Bengaluru: A former Mumbai Ranji Trophy cricketer, currently on holiday in Portugal has been inundated with calls and messages, all because he bears one of cricket’s most famous surnames.
Rahul Mankad, at 63 the only surviving son of the great Vinoo Mankad, discovered that the family name was back in the news and, to his dismay, it was once again because of a run out by a bowler at the non-striker’s end.
The debate over the rights and wrongs of R. Ashwin vs Jos Buttler at the Indian Premier League has raged for two days now, and not surprisingly, for the form of dismissal — in which the bowler runs out the non-striker — is one that always polarises opinion. But what should be much more obvious is that calling the dismissal a Mankad is less than savoury.
After all, with the stigma being attached to dismissing a batsman in this manner there is no good reason why the dismissal should be remembered for the bowler who first effected it, rather than the batsman whose attempts at stealing ground were cut shot, well within the rule of law.
For the record, Mankad dismissed Australian batsman Bill Brown in this fashion back in 1947. The batsman had received enough warning that he was gaining an unfair advantage and when he refused to change his ways, Mankad pulled up in his delivery stride and took the bails off.
‘Have had enough of the association’
Rahul says he has just about had enough of the family name only cropping up in association with the dismissal.
“It doesn’t bug me, but what it does is show how ill-informed people are. I’m not running away from it, my father never ran away from it,” Rahul told The Print Wednesday. “It’s just awkward for me to have to explain this to people who are lovers of the game simply because they don’t have a better sense of the history of the game.”
He also reiterated that the mode of dismissal had existed for a long time before his father effected it in a Test.
“It is a legitimate mode of dismissal. The fortunate or unfortunate part is that my father did it. People have failed to understand the circumstances and the background. It started in the match against Queensland where Bill Brown was warned several times,” said Rahul.
“That was the precursor to the dismissal in the Test. The Australians never made a song and dance about it. They felt that Brown got what he deserved and Brown agreed. There was no ill-feeling, animosity or regret from either side.”
Rahul said the only regret his father had was that he been put in a position “where he had to do it”.
“Sunil Gavaskar rightly said that the dismissal should be called Browned rather than Mankaded but I guess the Australian press went for the catchier name, which is fair enough.”
What irks Rahul is the stigma attached to the mode of dismissal. “People like Geoff Boycott have told me that if his son effected such a dismissal, he would be disowned,” said Rahul. “He obviously didn’t have the facts. And he obviously has a selective sense of propriety or ethics or spirit of the game. That is hurtful and uncalled for.
“Even now there is a lot of selective interpretation about the spirit of the game as well as the high moral ground taken by people that matter in the modern game. This brings into question integrity and a sense of fair play of my father. That is unwarranted and unacceptable, in my view.”
Bradman had backed Mankad
Although Twitter and Facebook did not exist back in the day, there was significant outrage over the incident, especially among the Australian press corps. Although, to be fair, Sir Don Bradman, the greatest of them all, had no problem with what had occurred.
“For the life of me, I cannot understand why (the press called it unsporting). The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered,” Bradman had said. “If not, why is the provision there that enables the bowler to run him out?”
More recently, however, several cricketers, led by Gavaskar, have addressed the issue of the nomenclature of the dismissal.
“I have grave objections to that because it’s putting one of India’s cricketing legends in a bad light,” Gavaskar had told Sony Max in 2017. “He has been one of India’s all-time great cricketers. If it has to be referred by somebody’s name, it should be named after the non-striker, who, despite being warned twice by Mr Mankad left his crease. And the third time was when Mankad removed the bails and so suddenly there was an uproar created. I think it should be called [getting] ‘Browned’ because Brown was at fault, not Mr Mankad.”
What makes the link between player and dismissal all the more disappointing is that Vinoo Mankad should be remembered rightly as India’s first great all-rounder and one of the world’s finest. Had he not lost the 11 best years of his playing time because of the War, the statistics would be stacked in his favour.
It’s worth remembering that he made his debut at age 30, and was still good enough to complete the double (1,000 runs and 100 wickets) in 12 Tests fewer than Sir Garfield Sobers, widely considered the greatest all-rounder of all time.
And then, of course, there was the second Test at Lord’s in 1952. Walking into the Test straight from club cricket, Mankad scored 72 in the first innings, picked up five wickets and then carted the bowling around for 184 in the second dig. Old-timers still refer to that match as Mankad’s Test, despite the fact that India lost.
For the final word, though, it’s over to Rahul: “I just hope and wish that, in my lifetime, my father’s greatness as a player and as a person get the due he deserves from the game that he played with grace and aplomb. The run out needs to be put to rest once and for all.”