“Mankaded” is a term that most of the cricket lovers are familiar with today. For the benefit of the rest, it is a term used when the bowler brings his arm round and, instead of releasing the ball, runs out the non-striker batsman by whipping off the bails. But, did you know that this term has been named after an Indian cricketer. This Indian great ran out Australian Bill Brown in the manner described above in the second test match at Sydney in 1947. Interestingly, this was the second time that this Indian had dismissed Brown in this fashion in the tour.
Although the great Sir Don Bradman defended this act of the Indian player, but it was heavily criticised by the Australian press. Nevertheless, this term has lived on since then. But the protagonist of this incident, Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad, known as Vinoo Mankad was much more than this single term.
One of India’s best all-rounders
Jamnagar born Mankad was arguably one of the best all-rounders to have ever donned the India cap. A right hand opening batsman and a left-arm orthodox bowler, he had the ability to turn the game around with both the bat and ball. His innings of 231 runs against New Zealand at Madras (now Chennai) in 1956 was for a long time the highest score by an Indian in tests (until it was broken in 1983 by Sunil Gavaskar when he scored 236 runs against West Indies). Incidentally, in the same innings, Mankad along with Pankaj Roy also made the record for the highest opening stand with 413 runs. Mankad contributed with the ball as well taking up four wickets in the second innings. India eventually won the match by an innings and 109 runs.
Played a crucial role in India’s first test victory
Four years prior to this match, in 1952, he was also instrumental in securing India’s first ever test match victory at the same venue. The opponents were England and they had no answer to his spin bowling. He picked up 12 wickets in the two innings and India won the match by an innings and 8 runs.
First instance of a feud between an official and cricketer in India
In between these great performances, Mankad also had his share of controversies. He was famously kept out of the touring Indian team to England in 1952 as he had failed to attend the selection trials. He had got a professional contract from the Haslington Cricket Club in Lancashire and thus was unable to come for the trials. Col. CK Nayudu, the then chairman of selectors was not impressed with this attitude of Mankad.
Elaborating on the fact that the team was not dependent on an individual, Nayudu had said, “We can produce a dozen Vinoo Mankads”.
But as luck would have it, India faired miserably in the opening test and Mankad was asked to join the team for the second test. This test is often called as the “Mankad test” due to his superlative all-round performance. He scored 72 & 184 runs in the two innings and also took five-wickets in England’s first innings.
Recalling this incident which has been mentioned in detail in A Colonel Destined to Lead, the recently released biography of Col. CK Nayudu, noted writer Ramchandra Guha had once said that this could probably have been the first instance of a feud between an official and cricketer in Indian cricket. Although Mankad had contemplated retirement post this incident, thankfully for Indian cricket he decided against this.
He continued to play and ended his career with 2109 runs at an average of 31.47 & 162 wickets in 44 test matches. Now, this may not sound spectacular today. But then, these have to be weighed keeping in mind India’s status in the cricket world back then as well as the fact that his prime days were lost due to the second world war. When he made his test debut against England in 1946, he was already 29 years old. Also, he was over-bowled at many times and his batting position was never constant. He has this unique distinction of batting at all positions from one to eleven.
Today, he is remembered as one of the greats of Indian cricket. Heartthrob of yesteryears, Salim Durani regards Vinoo bhai (as he was fondly called) as his idol. 101 years since his birth, his statue stands tall in front of the Cricket Bungalow in his hometown of Jamnagar.