The Board ought to have celebrated the all-rounder's birth centenary last week, but a lack of sensitivity and wisdom let them down
Vinoo Mankad (left) and Pankaj Roy, who put on a record 413 runs for the opening wicket against New Zealand at Chennai during the 1955-56 series
Last week marked the birth centenary of Vinoo Mankad, the finest all-rounder this country produced before Kapil Dev emerged as the greatest. But what did the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) do to remember the legend?
At a function a couple of months ago, I heard a Board functionary say that the establishment was planning something significant for the birth centenary. Did they forget? Did their best-intended plans go pear-shaped? Were they too busy thinking about the post-Lodha Committee era in Indian cricket? Maybe driving through the Vinoo Mankad Gate daily to reach the Cricket Centre at the Wankhede Stadium wasn't reminder enough of the great man?
That former greats have not received the attention they deserve is a common refrain, but what was seen at this year's BCCI awards function in Chennai was refreshing. It was as if a new beginning was being made wherein players were getting more prominence at the awards than the BCCI officials. In light of this, I was optimistic that the Board (with historian Ramchandra Guha in the Committee of Administrators) would do something to further perpetuate the memory of Mankad.
His life's innings was brief - he died at 61 - but he gave most of those years to his best-loved game by batting, bowling, fielding and even coaching with unwavering commitment.
Mankad's deeds were wondrous. For 52 years, he along with Pankaj Roy, held the opening partnership record of 413 runs (vs New Zealand at Madras in 1955-56) in Test cricket. And, 65 years after the 1952 India vs England Test at Lord's, Sunil Gavaskar rightly stressed recently that the game is still known as Mankad's Test.
Also surprising was the fact that none of the states he represented decided to come up with a token of appreciation for this great man's birth centenary. However, The Legends Club in Mumbai must be commended on a great evening they organised last week in Mankad's honour at the Cricket Club of India, where Gavaskar's anecdotal delivery had the audience bowled over.
Raj Singh Dungarpur, the founder of the Legends Club, is no more, but one could remember all those stories which he loved telling concerning the great all-rounder.
His favourite one was about Mankad removing his sweater and throwing the ball back to his skipper Vijay Hazare at the end of that famous 1952 Test at Lord's (which India lost despite Mankad's heroics) with the words, "Sorry skipper, I couldn't do much." The backstory, which Raj Singh also revealed, explains the comment. It seems Hazare wasn't too sure about Mankad's ability to do justice to his call-up and Mankad, having heard about Hazare's hesitancy, made it a point to pass the comment after amassing an impressive 256 runs and 5 wickets.
What could the Board and various cricket associations have done to make Mankad's birth centenary memorable and set a trend for similar milestones? I pulled out my prescriptive pen...
# Publish a souvenir to commemorate Mankad's birth centenary with tributes and extracts from historian Sudhir Vaidya's book on Mankad, so that the younger generation would be more aware of his great deeds.
# Organise a screening of the documentary on Mankad, which is lying in the Films Division archives.
# Pay respects to Mankad through a small ceremony at the Vinoo Mankad Gate of the Wankhede Stadium.
# Produce Vinoo Mankad birth centenary ties, caps and flags to be sold to cricket enthusiasts.
# Erect Vinoo Mankad birth centenary banners all over the Wankhede Stadium for the IPL game on April 12.
# Invite Mankad's only surviving son Rahul to be part of the IPL post-match presentation party.
# Remind the postal department of the upcoming birth centenary, which could have led to the issue of a postal stamp for the occasion.
All this, of course, would have required sensitivity and an extra effort to honour a cricketer who was extraordinary.
It's never too late, BCCI. Better now than nothing at all!
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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