‘Mankading’: How India’s first post-Independence superstar cricketer still gets maligned

PTI, Sep 25, 2022, 7:05 PM IST

Image credit: Getty Images

Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad was one of those rare cricketers, who had the distinction of scoring a hundred and taking five wickets in the same Test at the Lord’s.

For more than five decades, he held the world record opening stand of 413 in Test matches with his partner Pankaj Roy.

Even the 231 that he scored in that game against New Zealand in Chennai in January 1965 stood the test of time for nearly three decades as the highest individual Test score by an Indian before Sunil Gavaskar surpassed it in 1983.

He was perhaps one of the first professionals among the amateurs in ’40s and ’50s when cricket couldn’t be a source of sustenance.

‘Vinoo’, as the cricketing world knew him, was more than the sum-total of his parts, the 2109 runs and 162 wickets that he took in those 44 Tests. He was India’s first ‘Brylcream Man’ for his well-oiled back-brushed hair and perhaps the first cricket superstar of the post-independence era.

But for the past 75 years, one of India’s greatest cricketer’s name is repeatedly dragged whenever a batter wilfully tries to steal yards at non-striker’s end and is legally run out.

It’s a lazy reference to Mankad dismissing Australian opener Bill Brown during India’s first-ever series Down Under in 1947-48.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) in those days used to be known as Imperial Cricket Conference. The name ”Imperial” in ICC told the story.

A Commonwealth sport, where rules used to be set by the sharp suits sitting in a conference room of the Marelybone Cricket Club (MCC) housed at the Lord’s.

The place where the ambiguous ‘Spirit Of Cricket’ term was born and where a young Indian woman named Deepti Sharma showed what following the law means in letter and spirit.

Did you know Mankad ran Brown out in similar fashion in warm-up game? 

Everyone knows that Mankad ran out Australian opener Brown for 18 as he had backed up too far at non-striker during the Sydney Test match played between December 12-18. The Test was drawn and the incident happened on the second day (December 13) of the game.

But very few people know that before the Test match, touring Indian team had a warm-up fixture against ‘Australian XI’ at the same venue just before the Test match.

In author Gulu Ezekiel’s book, ‘Myth Busting-Indian Cricket Behind the Headlines’ published by Rupa, there is a detailed history of how things panned out before and after the dismissal.

The evidence that Brown’s offence was the second one was documented by former Australian first-class cricketer turned journalist Ginty Lush, who was covering the series for the ‘Telegraph’.

In fact, Lush’s article in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ on December 14, 1947, had a headline ‘Mankad Again Traps Bill Brown’.

The article stated: ”Brown’s dismissal caused heated discussion in the Members’ Stand. Even the press box was a scene of debate as to whether mankad was guilty of sporting breach. The history of the Brown-Mankad duel is: Brown was warned by Mankad for backing up too smartly in the India vs An Australian XI’ match at the SCG.”

Brown was run-out by Mankad in the same match for offending again. Brown was run-out by Mankad for the second time yesterday.” Lush in fact, in his report, had stated that Brown was ”foolish” to take liberties.

”Although a run-out in this fashion is permissible., it is not regarded as sportsmanlike thing under ordinary circumstances. But in light of previous warning and a dismissal, Brown was foolish to take liberties with Mankad.

”And a foot gained at the bowler’s end was also a foot gained at the wicketkeeper’s end. Mankad can scarcely be called ‘Bad Sport’ for trapping Brown. The first time, he warned (Brown). Yesterday, there was no warning-just lightning-like action.”

A week after Lush’s report in the Sunday Telegraph, a non-byline report in another Daily, ‘Truth’ (published December 21, 1947) states that Mankad admitted during the Test match, he didn’t warn Brown but he had heard Arthur Morris caution his partner.

As per that report, Mankad had heard Morris saying: ”Look out BB, you are doing the same thing again.”

Why Mankad got disturbed by Brown’s backing-up?

Vinoo Mankad was a conventional orthodox left-arm spinner. And that’s why, Brown’s repeated backing up affected him technically. Why and how was explained by L H Kearney in his ‘Courier Mail’ piece dated December 19, 1947.

In fact, Mankad had told Kearney the reason and had intimated during the first Test that he would run Brown out at the non-striker’s end.

”When in Brisbane recently, Vinoo told me his reasons under promise that I would not divulge it until he had trapped Brown a second time, as he expected he would. ” Kearney goes on to write: ”Being a left-arm bowler, Mankad had confided in me that Brown by leaving the popping crease and advancing forward, but outside the pitch, completely distracts him, as he is half-face on to the moving Brown when the ball leaves his hand.”

”My reflective vision becomes affected and my bowling concentration suffers,” Mankad had said.

I had warned Brown in Sydney (in practice game) not to leave the non-striker’s popping crease until the ball had left my hand, but Brown ignored the warning.” But how Kearney summed up is the crux of the debate, which refuses to die down after seven and half decades.

”Mankad explained that a right-arm bowler is not similarly embarrassed by the moving non-striking batsman as when the ball leaves the hand of a right-arm bowler, he has no sight of a batter attempting to steal a march on him. Some argue that Mankad’s trap is not cricket. That is ridiculous. Why not similarly claim that it is unfair for the batsman to back-up, hoping for a quick stolen run?”

The legend has it that Brown had offered to take Mankad out for a session of drinks but the Indian, who was a teetotaller had politely refused.

Vinoo Mankad didn’t cheat on December 13, 1947. Deepthi Sharma was equally right on September 24, 2022.

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