Vinoo Mankad was one of the world’s leading all rounders between 1946 and 1959. He was the Kapil Dev of that era. The only difference being that Kapil was a fast bowler and Mankad was a spinner. But in every other respect the two were similar. Mankad could turn the course of a match with his batting and bowling.
In Test matches, he scored five centuries. In 1956, he was involved in a world record partnership of 413 runs for the first wicket with Pankaj Roy. Mankad’s individual score in that heroic stand was 231 which became the Indian record at that time.
In bowling he took five or more wickets in an innings on eight occasions. His best bowling performance was when he took 8 for 55 against England and helped India to win by an innings and eight runs. Very few players have the talent to score a double century as well as take eight wickets at Test cricket level.
Now the ICC has belatedly honoured him by inducting him into the ICC Hall of Fame. He was inducted along with nine other iconic players from different periods of history. The honour has come a little late, but better late than never. The news was welcomed by several top cricketers, officials and fans in India. Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar expressed their delight while the BCCI issued a statement that it was a fitting reward for one of India’s finest cricketers.
Other Indian players who are already in the list are Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad to give him his full name (Vinoo was a name he was called while in school), made his debut during India’s tour of England in 1946. He made rapid progress and the experts in England were full of praise for his abilities. The well known BBC commentator John Arlott said: “From his very first over in England, Mankad was a good slow left hander. By the end of the tour, there was little doubt that he had become the best slow left-arm bowler in the world.”
Mankad once said in an interview that he depended more on variation and different lines of attack by using the width of the crease. He said that he never bowled unorthodox varieties and that he bowled constantly at the middle and off stump. His main weapon was a faster incoming delivery which often took batsmen by surprise.
One of his finest performances came in the second Test at Lords in 1952. Mankad top scored in India’s first innings with 72 and then bowled a marathon 73 overs to take 5 wickets for 196 runs. In India’s second innings Mankad top scored again. This time he came up with an epic knock of 184 which contained nineteen 4s and one six. But sad to say, the rest of the team collapsed. England won but Mankad’s lionhearted display was the most outstanding feature of the match.
He was also involved in several controversies. In 1948 he ran out Australian batsman Bill Brown at the non-striker’s end for backing up too far. Such a thing had never been done earlier. The Australian media was outraged. But his action was defended by the great Sir Don Bradman.
“Mankad was so scrupulously fair that he first of all warned Brown before taking any action. We (Australian players) considered it quite a legitimate part of the game,” wrote Sir Don. Nevertheless the act came to be known throughout the world as “Mankading”.
Mankad had several disagreements and conflicts with the famous C.K. Nayudu who was India’s first captain. When Nayudu was a selector, he had expressed the opinion that Mankad was not as good as people said he was. Mankad never forgot that remark and he got his revenge in the Ranji trophy final in the 1951-52 season.
Nayudu, then 56 years old, was playing for Holkar XI against Bombay. Mankad, who was waiting for an opportunity to hit back at Nayudu, instigated Bombay’s leading fast bowler Dattu Phadkar to bowl a bouncer at Nayudu. Reportedly the exact words he used were “Bouncer daal buddhe ko.” (Bowl a bouncer at the old man). Phadkar was quite a nippy bowler and was then at his fastest. The short pitched ball rose sharply and hit Nayudu on the mouth and broke his teeth.
But Nayudu was not called “The Colonel ” for nothing. He spat out the blood and broken teeth from his mouth and continued batting in his tall and erect military style. He refused to retire hurt and he even told Phadkar: “Do not hesitate to bowl another bouncer. I am quite fit enough to deal with it.” Phadkar got seven wickets but he couldn’t get Nayudu. The grand old man scored 66.
Vinoo Mankad suffered from ill health for a few years before he passed away in 1978. His son Ashok Mankad was also a successful Test cricketer and Ashok’s wife Nirupama was the Asian champion in tennis. She also played in the Wimbledon championships. Their son Harsh Mankad played for India in the Davis Cup.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.