Cricket legends make way for BJP leaders at Wankhede gates

Oct 30, 2014, 06:25 IST | Varun Singh and Chetna Yerunkar

The BJP is going to rename the entry gates of the Wankhede Stadium for the swearing-in ceremony after its functionaries; entrances currently sport names of Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar

It won't just be a new government taking oaths at the Wankhede stadium on Friday. Even the stadium’s entrance gates shall bear a new name.

The Vinoo Mankad gate is the main entrance into Wankhede stadium. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The Vinoo Mankad gate is the main entrance into Wankhede stadium. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The BJP-led government has stumped the cricketing community with their decision to rename the entrances to the stadium, currently named after cricketing legends Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar, after its own senior functionaries, for their special day.

Preparations are on in full swing at Wankhede stadium. A BJP leader’s name on a banner will cover Mankad’s name on the gate
Preparations are on in full swing at Wankhede stadium. A BJP leader’s name on a banner will cover Mankad’s name on the gate

While Mankad opened for India, Umrigar was a great middle-order batsman. CM-designate Devendra Fadnavis, along with his top cabinet ministers, will take oath on Friday. The ceremony is expected to be attended by PM Narendra Modi, party boss Amit Shah and other prominent leaders.

On that day, the two gates may possibly be re-christened after former BJP minister Hashu Advani and senior functionary Shivaji Mankar. Other names being considered are of ideologues Shyama Prasad Mookerji and Deendayal Upadhyay.

Confirming the same, Niranjan Shetty, the party’s spokesperson for Mumbai, said, “This is not a permanent change; it is only for the oath-taking ceremony. We are not changing the gates. It is just an old custom we follow.” The party will cover the inscribed names with a banner sporting the names of their own leaders.

During Modi’s rally at the MMRDA ground in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) in December last year, the party had called it Deendayal Upadhyay Maidan in its publicity material, and also in the posters stuck to direct people to the venue.

The cricketing community is none too pleased with this googly. Rahul Mankad, the youngest son of Vinoo Mankad, upon learning of the plans, said, “This is most bizarre! I am speechless.

Having said that, nothing surprises me about Mumbai, in general, and Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), in particular, any more. I don’t think any senior MCA administrator has any cricketing knowledge or even a background.”

When he was told this was an idea of the BJP government, he exclaimed, “Guests cannot decide how the house is run!” Mankad has represented Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy back in the 1970s and ’80s.

Nadeem Memon, MCA’s maidan secretary and managing committee member added, “Our whole aim of having such legendary names displayed was that the youth would know about them and the historic matches connected with these cricketers.

But these politicians want to take the right of the sportsman away. First, they have taken over the whole of the stadium and it is us who have to maintain the ground. We will have to get the sand to keep the ground maintained when they leave it messed up after the function.

“Second, it is totally unfair to have another name for the gate and we shall not allow it to happen. They should do it somewhere else rather than disturbing the current names. Other gates do not have names. Do it there. Why modify these names?”

mid-day had reported that Memon had taken umbrage to the BJP’s plan to host the function in the stadium, stating that the international-level stadium was never used for political purposes and, moreover, such an event would damage the ground, which would take a lot to fix.

However, some don’t see much wrong in the attempt. Madhav Apte, former India cricketer, ex-Mumbai captain and the city’s sheriff, told mid-day, “Even the Congress had changed a lot of things when they held an event at Brabourne stadium.

If it was a cricket event and his name was being sidelined, then it would have been a disappointment. This is a different subject altogether.”

The two greats

Vinoo Mankad
Vinoo Mankad’s real name is Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad, but his boyhood name Vinoo stuck to him during his entire career. On January 7, 1956, he put up a record opening partnership of 413 runs with Pankaj Roy, a record that stood for 52 years.

Polly Umrigar
Polly Umrigar captained India in eight Test matches. When he left international cricket, Umrigar had the maximum number of Test matches, runs and centuries than any other Indian cricketer. His highest score of 223, against New Zealand in Hyderabad, was India’s first-ever double century in Test cricket.

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