On December 13, 1947, Vinoo Mankad etched his name in the lexicon of cricket by getting a mode of dismissal named after him. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day when he caused a furore by running out Bill Brown for backing up too far before the ball was bowled.
It all started during the tour match played a month earlier – the very one in which Don Bradman scored his 100th First-class century.
After the celebrations of Bradman’s feat had died down, Indians toted up 304 in the second essay, leaving the Australian XI 251 to get in 150 minutes to win the match.
The strong batting line-up did make an attempt. And in his haste, opener Bill Brown started dashing out of the crease at the non-striker’s end even as the bowler went through his action of bowling the ball.
Vinoo Mankad was in the midst of a fantastic spell. He warned Brown once. And when the batsman repeated the offence, the left-arm spinner stopped in his tracks and removed the bails.
Brown curtly dismissed press questions: “The whole thing happened on the field, and it is finished and done with.”
Mankad’s explanation was more technical. He said that when the batsman advanced, “My reflective vision becomes affected and my bowling concentration suffers”.
Mankad picked up eight for 84, and India won the match by 47 runs, one of their two victories on the tour.
It was when the incident was repeated during the second Test at Sydney that things became heated enough to forge Mankad into a questionable verb.
India had fought back from a spot of bother on a rain affected pitch on the second day, recovering marginally from 95 for six, and finishing at 188. Gogumal Kishenchand and Dattu Phadkar had added 70 for the seventh wicket.
Now, as Arthur Morris and Bill Brown opened the innings for Australia, Mankad was brought into the attack soon enough. Brown, not much wiser from his dismissal in the earlier match, again moved down the pitch a shade too quickly. This time Mankad did not give him a warning. The Australian opener found himself run out for backing up too far, and could not control his frustration. He flung his bat down before walking off in a huff.
Australia ended the day on 28 for one and as persistent rain drenched the wicket and rendered it virtually unplayable, the home side collapsed to 107 all out when play resumed on the fifth day. As more rain fell, the Test ended in a draw.
However, the incident between Mankad and Brown triggered furious debates on trams and trains and ferry boats. The newspaper offices were hit by an avalanche of letters. While the action questioned by many, some stood firmly behind the Indian bowler. One missive pointedly asked: “Would Brown have done this sort of thing against the Englishmen? I’ll guarantee he wouldn’t, because he knew he wouldn’t have got away with it. Knowing the sportsmanship of this Indian team he imposes on it . . . The only bad sportsmanship was shown by the batsman.”
Former players were also divided in their opinions. Some thought Mankad had not acted in the spirit of the game, and others found nothing objectionable in the conduct of the Indian spinner.
Vic Richardson supported Mankad while Jack Fingleton did not.
Former English Test player and tour journalist, Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji, voiced that it left a bad taste. Outspoken leg-spinner Bill O’Reilly, however, had the highest regard for Mankad as a spinner and had no problems with his actions. O’Reilly noted that although not required by law, Mankad had warned Brown previously of his “sour view” of “stolen singles”, satisfying the game’s ethical rules, and therefore was “quite entitled to do what he did, and . . . showed plenty of strength of character.”
The mode of dismissal soon entered the unofficial lexicon of cricket and is referred to as ‘Mankaded’ even today.
Don Bradman himself could not comment publicly at that time, but later wrote in his autobiography Farewell to Cricket : “For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship.”The great man said that he himself made it a point to stand in the crease until he could see the ball in flight.
It was one of the rare issues on which “Tiger” O’Reilly and The Don saw eye to eye. When asked on air whether he would have ever done a “Mankad”. O’Reilly’s answer was immediate, “It would never happen when I was bowling because the batsman at my end was never anxious to get down to the other end.”
(Arunabha Sengupta s a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)