Cricket is a funny game and it has its own clever way of balancing things out. The last few IPL 2019 games involving Kings XI Punjab fits into this belief. Kings XI Punjab skipper R Ashwin, who felt he was within the rules and the spirit of the game to ‘Mankad’ Jos Buttler of Rajasthan Royals just a day before, fell victim to the rules of limited-overs cricket and paid back with a match.
In the match against Kolkata Knight Riders, Mohammed Shami has shattered the stumps of dangerous Andre Russell with a perfect yorker, only it to be called a no ball. The reason for the no-ball was that instead of four players, there were only three fielders in the inner circle as per the rules in T20 cricket. Russell was batting on 3 off 5 balls then.
Thanks to the reprieve, Russell went on to score a match-winning cameo of 17-ball 48 with 3 fours and 5 sixes as KKR posted a big total of 218/4. Punjab tried their best but fell short of the target by 28 runs. The margin of defeat was double of the margin of KXIP’s victory against Rajasthan Royals (14 runs).
So, was it ‘karma’ that got back at R Ashwin or a captaincy blunder on the part of the KXIP captain?
The rules Ashwin was speaking off to defend himself of ‘Mankading’ Buttler came to haunt the off-spinner as Russell escaped a dismissal on a no-ball. Cricket has many instances when it has evened out the imbalances.
For example, in 1997-98 Pepsi Triangular Series, India won all the league matches only to lose the final against Australia. In the subsequent Coca-Cola Cup in UAE, Australia won all the league matches only to lose to India in the final.
Cricket also is a great leveller
Shikhar Dhawan had a great start to his international career, cracking the highest score on Test debut (187) at Mohali against Australia in 2013. Two years later, he managed a ‘Kings Pair’ at the same very ground against South Africa.
A captaincy error?
But it is more of captaincy error on the part of Ashwin who is in the second year of his IPL captaincy. Such an error is criminal as it’s basic captaincy in limited-overs cricket. The ‘mankading’ and the no-ball issue raise uncomfortable questions on Ashwin’s leadership skills and captaincy methods.
How badly the no-ball hurt Ashwin and team and cost Punjab the match.
Ashwin was definitely unhappy and angry at the no-ball call and Russell’s every hit thereafter would have rubbed salt in his wounds. The no-ball cost Ashwin, and Punjab a match as according to ESPNcricinfo’s Luck Index, Russell’s reprieve helped Knight Riders score an extra 29 runs. And Punjab lost the match by 28 runs.
Ashwin’s captaincy and his ‘playing within the rules and spirit of the game’ will be continued to be discussed even as the tournament progresses on.
‘R Ashwin’s action not within the spirit of cricket’
Fraser Stewart, the MCC’s cricket academy manager, told ESPNcricinfo that Ashwin’s action was not within the spirit of the game. He said that Ashwin seemed to pause to allow Buttler to go out of his ground and then he put the wicket down.
“It is one where we just felt the pause was just too long and therefore not within the spirit of cricket,” Stewart said.
The debates rage on this even as opinions from critics, fans, ex-players are divided whether Ashwin’s act was within the spirit of the game or not.
But what is clearly understood that Ashwin will be under pressure now and will tread his captaincy steps cautiously, even as his own form with the ball is not too impressive. He took 1/20 against Rajasthan Royals and 0/47 against KKR. In last year’s IPL, he managed just 10 wickets @ 41.00 even as Punjab squandered off a great start to the tournament to lose out on a playoff berth.
Kings XI Punjab have a history of removing captains midway if the results do not go their way. If Ashwin continues to show uninspiring leadership and inconsistent form, it won’t be long when he is not only out of captain’s cap, but might also lose a place in the XI.