Clayton Murzello: Let's not run out the great Vinoobhai
Every now and again, the ghost of the spirit of cricket reappears to join us on our little bench of judgment. Coincidentally, it has happened this time a day after the 35th anniversary of the underarm incident involving the Chappell brothers, Greg and Trevor.
On February 1, 1981, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Greg ordered younger brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie to prevent a possible six that would result in a tie during the 1980-81 triangular competition.
On February 2, 2016, at the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, West Indies seamer Keemo Paul whipped off the bails when he saw Zimbabwean non-striker Richard Ngarava out of his crease. The TV umpire declared Ngarava run out and West Indies advanced to the Super League quarter-finals.
Queen Elizabeth II shakes Vinoo Mankad’s hand after the all-rounder is introduced to her by India captain Vijay Hazare (party hidden) during the second Test against England at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on June 23, 1952. Pic/Getty Images
Though the scorecard showed it as a run out, the newspapers reported Ngarava was ‘Mankaded’, and Vinoo Mankad’s name cropped up again — contextually — but unfairly.
Before Kapil Dev, Mankad was India’s finest all-rounder and as I write this, I can hear the late Raj Singh Dungarpur, shaking his handsome face horizontally in disapproval for, he believed Mankad was THE greatest Indian all-rounder. Rajbhai even slept on a bed under which lay one of Mankad’s bats.
Mankad is one of the very few cricketers with whom a Test is synonymous. The 1952 India vs England Lord’s Test went down in history as Mankad’s Test. It was a match in which he scored 72 and 184 apart from claiming five wickets in England’s first innings. Despite that effort, India lost by eight wickets. Mankad deserves better than to be attached to a ‘mode’ of dismissal.
Yes, Mankad ran out Australia’s Bill Brown in the Sydney Test of the 1947-48 series but it must be stressed that Brown was warned in the tour game against an Australian XI at the SCG.
Don Bradman chose not to berate Mankad like some critics did. In his acclaimed autobiography Farewell to Cricket, Bradman dwelled on the incident: “Immediately in some quarters Mankad’s sportsmanship was questioned. For the life of me I cannot understand why. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the non-striker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out?
"By backing up too far or too early the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage. On numerous occasions he may avoid being run out at the opposite end by gaining this false start. I am well aware that few bowlers ever seek to take advantage of such an opportunity. It would be nigh impossible for some to do so.
"Mankad was an ideal type, and he was so scrupulously fair that he first of all warned Brown before taking any action. There was absolutely no feeling in the matter as far as we were concerned, for we considered it quite a legitimate part of the game.”
Ray Lindwall, who opened the bowling for Australia in that Test, gave Mankad a clean chit too, but also pointed out that Mankad had warned Brown in the Sydney Test. In Flying Stumps, Lindwall wrote: “Accusations of bad sportsmanship were made against Vinoo Mankad for the running out of Bill Brown at Sydney in the Second Test but these were most unfair to the bowler. Contrary to most of the accounts of the incident, however, he again warned Bill Brown that he was backing-up too quickly. The story that he whipped off the bails without a previous warning was not true, not that anyone could have complained if he had broken the wicket without a warning.”
The term ‘Mankaded’ has a negative connotation, but who is to stop anyone from coining and using terms? Jack Fingleton, the former Australian batsman, who played in the 1932-33 Bodyline series, discovered, much to his amusement, a term being coined during Australia’s 1938 tour of England. The Australians were battling for a draw at Trent Bridge, the home of Harold Larwood and the anti-Australian feeling in the crowd was evident when spectators indulged in some slow, hand-clapping as Fingleton and Bill Brown were putting on a decent opening stand. A message came out via reserve Mervyn Waite that captain Bradman wanted the batsmen to draw away from the stumps if the slow clapping continued as the bowler ran in. Fingleton not only drew away, he also sat on the turf which didn’t impress the famous umpire Frank Chester. Fingleton informed the umpire that he was following orders from his captain to draw away. Fingleton, a newspaper man himself, was not surprised to see the incident reported but was astounded and humoured when a horse racing correspondent described a horse sitting down at the barrier as doing ‘a Fingleton’.
Back to the incident involving the West Indies under-19 teams on Tuesday. Paul could have warned Ngarava and earned universal acclaim for his gesture but his team would not have won. The Zimbabweans may have been reduced to tears but this is a sport for the tough. Cricket also reminds its practitioners that you ignore your basics at your own peril.
Doubtless, there will be more incidents of bowlers running out batsmen who are in a hurry to get to the other end. Probably, it will only be right to say that the batsman was ‘Mankaded’ if the bowler had warned him before whipping off the bails. At least, grant the great all-rounder that much.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to email@example.com