Former Australian captain Steve Smith’s return to action has been overshadowed by a controversial “Mankad” dismissal in the Indian Premier League.
Smith scored 20 on his return from an elbow injury as his Rajasthan Royals side lost by 14 runs to Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur, but the match will be remembered not for Smith’s return, but for the actions of Kings XI captain Ravi Ashwin.
Ashwin controversially ran out Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end as the Englishman wandered out of his crease prior to Ashwin’s delivery stride, assuming that the Indian spinner was about to deliver the ball.
However, the Kings XI captain paused, waiting for Buttler to leave his ground before whipping off the bails.
The England batsman-wicketkeeper had looked in imperious touch, scoring 69 from 43 balls as the hosts looked well on course to chase down the target of 185 in Jaipur.
But Ashwin became only the second player in IPL history to run out a player who was backing up, and a furious Buttler was forced to depart the scene with the pair exchanging angry words as he exited the field amidst a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Condemnation of the action was swift from the cricketing world, with former Australia opening batsman Matthew Hayden saying in commentary: “A terrible, terrible gesture, that’s my opinion on it.”
Spin king Shane Warne fired up on Twitter, describing the act as “embarrassing and disgraceful”.
However, some commentators, including Grandstand’s Harsha Bhogle, were more supportive of Ashwin’s actions, saying that the bowler was well within his rights to catch the batsman out of his ground.
Buttler was livid after being given out in that manner, highlighting how the Mankad method of dismissal has become one of the most contentious in the game.
The dismissal is named after Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad, who created controversy when he dismissed Australian batsman Bill Brown twice in a similar manner at the SCG in a 1947 Test match.
It occurs when a bowler removes the bails at the non-striker’s end of the wicket to catch a batsman out of his crease when he is “backing up”.
Batsmen are “backing up” when they stray out of their crease to help reduce the distance they have to run for a quick single.
Despite being embroiled in controversy, the Mankad is not illegal under the laws of the game.
Steve Smith returns
After the controversial incident, Smith passed Buttler on his way to the middle, sporting a heavily strapped right arm following recent elbow surgery.
He looked understandably rusty at the start of his innings, scoring just three runs from the first three balls.
Smith then only managed a single from back-to-back free hits following two no balls from Ankit Rajpoot, before finding his range by clubbing Sam Curran for a boundary and a six in successive deliveries.
But the young England all-rounder, who was carted for 52 runs from his four overs, turned the game in his side’s favour by dismissing Smith thanks largely to a brilliant running catch on the boundary by KL Rahul.
Curran then dismissed Sanju Samson for 30 two balls later as the Royals lost six wickets for 14 runs to fall well short of their target of 185, after veteran West Indies opener Chris Gayle smashed 79 from 47 deliveries as the Kings posted a score of 4-184.
Smith will return to action on Friday night in India when he will meet David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad side.
Warner, whose international ban will expire at the same time as Smith’s on Friday, yesterday slammed 85 runs off just 53 balls on the one-year anniversary of the Cape Town ball-tampering saga