Performance must count first
The quality of cricket in the 1947-48 India v Australia Test series must be spoken about more than the incident involving Mankad and Brown.
Thanks to the pre-Indian Premier League-13 utterances of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ricky Ponting and the Indian off-spinner's recent warning dished out to Royal Challengers Bangalore's Australian stalwart Aaron Finch, some cricket followers got to know a lot more of Vinoo Mankad than ever before.
They have been reminded that the great Indian all-rounder ran out Australian Bill Brown for backing up too far in the Sydney Test of the 1947-48 series.
Indeed, Mankad shouldn't be viewed in a derogatory way because firstly, he did what he did according to the laws of the game. By warning Brown in a previous game, he also exhibited the spirit of the game and while that is and was welcomed, the game will be played through the letter of the law.
In Sudhir Vaidya's 1969 biography of Vinoo Mankad, the famed statistician and scorer mentioned that Brown was warned several times by Mankad during the November 14-18, 1947 Indians vs Australian XI game at the Sydney Cricket Ground, held in the build-up to the five-match Test series. India won that game to register the country's first ever win on Australian soil. And Mankad's 8-84 went down as a highly impressive effort, watched by 3,855 spectators.
Don Bradman, who led that side (just like he did in the Tests), wrote in Farewell to Cricket: "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."
Opposition fast bowler Ray Lindwall too was sympathetic towards Mankad in Flying Stumps: "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. If a batsman infringes the written laws he can have no grouse against a bowler not conforming to an unwritten law."
With the 1947-48 series getting so many mentions, there should be more talk and memories of the performances in that series. As much as we remember Vijay Hazare's two centuries in the Adelaide Test, we often forget that Mankad scored two centuries in that series — in both Tests which the Melbourne Cricket Ground played host to.
Before his century in the third Test, his sequence of scores was 0, 7, 5, 5 with Lindwall sending him back on all four occasions. A party was held after the first day's play of the third Test and Mankad seized the opportunity to ask Lindwall his opinion on his failures. In a moment of advice-related generosity, Lindwall told Mankad that he, in Vaidya's description, "was coming down too late on the yorker and that possibly he would do better with slightly less back swing." Mankad scored 116 the following day. Another hundred came off Mankad's blade in the final Test at Melbourne.
Bradman was surprised by Mankad's batting exploits considering the workload he endured in the bowling department — 174 eight-ball overs — in which he claimed 12 wickets; none of those included the great Bradman, though. The Australian skipper, playing his last Test series at home, was dismissed on only four occasions. His opposite number Lala Amarnath got him hit wicket in Brisbane, Dattu Phadkar trapped him leg before in the first of the two Tests at Melbourne and Hazare disturbed his furniture in Sydney and Adelaide. Very few can claim similar kudos as Hazare!
Talking about appreciation, the "Well played, Mankad" note that Bradman handed to Mankad as the Indian team were getting ready to leave Australia, was much appreciated and treasured. "He fought and fought magnificently to score two centuries against Lindwall and Miller, the finest fast bowlers since World War II," said Bradman.
Though the Indians lost 0-4, the individual all-round performances of Mankad, Hazare and Phadkar made it a memorable tour. Amarnath may have not set the Yarra River ablaze, but his good showing in the tour games contributed to him scoring 1000-plus runs on the trip. In the second Test at Sydney, India utilised the wet conditions to bowl out the formidable Australian line-up for only 107 with Hazare bowling 4-29 with his cutters. And if they were not caught on a Sticky Dog of a Brisbane pitch, India would have fared far better than be dismissed for 58 and 98 in the first Test.
If Mankad surprised observers by running out Brown, he should also be commended for his sportsmanship in warning the Queensland batsman. There was another example of good sportsmanship, highlighted in Hazare's book, A Long Innings. In the tour opener against Western Australia, SW Sohoni hit the ball towards a pool of rain water at mid-wicket. A fielder, fearing a fall, walked to collect the ball, but Sohoni chose not to take the second run. "The sporting act was as handsome as the man performing it," wrote Hazare.
Sporting gestures like these are rarely seen in the game today. The current players shouldn't be blamed for being ruthless, for the stakes are higher. A display of sportsmanship could probably be counted as a bonus.
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
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
Keep scrolling to read more news
Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and a complete guide from food to things to do and events across Mumbai. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates.
Mid-Day is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@middayinfomedialtd) and stay updated with the latest news
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe