Home / Opinion / Views /  Deepti Sharma is the latest to be crucified by cricket’s self-appointed godmen

Young Deepti Sharma just won a game for her country with some smart thinking on the cricket field. But in doing so she seems to have rekindled a recurring debate which has often seen cricket’s morality police get its knickers in a twist.

In simple terms, here's what Sharma did: as she came in to bowl, she noticed the non-striker, Charlotte Dean, had strayed out of her crease and she promptly ran her out. As per the law, Dean was expected to stay in her crease till the ball had been delivered, so Deepti did no wrong.

But ever since 1948 when the great Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, a bigger gentleman than many of those clucking their dismay today, ran out an Australian batsman under similar circumstances, the act has come under a cloud with the term "Mankading" derisively used to describe it. Years later, another great Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev did the same to South African Peter Kirsten at Port Elizabeth during a one-day game in the 1992-93 series, inviting the same outraged reactions from some commentators.

Both the gentlemen actually warned the non-strikers that they were straying outside the crease, thus taking unfair advantage and actually acting against the spirit of the game. But when their warnings were ignored, they had no hesitation in running them out.

Since then, better sense has prevailed and very sensibly, the International Cricket Council just this month legalized the mode of dismissal which should remove all the stigma that has surrounded it.

Still the clucking brigade won’t be silenced and chose to roast the 25-year-old woman for the crime. One three-tests-and-66-runs wonder, Sam Billings, announced sanctimoniously on Twitter: “There’s surely not a person who has played the game that thinks this is acceptable." Actually a few who have played a bit more of the game than him, do think it is more than acceptable. Among them is R. Ashwin of 86 tests and 442 wickets and himself a victim of the same canard some years ago. Others like Virender Sehwag too called it out for what it is, complete hogwash.

The problem, of course, is that they are both Indians and therefore not considered authoritative enough to pass judgment on what’s fair and unfair in the game. That’s for the likes of Nasser Hussain and Stuart Broad, both just coincidentally Englishmen. Broad declared that he wouldn’t like to win a match like that. Sure. This is the same man who in a 2013 Trent Bridge test against Australia refused to walk after having edged left-arm spinner Ashton Agar to Michael Clarke at slip. His brazen defence: umpire Aleem Dar hadn't given him out though he later confessed he knew he had nicked it. England won that test, thanks in no small part to Broad's spirit.

Let’s face it — what these worthies hated was the fact that the Indian women’s team had blanked their team 3-0 in the ODI series. Such defeat hurts and fingers must be promptly pointed. Indeed, for all the brouhaha over the simple form of run-out, you would imagine the gentlemen’s game has seen no other evil. Underarm bowling, bodyline, ball tampering and, of course, sledging are just a few of the less noble acts that have emanated and flourished over the years.

Perhaps we need to draw some more attention to those. Thus, the tactics of instructing fast bowlers to target the batsman's body, introduced to the game by Englishman Douglas Jardine, ought to be immortalized by being named 'Jardining'. And while underarm bowling has since been outlawed, we should remember it as 'Chappelling' after the duo of Greg Chappell and his brother Trevor Chappell who collaborated in that shameful act 41 years ago.

Name-calling gets far more interesting when it cuts both ways.

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