In the 2019 WODI series between Australia and Sri Lanka, there appeared to be evidence of the Sri Lankan team making a concerted effort to ensure that the Australian women did not steal even an inch at the non-strikers end. Regularly, the bowlers aborted their deliveries to warn the batters about taking an unfair advantage.
It is, at the highest level, with cameras, magnified images, and other technology, a game of small margins. With so many run outs decided by centimetres and millimetres, you can kind of understand the Sri Lankan’s thinking. I think they believe that by making the non-striker to hold for a fraction of a second longer, suddenly those tight decisions will go their way as the fielding side. It is not right that the batters be allowed to continue to flaunt the spirit and laws of the game by backing up early. At a time where over rates are slow and much discussion is around making sure the game continues to move along apace, I’m not convinced we really need these extra delays creeping in on a regular basis. If teams are now beginning to use the threat of a Mankad as a tactic to slow run rates, the game is going to slow down further and frustrate the fans to distraction. It is only a matter of time before we see it in the recreational game. So how can we solve the problem?
The practice of backing up is something we coach at the grassroots of the game. So why then, when we get to international level are the batters still getting it wrong? Watch the non-striker in any replay from side on to see that, in general, they wander lethargically off down the wicket, not particularly appearing ready to run, or moving with any real purpose. Leaving the crease early when backing up is lazy and unnecessary, not to mention going against the spirit of the game. Under normal circumstances, batters will not usually back up much more than a couple of steps, as they will fear being run out by the ball hit back and deflected off the bowler onto the stumps. Is leaving the crease early, then, actually not necessary to gain a distance advantage as a non-striker? Can the non-striker not get an adequate distance down the wicket even after the ball has left the bowlers hand? Of course they can, and it is a part of the game that batters continue approach with the general malaise which is at the root of the problem. Backing up; a small margin so important in making the difference between a dot and a quick single or turning a single into a two. Is this then an area of the game for development where an extra few valuable runs added with a bit of extra thought? The art of backing up and the role of the non-striker could become a part of the game that contributes positively to the batting team’s performance with a bit of lateral thinking. How often do we as coaches consider discussing or even thinking how the non-striker can affect the game, beyond what we coach our ‘All Stars’ about the very basics of backing up? What could the non-striker be looking at? What body position or shape would be best to adopt? Could the non-striker back up from a wider position? Or start backing up from further behind the popping crease?
We must ensure that our young players uphold the spirit of the game, whether that is with bat or ball, and play with honesty and discipline. Whilst some teams may now be using the Mankad as a tactic to reduce run rates, the batting sides must react to ensure they give the bowler no reason to abort their delivery to hover the ball menacingly by the bails. There is no need. With some thought and attention, backing up needs to be seen as a skill which can be developed. With practice, it can again bring that advantage back to the batting side giving you as a batter that small margin that we are always looking to discover. The best thing about it will be that it stays within the spirit of the game whilst allowing the game to continue to move.
A Leading Edge has released a new book detailing the summer Ashes Series of 2019 with The Ashes Illustrated, an illustrated daily diary containing over 50 cartoons and caricatures covering ball one at Edgbaston to the final delivery at The Oval. This is the second book from A Leading Edge, with both ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ and ‘The Ashes Illustrated’ being available from Amazon.co.uk