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'Mankading': How India's first post-Independence superstar still gets maligned

'Mankading' is the general term used in cricket to refer to a run-out if the non-striker backs up before the bowler delivers the ball. However, not all take the reference on a good note. Is it an insult to Indian cricket legend Vinoo Mankad?

Mankading How India first post-Independence superstar cricketer Vinoo Mankad still gets maligned-ayh
First Published Sep 25, 2022, 7:18 PM IST

By Kushan Sarkar

Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad was one of those rare cricketers who scored a hundred and took five wickets in the same Test at the Lord's. For over 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 the '40s and '50s when cricket couldn't be the source of sustenance.

'Vinoo', as the cricketing world knew him, was more than the total of his parts, the 2,109 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 cricketers' names is repeatedly dragged whenever a batter wilfully tries to steal yards at a 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. In those days, the International Cricket Council (ICC) 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 Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) housed at the Lord's.

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

Mankading How India first post-Independence superstar cricketer Vinoo Mankad still gets maligned-ayh

Did you know Mankad ran Brown out in a similar fashion in a 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 game's second day (December 13).

But, very few people know that before the Test match, the 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.

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Former Australian first-class cricketer documented the evidence that Brown's offence was the second one turned journalist Ginty Lush, who was covering the series for the 'Telegraph'. Lush's article in the 'Sunday Telegraph' on December 14, 1947, had the 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 exact 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 a sportsmanlike thing under ordinary circumstances. But, in light of a 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," the article further read.

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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. Still, 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."

Mankading How India first post-Independence superstar cricketer Vinoo Mankad still gets maligned-ayh

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. 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," states the article. 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."

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

But, how Kearney summed up is the crux of the debate, which refuses to die 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 is 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. Deepti Sharma was equally right on September 24, 2022.

(With inputs from PTI)

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