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Fleeting impressions of a life well lived

cricket Updated: Aug 02, 2008 00:19 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Pradeep Magazine
Hindustan Times
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He was a thickset man with a ponderous gait, leaving you in little doubt that he would be slow on his feet. Engage him in a conversation, no matter what the topic, and you knew he was a thinker. Myriad thoughts would cross his mind in a flash and the man himself was not averse to putting them in words with a kind of lucidity seen rarely in sportsmen.

Had he done justice to what he promised as a teenager, he could have ended his career not only among India's better known batsmen, but also a shrewd and wise leader of men.

Ashok Mankad was proclaimed a prodigy in his teens. If people were in awe of him, they had valid reasons for that. He was the son of the venerated Vinoo Mankad and when from a very early age he started scoring runs in tons, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was destined to play for India one day. He did that when just 21 and made a deep impression with his solid batting against the Australians in 1969. He played a role in plotting India's stunning win against Bill Lawry's team at the Kotla in Delhi.

Somehow, his international career never really progressed then onwards and all the great things predicted of him never materialised. The man, who was difficult and at times even impossible to dislodge in first-class cricket, could never adjust himself to the opener's role thrust upon him. The new ball and the short ball became his bugbear and his international career ended in failure.

His first-class career had many peaks but that is not the only reason why he will be remembered, especially by his Mumbai teammates. He was a guide, mentor and father figure to many youngsters and an evening with him was always an occasion to look forward to.

Once he opened up, you would know why he was held in such high esteem and so sought after as a coach-manager by several teams. And if you happened to be with him in the company of Mumbaikars, there was no way the conversation could be a two-way, such was the awe with which his intellect was regarded.

There would be many who would say that he could have given the role of a psychologist in the Indian team a new meaning, given his understanding and insight into the Indian sportsman's psyche.

Leaving aside what he could have achieved and did not, it was a life well lived.