You probably wouldn’t have even known the under 19 World Cricket championships were happening earlier this year except for one incident. A West Indian bowler ‘mankaded’ the last Zimbabwean batsman as the game drew to a close, denying the Zimbabwean team the opportunity to go thru to the quarter finals.

Chances are unless you know cricket you also have no idea what ‘mankading’ is, but if your name is Vinoo Mankad you probably regret the day you decided to play by the letter of the law rather than the spirit, because now a piece of universally regarded unsportsmanlike conduct has been named after you.

Mankading can happen when the bowler is running in to bowl and the batsman at the non-strikers end is walking down the pitch in preparation for a potential run. The batsman is out of his crease and the bowler can dislodge the bales and make an appeal. Technically the batsman is fair game and needs to be given out.. The etiquette of cricket is that you need to give at least one warning before taking a wicket in this way. Even then its considered a pretty dodgy practice.

Vinoo Mankad will be remembered for all of history now, but for all the wrong reasons.

A bit like Aussie cricketer Trevor Chappell…

Oh yeah… we did that whole underarm thing against the Kiwis didn’t we?… That happened 35 years ago now but its still one of the ugliest moments in Trans-tasman sport. Acting on instructions from his brother Greg who was captain at the time, Chappell bowled the final ball of the day… underarm. Yeah – he rolled it along the ground… What an insanely dumb thing to do… The Kiwis needed a 6 to win the game and by bowling the way he did he denied them any opportunity of making a shot that would give them the result.

I think we might now call that ‘un-Australian’… But the fact is we did it. It was legal – it was permissible in the rules of the sport, but it just goes to show there can be a canyon of difference between legal and ethical or ‘permissible’ and ‘good’.

But its always been that way.

You can be perfectly correct and yet obnoxiously wrong. Mark Twain once spoke of those who were ‘good people in the worst sense of the word.’

I think of the story in the gospel of John where Jesus is confronted with the woman caught in adultery and he chooses not to play by the rules of his own religion. Those who were ‘good in the worst sense of the word’ have arrived and declared her guilty and punishable by stoning – which was true.

Jesus knows this is the case and says ‘sure go ahead – kill her – but let’s start with the person who has never sinned throwing the first stone.’

It gets a bit quiet in the street and John writes that one by one they dropped their stones and left.

So the woman is then left alone with the one man who could genuinely pronounce a condemnation – the one without sin – and yet he chooses not to enforce the law as it is written. Maybe its his law – he can do what he likes with it… but its not that… Its not an abrogation of the law but an awareness of what the law was there for in the first place.

He says to her ‘so… no one left here to condemn you then hey?’


‘Well – I don’t condemn you either.’

I think its really important we see that first statement Jesus makes because his second statement gets a lot more attention. His first action is to not condemn – to withhold whatever punishment was due – because that is what God’s like.

Then he says ‘alright – go and don’t sin any more’.

Because God’s also like that. He calls us to a better life, but that call comes out of love and grace rather than fear of condemnation.

In John 1 Jesus is spoken of as the ‘one full of grace and truth’, which I find a beautiful tension. We so often err on the side of grace – allowing sin to go unchecked, or on the side of ‘truth’, pointing out the rules divorced from their context.

What’s the point?

Simply that we can ‘get it all right’ and yet get it so terribly wrong. We can create a culture of law abiding and even ‘enforcement’ in Christian communities (whether its overt or subtle) and yet miss the heart of God that loves, accepts and forgives all of us for our screw ups.

If Jesus came to set us free then it won’t be because we live in trepidation that one day someone is going to Mankad us – or nail us on a technicality – because God just isn’t like that.

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