It was a record-breaking day for women’s sport in North London – over at the Emirates stadium in Highbury 47,000 watched Arsenal smash their local rivals Tottenham 4-0 in the Women’s Super League; whilst here in St John’s Wood 15,000 were at Lord’s to see England nearly pull off a miracle in the 3rd and final ODI versus India.
It was a hard-fought game of cricket, with some fantastic bowling from players on both sides, but it will really only be remembered for one thing: the mankad which ended the match.
My view is that it was within the rules, and should have been given out. Although the law as it currently stands is intended to prevent “fake bowling” the wording is simply that the batter must be out of her crease at the moment the ball would have been bowled, and Charlie Dean was (just) out of her crease when Deepti Sharma mankaded her.
But I think it was a terrible moment for Charlie Dean… a terrible moment of cricket… and actually a terrible moment for Deepti.
Let’s begin with the last of those. Deepti has probably severely damaged what’s left of her career. In the short term, who of the England players will want to play franchise cricket with her ever again now? In the longer term, that moment will follow her everywhere – it will be the only thing anyone ever talks about. And I can’t believe for one moment that’s what she’d want her legacy to be – an underhand piece of gamesmanship in a match which in the greater scheme of things really didn’t matter, as India had already won the series, and almost certainly will finish the ICC Championship qualifying easily, with or without those 2 points.
It won India the game, but in Jhulan Goswami’s last ever match, where she’d been given an unprecedented guard of honour onto the field by the England players, it finished with her being booed off the ground at the end. That’s what she’ll remember from her last ever international. What a pity.
Of course, many are defending the mankad, because it was “within the laws” but actually that doesn’t make it the right way to win a cricket match. After all… bodyline was “within the laws”.
I always liked football blogger Arseblog’s take on this kind of thing: If it was done to your team, how would you feel? I think it is pretty safe to say that most India fans would have been up in arms if England had done it to Smriti earlier in the day, for example.
The issue I have with the mankad is that it isn’t skill, or even luck – it is pure trickery and gamespanship. Deepti has form on pushing the laws like this – she frequently pulls out of her bowling action at the very last moment. The bowler is permitted to do this when they are distracted, or the batter moves; but Deepti does it to try to gain an unfair psychological advantage by unsettling the batter. The mankad at Lord’s was from the same playbook – it was (just-about) not “fake bowling” – I’m not accusing her of that – but it was as close to that line as it is possible to get.
I’ve also seen a few ex-players defend Deepti, effectively saying it was moral because it was within the laws which is particularly interesting, because they don’t actually believe this. If they did, they’d have executed tens of mankads in their careers, but they didn’t… because they knew at the time it was an underhand tactic and not the right way to play.
I do accept that there needs to be some sanction for the non-striker stealing ground, but the loss of the wicket is too harsh and too controversial a penalty, because there is no skill involved. Perhaps the answer is to write the warning, which is traditionally said to be given, into the laws – so the first time the batter is not out, but the umpire notes a “tick” (as they do for bouncers) and then a second dismissal is actually out?
The real pity is that it overshadowed some brilliant bowling performances from both sides. Kate Cross has returned better figures including two ODI 5fers, but she has rarely (if ever) bowled better – making use of the slope at Lord’s to move the ball with wonderful control, making mincemeat of some of the world’s best batters in the process, taking two wickets bowled and one LBW with that movement. (Though the wicket that got Smriti was a bit of a bonus – probably the worst ball Cross bowled in the entire series – and Smriti’s reaction was priceless: you could see her thinking “Can I review that on the grounds that such a terrible ball didn’t deserve a wicket?!?!”)
Renuka Singh also bowled a high-class spell, and looks to have come-good at just the perfect time for India, with the retirement of Jhulan. She might not be the quickest, but speed isn’t everything – just look over to James Anderson in the men’s game, who Renuka reminds me of a little.
But the best ball of the day was from the spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad to Danni Wyatt – it turned exquisitely, just enough to beat the bat, but not too much to beat the off stump – the second time in the series Wyatt has been dismissed by an absolutely unplayable delivery.
But no one will remember any of this.
They’ll just remember the mankad.