Who is Vinoo Mankad? Pose that question to a cricket purist and, without doubt, he would look disdainfully at you. “Blasphemy,” he would shout.
Ironically, that was exactly what Virender Sehwag asked Raj Singh Dungarpur, not so long ago.
The former BCCI president just could not
stop himself from narrating the episode on the occasion of a book release function — Allrounder, by noted Hindi cricket writer Surya Prakash Chaturvedi — here on Thursday night. As the name of the book suggests, it showcases the 16 best allrounders of the game, with India’s very own Salim Durrani, Kapil Dev and Vinoo Mankad rubbing shoulders with the likes of Garfield Sobers, Keith Miller, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee.
But, it wasn’t the book that attracted maximum eyeballs. They were all transfixed on Dungarpur’s face - wrinkled and full of emotion. He recalled how, before the Lahore Test (in January 2006), a political party had threatened BCCI president Sharad Pawar that it would raise the issue in Parliament if Sourav Ganguly was not included in the playing XI.
Dungarpur went on, “Mr Pawar called me and said we will have to include Ganguly in the squad no matter what happens. And that Ganguly was willing to play in any position, even as an opener. That’s when Rahul Dravid, just to avoid people calling Ganguly a bali ka bakra (scapegoat), decided to open the batting with Sehwag.”
Of course, most present took Dungarpur’s statements in the spirit of the evening — it was a time for anecdotes, many of them to be taken with a fistful of salt. “Early next morning, Dravid went up to the then coach Greg Chappell and told him - ‘I will open’ and he did just that. Together the two put on 410 runs (just three runs short of Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy’s record of 413).”
Interesting story, but it wasn’t over. For what he said next left everyone in splits. “At the end of the day’s proceedings, Sehwag came out and said, ‘Who’s Vinoo Mankad.’”
Durrani, who too was present on the occasion, seemed ‘surprised’ that his name figured in the list of 16 allrounders. “I didn’t know even wicketkeepers could qualify as allrounders,” he said, adding, “I was a ’keeper for Rajasthan for a long time.”
National selector Sanjay Jagdale, who too wanted to flaunt his narrative skills, said: “I feel like Larry Gomes standing here. He was the odd one out in the West Indies squad which had stars like Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.”
Jagdale too said he was surprised at the ignorance of Indian cricketers about their illustrious past. “I know of an India player, not currently in the squad, who came to me and said, ‘who is this fellow who blabbers in English… has he ever played cricket in his life?’” The commentator in question was Richie Benaud. And so our evening went on.