MCC honours Vinoo Mankad, BCCI forgets
‘Mankad was the quintessential, hardy Bombay cricketer. Though he represented several teams in domestic cricket and only occasionally Bombay, he was essentially a product of this city, lived and played by the Bombay mindset’mumbai Updated: May 19, 2017 17:11 IST
To my eternal regret, I never met Vinoo Mankad. Once, as a freelancer in the mid-1970s, I went to interview him at the Hindu Gymkhana on Marine Drive seaface, but chickened out at the last minute, overawed by his stature.
Alas, a second opportunity never arose. Mankad passed away on August 21, 1978, aged only 61. In later years I got to understand how much he meant to Indian cricket, mainly through anecdotes and stories from his eldest son Ashok, Raj Singh Dungarpur and Lala Amarnath.
All three came from vastly differing points of view. Dungrapur was besotted by Vinoo Mankad’s cricketing prowess, Ashok obviously had first-hand experience of him as father and mentor and was deferential, while Amarnath had shared a unique love-hate relationship with him.
After distilling all their stories, the personality of Mankad that emerged was of a hugely talented, tenacious, canny, competitive cricketer. Sure of his own ability, great judge of opponents, hungry for runs, stingy as hell in conceding them, and also clear in his mind that he had to make a livelihood through his skills, not just earn accolades.
To contextualise this, Mankad was the quintessential, hardy Bombay cricketer. Though he represented several teams in domestic cricket and only occasionally Bombay, he was essentially a product of this city, lived and played by the Bombay mindset.
His wonderful records substantiate this. Mankad scored two centuries against Don Bradman’s Invincibles in 1948. He was the architect of India’s first-ever Test victory (over England at Madras in 1951 when he took 12 wickets), scored two double centuries in one series and featured in a world record first-wicket partnership of 413 runs with Pankaj Roy that stood for more than half a century.
But there are two defining achievements of his career and both became identified by his name: the Lord’s match against England in 1952, which has come to be known as ‘Mankad’s Test’. Four years before that he ran out Australia’s Bill Brown in a manner that got termed ‘Mankaded’ for posterity.
Both these hallmarked the ethos of Bombay cricket. They bespoke amazing ability and stamina, but also the tough, uncompromising manner in which he thought and played cricket.
At Lord’s in 1952, Mankad was called up for the Test while playing league cricket in England. He had been left out from the original squad for wanting a pre-tour guarantee that he would be selected. He scored 72 and 184 and took 5-196 bowling 73 overs! India lost the Test, but Mankad got universal recognition. And some redemption!
Only four years earlier he had been mired in controversy when he ran out Australia’s Bill Brown in the second Test with the batsman backing up too far. In an earlier match too, Mankad had run Brown out similarly, but after cautioning him a coupe of times. In the Test, there was no warning.
This was the first-ever such dismissal in Test history and Mankad was pilloried for breaking the ‘spirit of cricket’, though even opposing captain Don Bradman had come out in his support. The laws of cricket were clear that in such a situation, the batsman was at fault, but the onus was put on the bowler to uphold the spirit!
Unlike bowling an underam delivery, a deliberate beamer, or claiming a catch after the ball had bounced which clearly militate against the spirit of cricket, this was strictly within the law. But the smear stuck.
`Mankaded” acquired a negative connotation; something that young and old players were told defeats the purpose of sport when in fact, it was the fairest thing in the circumstance, what with the batsman trying to steal an advantage in breach of the law.
I venture that had it not been Mankad, but some English or Australian player then, the matter would have been seen very differently because these countries controlled the sport then: they not only wrote the laws, but also defined the spirit of the game.
That’s changed dramatically now. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), custodian of the laws of the game have recently not only removed any slur associated with ‘Mankaded’, but in fact modified the particular law to benefit the bowler and punish the erring batsman.
Incidentally, this change happened on April 12, Vinoo Mankad’s had been born exactly 100 years earlier. In a way, this was MCC’s tribute to him. How ironic then that the BCCI should have forgotten to honour one of India’s greatest players on his birth centenary?