Vinoo Mankad Biography
Before Kapil Dev changed the equation of Indian cricket by bowling fast and hitting the ball hard, Vinoo Mankad was accepted as the greatest all-rounder to have played for the country.
There was good reason too. Mankad, through his long career, could hold his own as a genuine batsman and opened the innings in as many as 40 of his 72 Test innings. He had great powers of concentration and solid defence, and when required he could hit the ball hard. Possessing a good cover drive and strong leg side strokes, he was perhaps the first Indian batsman to loft balls into vacant areas in the outfield without trying to clear the ground.
And as a left-arm spinner, he was one of the best in business. In his early days he toyed with a Chinaman, but wisely gave it up to focus on the conventional spin. He sometimes punctuated his orthodox slow break with a faster one that deceived the best of batsmen. He could vary his flight and turn — as the legend goes — in infinitesimal degrees till a batsman playing forward for overs at a stretch suddenly found himself beaten, marginally out of his ground and stumped.
Additionally, at the end of the day full of heroics with the bat and the ball, his dapper form would never have a hair out of place.
Unfortunately, in spite of excellent showing against Lord Tennyson's side in the unofficial Test series in 1937-38, Mankad's international career could not take off during his prime because of the Second World War. He had to wait till the 1946 tour of England to make his debut.
During the tour of Australia in 1947-48, Don Bradman’s side steamrolled over the Indians, but Mankad scored two hundreds — opening batting against Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. And although he did not take too many wickets, he ensured that he would live on in the annals of cricket as a mode of dismissal when in the second Test, he ran out Bill Brown as the latter backed up too far before the ball was bowled.
Bradman singled out Vijay Hazare and Mankad as two best performers in the Indian side.
The winter of 1951-52 and the subsequent summer saw some of his greatest performances. At Madras, on a wicket that was not exactly helpful, Mankad cast a spell over the English batsmen, taking 8 for 52 and 4 for 53 as India registered their first-ever Test win.
The second Test at Lord’s in the summer of 1952 has gone down in history as Mankad’s Test. He opened the innings and within half an hour had launched Roly Jenkins over the sight screen for six. He top scored with 72 in the Indian total of 235. He followed it up by bowling 73 overs to take 5 for 196. And in the second innings batted four and a half hours to score 184. India lost, but Mankad went up on the Lord’s honour board for both batting and bowling.
Success continued with both bat and ball for a while. Wickets came by the bushel against Pakistan and he scored 223 and 231 versus New Zealand, adding a world record 413 with Pankaj Roy during the latter. It was a fantastic peak of a sterling career, but the last one. Age took its toll and he had to retire after the curious saga of captaincy during the West Indian tour of 1958-59.
Mankad remains one of the top all rounders the world has seen, and the first genuinely professional cricketer produced by India.