Mankad did so much more than run people out
Poor “Vinoo” Mankad. If it was bad enough to be saddled with the first names of Mulvantrai Himmatlal – hence the briefer nickname of Vinoo – he has been lumbered with “Mankading”, the most controversial – and least skilful – of the ways that a bowler can dismiss a batsman.
It was only twice that Mankad ran out a non-striker when backing up too far; it was not as if he made a habit of it. And it was the same batsman on both occasions, on India’s 1947-8 tour: Australia’s opener Bill Brown, who admitted that on one of those occasions he was at fault.
Mankad was so much more: he was the best left-arm spinner in the world in his time, and the best spinning all-rounder. His performance in the Lord’s Test of 1952 between England and India has never been surpassed for stamina. He scored 72 in India’s first innings, bowled 73 overs and took five wickets in England’s first innings, then scored 184 in India’s second.
Mankad was such a brilliant all-rounder that he became one of the highest-paid cricketers in the world in the early 1950s, when representing Haslingden in the Lancashire league, fetching a four-figure sum that, according to his biography, grew to £1200 (about $70,000 today) for one season – with bonuses on top.
He had one great advantage, and one great disadvantage. The advantage was that he was born in Jamnagar, which was the de facto capital of cricket in the Princely States of India under the Raj. Kumar Sri Ranjitsinhji was the Jam Sahib of the state of Nawangar, where Jamnagar was the capital; Ranji’s nephew was Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji; and both played for England and Sussex.
When growing up in Jamnagar in the 1930s, Mankad was coached by Sussex professional Bert Wensley, who changed him from being a left-arm wrist-spinner into an orthodox slow left-armer.
Mankad’s disadvantage was losing some of his best years to World War II. He did not make his Test debut until 1946, on India’s tour of England, when he was 29 – and he was not bad then, doing the double of a thousand runs and a hundred wickets in the first-class season, the first touring player to do so after the West Indies’ Learie Constantine in 1928, and never repeated since.
Before the war, when only 20, he had revealed himself as a star all-rounder, when Lord Tennyson’s team toured India in 1937-8 and played five “Tests” against India. They were not given full Test status because so many England players declined to tour after contesting the Ashes in Australia the previous winter. Mankad scored an unbeaten century at No.3 in the “Tests” and was India’s leading spinner.