saeed Ajmal took a stack of wickets in the UAE with the aid of technology. The decision review system was said to be ruining the game.
Batsmen were supposedly going to have to totally overhaul their techniques because of it. Yet they found a way. It is barely spoken about now.
By comparison, standing your ground until the bowler lets the ball go should not be too difficult a conundrum to cure.
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