Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad – or Vinoo to his mates – caused a storm from the moment he ran Bill Brown out in the Sydney Test of the 1947-8 series between Australia and India.
The controversial dismissal – which now bears his name – is when a batsman, out of his crease, is run out at the non-striker’s end with the bowler removing the bails.
The lousy practice of ‘Mankading’ has reared its head periodically down the years though to be entirely honest, when reference to it exploded all over Twitter during England’s final one-day international with Sri Lanka, I had to go look it up. I knew the dismissal but not the historical reference.
As good fortune would have it, I was due to meet Jos Buttler, Lancashire and England batting maelstrom, the day after he was at the centre of the unedifying spectacle.
The Sri Lankan spinner Sachithra Senanayake; himself at the centre of a controversy over his bowling action which had previously been reported by the match officials to the ICC; warned Buttler several times then opted to run him out.
As is the protocol with this unusual form of dismissal, the umpire asked the Sri Lankan captain, Angelo Mathews if he’d like to withdraw the appeal and he did not. Cue ill feeling all round; some colourful language out in the middle and a frosty response from both England captain and Head Coach.
To call a spade a spade, it’s no way to get a wicket, it’s just wrong. But. And there is a but…
But if you warn the batsman several times and he continues to transgress then short of telling the umpire to have a word, what other course of action is open to you? Ignore the fact the batsman is stealing a march or do something about it.
There was outrage aplenty; a stout defence of Buttler; mention of kids mimicking what they see on TV (what about teaching kids to stay in their crease?) with Mike Atherton being a rare voice of dissension by reminding everyone that the rules for staying grounded (literally) are pretty clear.
It was less than twenty-four hours after this tempestuous, swirling debate dominated the sports back pages and social media that Jos Buttler turned up at Cheshire sports retailer (and Cricket Yorkshire partner), Barrington Sports, to do some coaching and take part in a Q&A.
It’s all about the timing and if securing the appearance of an England international was impressive; the fact that he was the most talked-about player of the moment anywhere in world cricket made for a tantalising evening.
Being from Somerset, I’ve watched Jos Buttler’s rise with quiet satisfaction. This hasn’t been someone who’s recently perfected the party tricks now he’s reached the highest level; he’s been doing it fearlessly from the start, it’s just the Buttler way.
A quiet, modest and softly-spoken man in his twenties, Jos Buttler’s outward demeanour could not be more at odds with his brand of outlandish, explosive batting.
His arrival in the heart of Cheshire immediately causes a reaction throughout the store. Shoppers glance up to sneak an early peak; staff struggle to hide their excitement and kids ready themselves with bats to offer up for a signature.
After a few publicity photos, it’s down to business with group coaching and what’s quickly apparent is that Buttler is in his element. You can be the best player in the world but it doesn’t automatically make you a good coach and someone able to get across key technical points clearly and intelligently.
Those who’d signed up in advance for the sessions vary in their age and ability; a girl who is soon drilling the ball sweetly after a few tweaks and a young lad impresses with an impeccable cover drive; such that Buttler himself later films a clip and posts it on Twitter.
After both group coaching and one-to-one sessions with photos and signings galore, it was time for a Q&A session, hosted by Dave Pennett from Kookaburra; the household cricket name where Buttler is a brand ambassador.
The reception of the Knutsford store is packed with mini journalists ready to ask searching questions and further enquiries flashed up on the big screen from Twitter.
Jos now holds the record for the fastest one-day international hundred by an Englishman ever; en route to that memorable 121 from 71 balls, but perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s been breaking records for some time.
He still holds the record opening partnership with Alex Barrow – Buttler’s contribution of 227 not out of the 340 run-partnership in national schools cricket marking him our early as a special player.
He worked his way up through the county age groups and Academy to break into the Somerset first-team with particularly eye-catching performances in limited overs cricket where his strike rate frequently went stratospheric.
The invention; range of shots; sheer audacity and cheek allied with a temperament that seemed impervious to pressure all made for a special player.
Despite an inauspicious start for his country by not batting in his debut Twenty20 and failing to trouble the scorers in his first ODI, the feeling was that he couldn’t help but replicate his Somerset form for England.
Conversely, it’s what his rival for the England gloves, Jonny Bairstow, who has just been dropped from the England squad, has yet to fully do and so frustrates those who know what the Bradford-born wicketkeeper-batsman is capable of.
Somerset and Yorkshire fans have, for years, been aware of the burgeoning talents that are Buttler and Bairstow but at present, only one of them is presenting a convincing argument on the batting front.
In fact, neither are approaching the finished article; both capable of flipping the momentum of a match on its head with a brutal batting assault but deficiencies in their keeping and credentials in the longer format has meant Matt Prior made the Test squad for the short Sri Lanka series.
For Buttler, he’s been candid enough to acknowledge he’s still got plenty of development ahead and is unusually philosophical about having to play the waiting game:
“Test cricket is my ultimate aim but I’m only 23, which in cricket terms, is pretty young so I’ve got plenty of time to keep improving.”
It was odd to see Cook make the move in the press to quash any notion of Buttler playing Test cricket just yet – given Prior has barely played a handful of games and is battling an Achilles problem.
That quibble aside, it seems Buttler has leapfrogged Bairstow as the England keeper-in-waiting and the latter must use the vehicle of county cricket to catch the attention of the selectors again; much as his team mate Liam Plunkett has.
The issue of batting under pressure is a topic where Buttler is particularly astute and revealing regarding psychology:
“I think pressure is what you make it. It doesn’t actually exist in that you can’t really measure it. I think for me the way you deal with that is trust; trust that you’ve done the work; practiced hard and trust in your game and you’re good enough to be there. Someone’s picked you to be there so they believe you’re good enough.”
“The other one would be routine; it’s really obvious in golf that a golfer does the same thing every time before he hits every shot. I think having a routine…you keep your mind on the routine rather than the external situation of what the pressure is.”
Another corker of a question comes up: would you change your batting style for Test cricket? Surely he would become introverted; afraid of looking a plum in five-day cricket with those fancy-dan dinks and deflections? Apparently not:
“I don’t think so massively…for me, I’m an attacking batsman; it wouldn’t be natural for me to be too defensive; obviously I’d have to be a little more selective…”
There is plenty of time for thorny issues to be raised from young cricket fans – like this humdinger from a pint-sized lad: “What do you think about Kevin Pietersen being kicked out of England?”
Ok, so he’s still allowed into England as far as we know, at least Surrey will hope but what was the reaction to that one? Cue a chuckle; sucking in of breath, a theatrical ‘oooohhhh’ from the floor and the chance to demonstrate that Buttler’s ever bit as canny and level-headed off the field as on it:
“He was a great player for England and everyone should try and remember the good things and the memorable innings he played for England.”
Proof, if ever there were some needed, that even Jos Buttler has to block a few from time to time with a straight bat.
It was revealing – and refreshing – to learn that Jos Buttler trusts implicitly in his preparation and ability to execute any shot based on the match scenario.
So, in his own words, why not play one of his now-trademark scoops off his very first ball at the crease, if the field is up and the circumstances demand it?
As he best puts it himself, when you’re in those pressure situations, you go for what you know and the scoop shot for him is one Buttler has a good success rate with. But what if he fluffs it and is bowled cheaply, does that shake his faith in the shot?
“No. People play the forward defence and get out to that and don’t stop playing that. There’s no good way of getting out.”
This doesn’t come across as boasting or arrogance from a young player; instead the impression is of someone very comfortable with his game and that he’s not going to waste time or mental energy being wracked with doubt unnecessarily.
A sharp intake of breath from those assembled was the reaction to another innocent question from a young fan: ‘So…what happened in the last one-day international then?’
For a dexterous, attacking wicketkeeper-batsman used to facing the likes of Malinga and Johnson at full throttle, this still took some careful negotiating but the answer was every bit as deft:
“Hopefully something that will never happen in any of your games…”
It clearly still hurts. I scanned for his own views in the press after the infamous Mankad match and there weren’t any – though plenty of others had lots to say. For a remarkably calm and seemingly zen-like figure with a bat in his hand and any number of scenarios to fox his way out of, you get the sense this has rattled Buttler but whatever his view on the incident, it will ultimately improve him on some level.
The Q&A meandered into intriguing corners from food superstitions like avoiding duck to a candid admission of slight relief at not having to face Mitchell Johnson in the Ashes Tests.
More coaching followed afterwards with Jos urging the youngsters present to try and play his innovative shots in their next games, to general amusement. Just try stopping them.
As both protagonists for their respective counties and the England gloves prepare for the Old Trafford T20 clash, there are plenty of similarities to enjoy between Buttler and Bairstow. The Somerset man boils his approach down to this philosophy: “My method is to get as many as you can as quick as you can.”
It’s a way of accumulating runs that anyone watching Bairstow bat in the last Twenty20 against Derbyshire Falcons at Headingley was able to see in spades. His was only a bustling cameo, full of intent, but his 29 off 16 balls must have been a nightmare for the visitors as their prospects receded.
Much of the early NatWest T20 Blast talk has been of Finch and Flintoff (the latter isn’t playing in the Roses fixture at Old Trafford) but Yorkshire and Lancashire also boast two of the most destructive and talented wicketkeeper-batsmen anywhere on the county circuit.
When Lancashire signed Jos Buttler for 2014; who made the bold move to quit sleepy Taunton for Manchester to get out of the shadow of Craig Kieswetter; I felt it was the best signing of any county.
More used to Somerset-Gloucestershire local derbys, a packed house at Old Trafford against the White Rose in the T20 will be absolutely electric and is just the setting for Buttler to remind everyone eagerly anticipating the Test series just what they’ll be missing.
As for Jonny Bairstow, some continue to doubt whether he can regain the faith of the England selectors; clearly in Yorkshire, they know a class act when they see one.
Only time will tell but a rapier innings in enemy territory against Buttler’s new county will go down very well back on the right side of the Pennines. Either way, the scene is set for a crackerjack of a Twenty20 and future skirmishes.
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