The chump and the cheat
Run-out had nothing to do with cricket’s rules, spirit or traditions. Just failures of intelligence and integrity
Just six games in and the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has delivered 11 half-centuries and four three-wicket hauls. One of the latter came from Imran Tahir, who took 3/9 for Chennai Super Kings against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai on Saturday.
The best score by a South African in those games is David Miller’s 40-ball 59 not out for Punjab Kings XI against Knight Riders in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Doubtless the worthy performances will mount as the tournament wears on, but for now the IPL’s biggest story is what didn’t happen when Ravichandran Ashwin shambled in to bowl the fifth delivery of the 13th over of Rajasthan Royals’ innings in their game against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur on Monday.
Ashwin didn’t bowl that ball and Buttler didn’t see what was happening behind him – Ashwin landed in his delivery stride, then changed course and broke the wicket. An angry exchange between the two players ensued while the television umpire, Bruce Oxenford, made up his mind. Oxenford’s decision was correct: Buttler had been run out.
That Buttler was out of his ground when Ashwin flicked off the bails was undeniable. But it was just as true that Buttler’s bat was still behind the crease when Ashwin started moving back towards the stumps – the most important fact of this matter and a damning indictment of the bowler’s intentions.
Ashwin didn’t punish Buttler for cheating by stealing ground, which would have been his right. Instead, he engineered a dismissal that was patently unfair in every sense except where he knew it mattered: in the terms of what cricket calls its laws.
Ashwin cheated Buttler into believing he would bowl the ball. Then he cheated Oxenford into handing down the only possible decision.
He even cheated the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which said in a statement: “To clarify, it has never been in the laws that a warning should be given to the non-striker and nor is it against the spirit of cricket to run out a non-striker who is seeking to gain an advantage by leaving his/her ground early.
“Furthermore, with batsmen now being deemed in or out by millimetres by TV replays on quick singles, it is right that they should remain in their ground at the non-striker’s end until it is fair for them to leave.”
A day later, it appeared the MCC had changed its mind. “After reviewing footage of the incident and trying to work out when the moment is that the bowler is expected to deliver the ball – the key here – we think Buttler was still in his ground,” the club’s “laws manager”, Fraser Stewart, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail’s website. “There’s then a delay, before Buttler drifts out of his crease – and it’s this delay that makes the dismissal against the spirit of cricket.”
What the nice man from the MCC didn’t say was whether it was right that bowlers should seek to entrap batters, as Ashwin unarguably did.
If you’ve had to put up with him, you would not be surprised. Ashwin’s arrogance at press conferences makes Virat Kohli come across like a monk, which is in its own way impressive for someone who has failed to get his head above the parapet of mediocrity on anything other than home pitches.
He averages 48.07 in Tests in Australia and 46.14 in SA, and 28.25 in Asia. He is a one-trick pony who seems to think he is a quality bowler, despite resounding evidence to the contrary presented on pitches that aren’t made bespoke for him.
Still, Buttler should have known better. He suffered the same fate playing for England against Sri Lanka in a one-day international at Edgbaston in June 2014 – that time at the hands of Sachithra Senanayake, and after the bowler had warned him.
The danger of losing your wicket cannot be worth the gamble of a being a few millimetres closer to the other end of the pitch. This has nothing to do with cricket’s rules, spirit or traditions. It has everything to do with failures of intelligence and integrity. Buttler is a chump. Ashwin is a cheat.