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Madhav Mantri passed away on May 23, 2014. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man among many who helped convert Bombay into an all-conquering side.
Madhav Krishnaji Mantri is no more; with him has ended the era of men who had helped form Bombay cricket in its early stages of supremacy. Old-timers may still reminisce his 94 and 152 against Holkar in the Ranji Trophy final of 1951-52: he was Bombay’s captain, opening batsman, and wicket-keeper in the match, and Bombay had beaten Holkar by a whopping 531 runs. At the highest level, however, Mantri’s appearances were restricted to four Tests: Probir Sen was there to keep him out.
But there was more to Mantri than individual performances: he was and continued till the early 1970s was built; he gave up the big gloves to Naren Tamhane, but continued to lead Bombay, and led them to a Ranji title as late as in 1956-57 against Services. Thereafter he acted as the mentor of a team that conquered India and produced more international cricketers than most domestic sides put together.
Playing cricket did not stop there; at 40 he won the Moin-ud-Dowla Cup as captain (the match also witnessed him take a couple of wickets); six seasons later he led his side to another victory (which was a somewhat accepted practice) in a Koyna Relief Fund match.
The list included his illustrious nephew: when Sunil Gavaskar was young, he had come across Mantri’s “coffin”; there were several caps inside, including the Bombay cap, and more significantly, the Indian cap. The caps should not be gifted; they have to be won — was the response. Gavaskar has always maintained that it was his uncle who had infused in him the rare qualities of discipline and self-control, which so defined the batsman.
Mantri served the President of Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA); he was also appointed an Indian selector. He was also the man behind the success of Dadar Union, which, along with Gavaskar, also gave Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Manjrekar to the world. He also managed the Indian side to England in 1990 and predicted the future greatness of Sachin Tendulkar as he went on to score his maiden hundred.
Rest in peace, Sir. Cricket will miss you.
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