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India's oldest Test cricketer, Madhav Mantri passes away in Mumbai

Madhav Mantri
Madhav Mantri

India’s oldest surviving Test cricketer, wicket-keeper batsman, Madhav Mantri died on early Friday in Mumbai due to heart attack. Mantri, who was 92, played only 4 Test matches in his career, with his debut match being against England in the 1950s. Mantri's career record consists of 63 runs, 8 catches and a stumping.

Mantri, the maternal uncle of cricketing icon Sunil Gavaskar was a consistent performer in the domestic front with 2,787 runs at an average of 50 plus, with his highest being 200 for Bombay against Maharashtra.

Mantri, who died a bachelor, was also the captain of Associated Cement Companies team and Mumbai for a brief period of time.

Mantri, the oldest Test cricketer for India was in-charge of the Mumbai Cricket Association in 1980s before being dethroned by Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena.

Mantri's death was termed as a 'personal loss' by former Indian captain, Ajit Wadekar when he said, "During the selection committee meeting for India's tour to West Indies (in 1966), it was Mantri who proposed my name when the last batsman's slot was being discussed. But neither the selectors nor the captain, Tiger Pataudi, were convinced. It was he who continued to fight for me and since there was no consensus, the selectors broke for lunch.”

"During the lunch break, he took Pataudi aside and convinced him, saying I was a consistent performer for Mumbai for almost a decade and deserved a chance. Immediately after the resumption of the meeting, Pataudi told the selectors 'I would like to got for Ajit Wadekar'. Only because he (Mantri) persisted, could I play for India." Wadekar remembered.

Mantri, who served as the chairman for Saraswat Bank was an influence to many in the realm of cricket. Former Indian leg spinner, Bapu Nadkarni recalled Mantri's impact on his life and said, "All the cricketing rituals that have been performed on me were by Madhav Mantri and Polly Umrigar. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to play with both of them,"

"Mantri was a self-disciplined person, both on and off the field. And he didn't like his disciplined life to be disturbed at all. During the playing days, he had set a few rules for the whole team to parade with him at a particular time. And no one could dare not to say no to him, or skip the parade even for a single day." he added.

Maharashtra coach, Surendra Bhave recalled an incident wherein the 92 year old Mantri climbed nearly 30 steps to the Wankhede dressing room, only to congratulate the Maharashtra team for their victory against Mumbai in the Ranjo Trophy quartefinal early this year.

"It was a memorable moment for all of us. For him to come all the way to the dressing room and congratulate us was a big boost for each member of the unit. He told the boys, 'You have beaten the arch rivals, now don't stop till you win the final'. Though the team fell just one hurdle short, everyone in the room will remember Mantri's zest and his words of advice all our lives." he said.

85-year-old Deepak Shodhan, who played 3 Tests for India in 1952-53, is now the oldest Indian Test cricketer.

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