Vinoo Mankad: A cricketing great who should be remembered for more than just Mankading
Sometimes sports isn’t fair. A lifetime of achievements, a legacy can be undermined, tarnished, tainted for the wrong reasons. No one is a better epitome of that statement than Vinoo Mankad, one of India’s greatest Test all-rounders way before Kapil Dev had arrived on the scene.
Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad played when India was still in the throes of birth, a nation waking up to its new existence, to the taste of freedom. What Mankad did went a long way in ensuring some, if not all the colonial insults were allayed to a certain extent.
One of only three non-England players to have their names on the Lord’s Honours Board in batting and bowling, Mankad had won matches for India with bat and ball.
Mankad made his international debut at the age of 29, but even before he was 20 his batting skills and abilities with the ball were there for everyone to see. He played for Western India and bowled leg-spin before shifting to left-arm orthodox, a decision that paid great dividends.
His debut though came close to a decade later, in 1946 at Lord’s when he opened the batting for India. He scored a gritty half-century in the second innings. His score of 63, in fact, was the top score for India as they lost by 10 wickets.
In only his second Test, Mankad showed his proficiency with the ball, picking up a 5-wicket haul alongside Lala Amarnath, who picked five as well to help India bundle England down to just 294. The bowling had its effect on Mankad who had to bat down the order without any substantial returns. India, however, did manage a draw, by the skin of their teeth with a gritty last wicket partnership.
It was Mankad’s running out of Bill Brown on the Australian tour of 1947/48 that might eventually go down for what we remember him. Many however forget or don’t know that “Mankading”, was thoroughly endorsed by no other than Sir Don Bradman, who supported Mankad’s action. Mankad, after all, had warned the batsman in the spirit of the game
Vinoo Mankad’s prolific first-class career involved 233 matches in which he scored a whopping 11591 runs at an average of 34.7 with 26 centuries and 52 half-centuries. With the ball, he picked up 782 wickets with a best haul of 8-35. His bowling average in first-class cricket was 24.5.
The former Indian captain’s international reputation is a great understatement to the man’s numbers playing for a relatively weaker side during its infancy. Mankad’s 2109 runs in Test cricket came at an average of 31.47 with 5 centuries and his 162 wickets in those 44 Tests came at an average of 32.32. He also had 8 five-wicket hauls to his name with his best being 8/52 against arch-rivals Pakistan. The Indian great in fact also managed a double hundred in New Zealand, a team against whom he averaged 105 in 4 Tests.
Home and Away
Mankad’s batting average hovers impressively over 30 in Australia and England. His average of 28.62 in West Indies reflected his general poor performances against West Indies. The Indian opener didn’t score substantially against Pakistan either against whom he averaged just 20.
England was his favourite team though as he scored runs and picked wickets against them home and away. Interestingly, Mankad’s average against Australia is higher playing in Australia than in India.
Mankad managed lovely bowling averages of 23, 27 and 25 against England, New Zealand and Pakistan but his career numbers took a beating due to his higher average against West Indies. Another impressive stat is his average of 33 in the fourth innings, which in fact is higher than his averages in second and third innings.
Mankad’s influence on the team also showed up in his average of 112.6 in the 5 Tests that India won when he was part of the team. His bowling average in those Tests is an incredible 13.3 showing how critical his performances were if India had to notch up a victory.
Highlights of Mankad’s career
In a career studded with accomplishments, the highest rating should probably go to Mankad’s bowling against England when they toured India in 1952. This was India’s first Test win against them and it came in the Fifth Test at Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. Mankad picked up figures of 8-55 and followed it up with 4-53 in the second innings to help India draw the series 1-1 by winning the match by an innings and 8 runs.
By scoring 184 for India in 1952 during India’s tour of England, Mankad had his name etched on the Honours Board at Lord’s for batting. In the same Test, Mankad had earlier gotten his name registered on the bowlers’ Honours Board with a five-wicket haul, a rare achievement in the same Test for any player around the world. India lost the Test and Mankad sadly missed out on a double ton.
Mankad also holds the record for the second highest opening partnership in Tests of 413 with Pankaj Roy, the highest being 415, made 52 years after Mankad’ achievement.
India still struggles to find players who could pick a five-wicket haul and score a century in the same match. Way back in the 1950s we had one such player, remembered in the cricketing jargon for the wrong reason, a disservice to his legacy.
Mankad’s slow bowling and batting both up and down the order showed many a future batsman that India can stand up against the best in business, even while playing in their own backyards. That is why his name on the Honours Board at Lord’s assumes a significance way greater than cricket or sport itself.
It is a strange, sublime and subtle statement against colonialism itself enhancing a nation’s belief in itself. And that is the accomplishment for which he should be remembered by the newer generations!Published 19 Apr 2016, 14:03 IST