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Under-19 World Cup: On Virat Kohli and the Mankad

A couple of interesting things have happened since Monday.

One, AllOutCricket wrote a great article on Virat Kohli, questioning whether his classnessness was sullying his class.

Two, the WI under-19 team mankaded their way to the quarter finals of the under-19 World Cup.

Let’s take a look at the second one first.

Having watched highlights of the game yesterday, I can confirm that for 99 overs, it was a cracking game of cricket. There was some seriously quick bowling from young Alzarri Joseph. A direct hit from the West Indian skipper took the 9th wicket. The game went into the last over with three runs to win and the last man in. Then, this happened.

The bowler ran in without any intention of bowling the ball. He then took the bails off at the non-striker’s end. No warning was given.

Was he within the rules to do so? Yes.

Was this the best way to win any game? That is the question I want to address.

It can be argued that in a tight game, every inch matters. That if the non-striker backs-up too much he is gaining an unfair advantage in reaching the other end. That if the bowler warns the batsman doing so and the batsman refuses to mend his ways, he is entitled to mankad him. I do appreciate all these arguments, but none of them apply here.

Look how far out the batsman is.

 It’s a really, really tight call on the run out. Did the bowler have no faith in his ability to get the batsman on strike out?  Would this mode of dismissal have even crossed the mind of a bowler who believed he could win it for his team? Would a skipper confident in his team’s ability to win the game under “normal” circumstances have insisted on making the appeal?

People still remember Courtney Walsh declining to mankad the last Pakistani wicket to reach the semi-finals of the 1987 World Cup. Was a berth in this U-19 WC quarter final more precious?  Is this what this young team wants to be remembered for?

Irrespective of what they want, this is what they will be remembered for. And all the good work done by Joseph and others will be overshadowed by this incident and the ludicrous celebrations by the West Indies at the end of the game.

Which brings us to Virat Kohli. An under-19 prodigy who captained India to a junior World Cup win in Malaysia. Apparently, the South Africans received a tongue-lashing from him during their chase after suggesting in the innings break they would send India home empty-handed.

Since then, while he has grown to be a tremendous batsman for India, Kohli has been in trouble both on and off the field – from flipping the crowd to abusing journalists to providing noisy send-offs and being involved in other confrontations. Will greatness be the price he pays for failing to reel himself in? Other than his antics, there is nothing that suggests he shouldn’t be one of the great Indian batsmen. Yet, only time will tell whether he will be classed along the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman.

Some say it’s his personality. Some say he needs it to fire himself up to perform. Some say he is even willing to pay the price of greatness to have the last word.

I say that he got away with at the junior level and he knows he will get away with it now.

This young West Indian team seems to think the same thing. Dark days lie ahead for cricket if tomorrow’s cricketers believe that there is no cost to winning a game like this.




  1. Pascal

    It was an unfortunate victim on this occasion, but it was always going to take a controversial incident to expose the hypocrisy of unfair backing up. Like it or not, he was out of his crease, so I don’t see how this guy’s career will be defined by it. If he’s a good enough cricketer, this incident will have no bearing. You appear to think that he’s not good enough, and he knows it…well so be it, but that;s another matter entirely.

  2. Pascal, thank you very much for your comment. It was a pretty sad way for the game to end. There are arguments to be made both ways but I feel the best way to deal with this is to change the rules and give the umpires the discretion to decide whether they think that the batsman was seeking to gain an unfair advantage by backing up too much. That will bring mankading in line with the “obstructing the field” rule where the fielding team is entitled to appeal but the final decision lies with the umpires.

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