Friday afternoon witnessed a partial solar eclipse in India. But at Sportsfield apartments in Worli, Mumbai, light was put out well before sunrise. Former India Test batsman Ashok Mankad died in his sleep in the early hours of Friday, at the age of 61. Like in life, in death too, Mankad made sure that there was no grief around him.
The death was unexpected as Mankad, known as 'Kaka', was suffering from no illness. "He was a witty person. Whenever there was tension, he would crack a joke to defuse it," recalled Chandu Borde, Mankad's senior India teammate. Mankad, the son of the legendary all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, is regarded among the shrewd cricketing brains in Indian cricket. It is also believed he failed to realise his batting potential in the Test arena. He earned the India cap at the age of 17 and made a strong impact in his debut series, with a streak of half-centuries (74, 64, 68 and 67) against Bill Lawry's Australia at home in 1969-70.
"His 97 in the third Test in Delhi was one of the finest I have seen," spin legend Bishen Singh Bedi told HT over phone from Delhi.
But Mankad could not recapture that rousing form either in the West Indies or on the tour of England that followed. The reasons were many, among them was that he was forced to open the batting whereas his preferred in the middle order.
Secondly, his 22 Tests - in which he scored 991 runs at an average of just over 25 --- were spread between 1969 & 1978. Those days, the number of matches were not many. Consequently, one might say, he did not get a good run in modern terms.