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Three instances in IPL where R Ashwin has been ahead of the curve

Ravichandran Ashwin has been in the headlines after last night’s game game between Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants. His decision to tactically retire out in the 19th over was the first time the move has been used in fifteen years of the IPL’s history.

Ashwin is known for being one of the most intelligent cricketers around. This is evident by his bowling, where he attacks the batsman with flight, drift and deception irrespective of the colour of the ball, each ball a contest with him plotting three moves ahead of the batter. He’s also extremely well-versed with the intricate laws of the sport and unafraid to use them to his advantage.

Here are three instances in the IPL where Ashwin’s unusual moves, though sometimes subject to unwarranted criticism, still fall under fair play in the cricketing rule book.

1. Ashwin ‘Mankading’ Jos Buttler in IPL 2019

The term ‘Mankad’ was derived from former Indian cricketer Vinoo Mankad, who played 44 Tests for India. In the 1947-48 tour of Australia, while bowling to Bill Brown, Mankad pulled out of his delivery stride before releasing the ball and knocked over the non-striker’s bails. Brown was found short, having backed up before the ball was released but the appeal was dismissed because of its ‘unsporting’ nature.

Ashwin has always been irked at the idea of such conflicts, insisting that the dismissal is well within the laws of the sport and is illogical for it be considered against the spirit of the game. Since his IPL debut for CSK in IPL 2009, he has issued several warnings to non-strikers who leave their crease early. A lesser known incident is from an ODI versus Sri Lanka in 2010, when Ashwin knocked over non-striker Angelo Mathews’ stumps and appealed for a run-out. Virender Sehwag, who captained India in that game, and Sachin Tendulkar talked it over with the umpires, but eventually decided to withdraw the appeal.

Ashwin became the first ever player in IPL to successfully carry out this dismissal during RR vs KXIP’s fixture in 2019. RR opener Jos Buttler was found short of his crease, and had to depart after scoring 69 from 43. Royals had been cruising at 108-1 in their chase of 184, but Buttler’s wicket and the ugly, needless controversy surrounded it seemed to affect RR. They collapsed to 170 for 9, and KXIP won by 14 runs.
But it was Ashwin leading the way forward; in March 2022, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), custodian of cricket laws amended the books. THe law, which was previously listed under Law 41  (Unfair Play) was shifted to Law 38 (Runout).

2. Ashwin feuds with Eoin Morgan in 2021 over a fielding overthrow

In DC’s game against KKR in 2021, Ashwin found himself in a spat with two KKR players, fast-bowler Tim Southee and skipper Eoin Morgan. He was dismissed by Southee at the start of the 20th over, holing out to Nitish Rana at backward square. But the spat was regarding the last delivery of the previous over, when Rishabh Pant and Ashwin took an extra run after a throw from a fielder hit Pant in the arm before rolling away.

Morgan and Southee seemed to think this was contradictory to the spirit of the game, and Ashwin has already rubbished the need to uphold such claims if the rules are clearly stated. According to Law 37 (Obstructing The Field), batsman can be given out for obstructing the field if he wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action.

Ashwin claimed to be unaware of the ball hitting Pant, and even if he were, since Pant wasn’t intentionally in the way of the throw there was no grounds to stop them from taking a run. Once again, Ashwin exhibited flawless knowledge of the rules, pointing out how he should not be punished for defying the moral high ground.

England tied the world cup final in 2019 after the ball hit Ben Stokes’ bat as he dived to make his crease, and sped away to the boundary for four overthrows. Skipper Morgan certainly didn’t reject those runs, as he certainly could have in keeping with the spirit he holds in such esteem. Virender Sehwag pointed out exactly that, and came out in support of Ashwin, who defended himself ably with a series of eloquent tweets.

3. Ashwin voluntarily ‘retires out’

Ashwin declared himself out in the 19th over of the LSG v RR game. He had come in to bat at 6 alongside Shimron Hetmeyer in the 10th over when RR were struggling a bit at 67 for 4. Riyan Parag was the only recognised batter left at the dugout aside from Ashwin, and the RR management seemed to trust Ashwin ahead of him to bat out the remaining overs.

Turns out they’d made the right call, and Ashwin added 28 from 22 balls, which included two sixes. With 5 Test centuries under his belt has already proved he is no layperson with the bat. In the 19th over, Ashwin took a single off Avesh Khan then had a chat with the umpire and jogged back to the dugout. It was announced that Ashwin had intentionally retired out, allowing Riyan Parag to the crease to make the most of the last two overs.

In the perspective of today’s game, it’s a commendable move – it ensures the right players are at the crease at the right time. His partner Hetmeyer knew nothing about the ploy, but RR skipper Sanju Samson said that it was a team decision that had been in the works for some time. Fittingly, the player who carried it out was Ashwin, the man who has always led the charge to carry out pioneering decisions.

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