Mankads, dives and underarm serves: Sport’s 7 shiftiest moves

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Nick Kyrgios’s underarm serve to Rafael Nadal split the tennis world.

In their recent clash, the Spaniard stood as far back as possible to return the Aussie’s thunderbolts, leading Kyrgios to try a cheeky underarm serve – a completely legal tactic in tennis. He missed (it was a fault), and that was that. But as much as it was legal, it was hotly debated.

Some have said that, by not warning an opponent of what’s to come, a player is being unsportsmanlike. Others, like Roger Federer, said it the underarm isn’t underhand. “It’s definitely a tactic I believe,” Fed said. “Especially when guys are hugging the fence in the back. From that standpoint (players) shouldn’t be ashamed to try it out.”

So what are the other moves in sport that are lawful, but frowned upon? What are sport’s biggest grey areas? Here’s a list:

  1. Slow play

Sure, there are time-limits in golf, but they’re rarely enforced. Some players – usually to halt an opponent’s momentum – will take their sweet time to get through a round. JB Holmes made recent headlines for taking the royal p*ss in a PGA Tour victory, taking 50 seconds, for instance, to sink a one-foot putt. Not okay.

  1. Ducking the head

AFL/NRL players who duck the head to earn a free-kick. Smart or unsportsmanlike?

  1. Injury timeouts

In tennis, players often call for injury timeouts, but there’s no way of telling if they’re actually injured. Some will use it simply if they’re fatigued, while other more brazen players will use it to upset their opponent’s momentum. Bernard Tomic uses them to count his millions.

  1. Tanking

Few rulebooks contain the requirement that ‘teams must not lose on purpose’. But when draft picks are on the line, they might do just that. The most famous tanking episode was Round 22, 2007 between Melbourne and Carlton, affectionately known as the ‘Kreuzer Cup’.

  1. Diving/simulation

Sure, Neymar may writhe about in pain without being touched. That’s fairly clear-cut cheating. But what about the players who feel slight contact and go down? Shrewd or shifty? They’ll argue that if they weren’t to tumble over, the referee wouldn’t give a foul. A consistent grey area that is often given a big thumbs down in countries like Australia and England, but a cheeky thumbs up in parts of Europe and South America.

  1. Ball ‘management’

If 2018 taught us anything, it was that strawberries are very, very dangerous. It also showed us that ball tampering is very, very bad. But the thing is, you CAN ‘manage’ the ball. In local cricket, smart ball management includes putting the ball in a freezer, scraping it on the concrete, covering it in vaseline, and picking the seam. The rules differ in international cricket, however, and it turns out people get quite upset when you use sandpaper.

  1. Mankad

The greyest of all areas. Traditionally a big no-no, but one which actually has a strong support base among some players and pundits. If a non-striker is two metres out of their crease as the bowler runs in, what should one do? Warn them? Alert the umpire? Whip off the bails and give them a huge sendoff? We all know the right answer.

What do you think?