The magnificent game of cricket has seen a relatively smaller number of true all-rounders which are assets for any team. Be it the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers of the West Indies, Keith Miller of Australia, Eddie Barlow and Mike Proctor (alas, apartheid cut their careers) from South Africa, Imran Khan of Pakistan, Ian Terence Botham and Kapil Dev Nikhanj from England and India, respectively, and a few others.
Maybe we were all so amazed by some of these legends and their exploits in the field that we forgot to mention or remember the lesser mortals. Incidentally, some of them, like Sir Learie Constantine and Indias Moolvantrai Himmatlal Mankad, better known as Vinoo Mankad, were inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, albeit after excessive delay.
Fate has always played ducks and drakes with Vinoo Mankad. World War II robbed him of his best years in cricket, as the 22-year-old took the plunge and war broke out. Cricketer experts and analysts are of the opinion that a cricketer has two brilliant phases in his career. First when he’s in his early twenties, then when he’s in his early thirties. The Mankads of the early 1920s went in vain. But he didn’t give up. He had a strong intuition that he represented India and excelled.
An old cricket scribe wrote about Mankad that during the war years, playing for West India, Nawanagar, Hindus and Maharashtra, you could see the young boy’s dedication. So his approach to domestic cricket has never been frivolous. For him, every game was important.
The result: When selected for India against England in 1946, he finished with 1120 points at 28.00 and 129 wickets at 20.76 each. John Arlott wrote of him: From his first start in England, Mankad was a good, slow southpaw. By the end of the tour, there is no doubt that he was the best slow thrower in the world. Wisden chose him as one of his five cricketers of the year. He again distinguished himself as a versatile during the tour of India in Australia in 1947-48. Along with Vijay Samuel Hazare, Mankad emerged as an all-rounder with class and attitude and not child’s play, pulverized by Sir Don Bradman and Arthur Morris and terrified of Ray Lindwall and the debonair Keith Miller.
But he also courted the controversy that immortalized him in cricket parlance as Mankading when he knocked out Bill Brown in the second test. Mankad, bowling, stopped in the stride of his swing and broke the wicket on the non-striking side, while Brown was out of his crease supporting the forward in the accepted manner. He had done the same to Brown in the match against an Australian Eleven earlier on the tour, but his disappearance of Brown infuriated the Australian media, and scaring someone off in that way is now known worldwide as Mankading. .
While such an act does not violate the laws of cricket, for some it is considered unsportsmanlike and against the spirit of the game. But even Sir Don defended it and called it the perfect reaction of a gentleman bowler who warned the batsman three times. Very recently, Sunil Gavaskar suggested that instead of calling him Mankading and smearing the image of a great all-rounder, he should be called Browning because it was Bill Brown’s fault.
In 44 tests, Mankad scored 2,109 points and took 162 wickets with his left arm at Orthodox bowling. He was a right handed drummer. He was also best known for his opening world record partnership of 413 races with Pankaj Roy at Madras Corporation Ground in 1956. He scored 231 against New Zealand in that world record stand.
Mankad was also one of only three batsmen in trial cricket history to hit all positions along with Syd Gregory of Australia and Wilfred Rhodes of England. He was a very agile outfielder. That he was finally inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame is truly a matter of pride for India, where cricket is nothing less than a religion and the new generation knows Kapil Dev only. ‘as an all-rounder.
(Writer regularly contributes to the world’s leading publications and portals in multiple languages)
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