For more than five decades he held the world opener record of 413 in Test matches with his partner Pankaj Roy.
Even the 231 he scored in that match against New Zealand in Chennai in January 1965 has stood the test of time for nearly three decades as the highest individual test score by an Indian before Sunil Gavaskar surpassed it in 1983.
He was perhaps one of the first professionals among amateurs in the 1940s and 50s when cricket could not be a source of livelihood.
“Vinoo”, as the cricketing world knew him, was more than the sum total of his parts, the 2,109 runs and 162 wickets he won in those 44 Tests.
He was India’s first ‘Brylcream Man’ for his well-oiled brushed-back hair and perhaps the first cricketing superstar of the post-independence era.
But over the past 75 years, the name of one of India’s greatest cricketers has repeatedly been dragged every time a batter deliberately tries to steal yards from the non-attacking end and is legally exhausted.
It’s a lazy reference to Mankad dismissing Australian flyhalf Bill Brown in India’s first-ever Down Under series in 1947-48.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) was then known as the Imperial Cricket Conference. The name “Imperial” in ICC told the story.
A Commonwealth sport, where the rules were set by the sharp suits seated in a boardroom at the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) hosted at Lord’s.
The place where the ambiguous term ‘Spirit Of Cricket’ was born and where a young Indian woman named Deepti Sharma showed what it means to follow the law in letter and in spirit.
Did you know that Mankad chased Brown the same way in the warm-up match?
Everyone knows that Mankad missed Australian fly-half Brown for 18 years because he fell too far back in the non-attacking side in the Sydney Test match played from December 12-18.
The test was drawn and the incident happened on the second day (December 13) of the game.
But very few people know that before the test match, the touring Indian team had a warm-up match against “Australian XI” at the same venue just before the test match.
In author Gulu Ezekiel’s book, “Myth Busting-Indian Cricket Behind the Headlines”, published by Rupa, there is a detailed history of how things went before and after the dismissal.
Evidence that Brown’s offense was the second was documented by former top class Australian cricketer turned journalist Ginty Lush, who covered the series for the ‘Telegraph’.
In fact, Lush’s article in the December 14, 1947 “Sunday Telegraph” was headlined “Mankad Again Traps Bill Brown”.
The article stated: “Brown’s sacking caused heated discussion in the members’ gallery. Even the press gallery was a scene of debate over whether Mankad was guilty of a sporting offence. The story of the Brown duel -Mankad is this: Brown was cautioned by Mankad for backing too smartly in the India vs An Australian XI’ match at SCG.”
Brown was knocked out by Mankad in the same game for offending again. Brown was knocked out by Mankad for the second time yesterday.”
Lush in fact, in his report, had said that Brown was “foolish” to take liberties.
“Although a run-out in this manner is permitted, it is not considered a sporting thing under ordinary circumstances. But in light of a previous warning and dismissal, Brown was foolish to taking liberties with Mankad.” And a foot won at the bowler’s end was also a foot won at the wicketkeeper’s end. Mankad can hardly be called “Bad Sport” for trapping Brown. The first time he warned (Brown). Yesterday there was no warning, just a flash action.”
A week after Lush’s report in the Sunday Telegraph, a non-byline report in another daily, ‘Truth’ (published 21 December 1947) states that Mankad admitted during the test match he did not warn Brown but he had heard Arthur Morris warn his partner.
According to this report, Mankad had heard Morris say, “Watch out BB, you’re doing the same thing again.”
Why was Mankad bothered by Brown’s pushback?
Vinou Mankad was a conventional orthodox left-arm spinner. And that’s why, Brown’s repeated saves have affected him technically. Why and how was explained by LH Kearney in his “Courier Mail” article dated December 19, 1947.
In fact, Mankad had told Kearney the reason and hinted in the first Test that he would eliminate Brown on the non-attacking side.
“When in Brisbane recently, Vinoo told me his reasons under the promise that I would not divulge them until he framed Brown a second time, as he expected.”
Kearney goes on to write, “Being a left arm bowler, Mankad had confided to me that Brown by leaving the pop crease and advancing forward, but off the court, completely distracts him, as he is half facing the Brown on the move when the ball leaves his hand.
“My reflective vision is affected and my bowling concentration suffers,” Mankad said. I had warned Brown in Sydney (during the practice match) not to leave the non-striker’s crease until the ball left my hand, but Brown ignored the warning.”
But how Kearney summed it up is the crux of the debate, which refuses to die down after seven and a half decades.
“Mankad explained that a right-arm bowler is not hindered in the same way by the moving batsman not hitting, because when the ball leaves a right-arm bowler’s hand, he has no sight of a batter trying to steal a step on him. Some argue that Mankad’s trap isn’t cricket. That’s ridiculous. Why not similarly claim that it’s unfair for the batsman to step back, hoping for a quick fly rush?
Legend has it that Brown had offered to take Mankad out for a drink but the Indian, who was sober, politely declined.
Vinoo Mankad didn’t cheat on December 13, 1947. Deepti Sharma was also right on September 24, 2022.