Haslingden CC of Vinoo Mankad fame
As the spiritual home of cricket hosts the World Cup final today, mid-day visits Haslingden club, who released Mankad to play the historic 1952 game which came to be known as 'Mankad's Test'
Manchester: The Lord's Cricket Ground will host its fifth World Cup final on Sunday. The victors will enjoy legendary status — at least — in one-day cricket and if Eoin Morgan's Englishmen manage to get the better of Kane Williamson's New Zealanders, don't rule out a special honours board at the spiritual home of cricket.
Talking about the honours board and, from an Indian point of view, Vinoo Mankad is special, simply because he was the first Indian batsman to be etched out there for his 184 in the Lord's Test of 1952 when he also claimed 5-196 to add to his first innings score of 72.
Mankad's timely release
If it hadn't been for Mankad's release from Haslingden Cricket Club in the Lancashire League, the 1952 Lord's Test wouldn't have gone down in history as 'Mankad's Test'.
Located 91 miles north of Manchester city, it was at Haslingden CC where the great all-rounder played as a professional from 1952 to 1955.
Mankad was offered contract by Haslingden in 1951 and asked the Indian cricket board in November of that year for a guarantee that he would be picked for the following year's tour of England. Mankad was willing to sacrifice his contract to play for India, but Haslingden needed to hear from him by a certain date. There was no response from the Board and Mankad signed for Haslingden (reportedly for £1200). Later on, the Board denied him the assurance, saying that it would set a bad precedent.
A photo frame of the Haslingden CC team which included Vinoo Mankad after winning the championship in 1953
When injuries hit Vijay Hazare's tourists, the need to pull Mankad out of his Haslingden duties was felt. The Indian team manager Pankaj Gupta approached Haslingden, who agreed to release Mankad only for the opening Test at Leeds. The conditions, according to Sudhir Vaidya's book on Mankad, were: £100 be paid to Mankad, £200 to the club as compensation and a suitable professional to be provided for the club. Although Mankad was released for the Leeds Test, he was not picked. The Board did not agree to Haslingden's conditions too and Mankad was back at his club. Gupta managed to convince Haslingden and the club agreed to release Mankad for the remainder of the series. A Welsh businessman, Sir Herbert Merrett offered to compensate Haslingden to release Mankad, but they graciously turned it down.
Mankad joined the team in London and although England won the Lord's Test by eight wickets, it was always be remembered for Mankad's all-round show. Indian cricket will never be able to thank Haslingden enough.
No talk of 'Mankading'
Founded in 1853, Haslingden is one of the 14 founding members of the Lancashire league. It takes a lot of pride in nurturing the great game since then.
At Haslingden, it is refreshing to note that there is no talk of Mankading (the mode of dismissal which came to be known after Mankad ran out Australia's Bill Brown on India's 1947-48 tour of Australia) Chris Aspin, who was Haslingden CC's secretary for 40 years and has a suite named after him at the club, recalls how Mankad was released to play for India: "The club agreed to the Indian request and allowed Mankad to play in the Tests. India paid the club £300 and also sent a substitute player [in place of Mankad]."
Haslingden CC chairman Andrew Lord
Aspin says the batsman and left-arm spinner was immediately signed up when he made himself available. "In those days, the Lancashire league paid professionals more than the counties and certainly more than India or the West Indies. Almost every club had a Test player and these people were keen to be signed. When it was known that Mankad was available, Haslingden made him an offer," recalls Aspin.
Mankad was a hit in the league. His seven wickets for just two runs against Lowerhouse CC in 1955 is one of the proudest moments for the club. "We have each and every scorecard preserved of our matches," says Aspin.
One of the biggest advantages of having Mankad at Haslingden was the benefit local players received. "Our players learned a great deal from him. One said his coaching sessions were like university tutorials. Vinoo was greatly respected as a player and coach. Our amateurs learned much from him," says Aspin, who missed a lot of Mankad's tutorials since he was pursuing National Service in the Royal Air Force.
The Haslingden Cricket Club. Pics/Harit N Joshi
At the club, memories of Mankad are in the form of a photograph of him meeting Queen Elizabeth during the 1952 Lord's Test match and a team photograph which has Mankad seated. Mankad was not the only Indian cricketer to play for Haslingden. Rusi Surti was a professional as well before he represented India. "He was a very fine gentleman," says Aspin of the late Parsi all-rounder.
The likes of Clive Lloyd and Sir Richard Hadlee also played here. "Lloyd used to stay right opposite the ground in a hotel," says Haslingden CC's chairman Andrew Lord.
However, the relevance of club cricket culture is fast changing. Cricket in those days used to attract a lot of crowds, a far cry to the current scenario where the club would feel lucky if they got a "few hundred" for a game.
The current interest level notwithstanding, one cannot ignore the Vinoo Mankad factor in Haslingden and Haslingden's part in Mankad's career.
Kapil Dev nearly played here too!
The legendary Kapil Dev was also signed up by Haslingden. But the club's chairman shows us a March 18, 1980 letter from Kapil, informing the club about his unavailability due to an injury.
Kapil starts his letter proudly informing the club about Haryana's Ranji Trophy triumph over Karnataka in 1980 before elaborating on his injury: "You would be wondering how I played [the Ranji Trophy] when I am not fully fit. I played 26 Tests in the last 16 months and the busy domestic season has jarred my knee.
"I have been bowling with a shortened run-up and have jarring pain in my knee. I have only been playing for the sake of my state team...I declined the tour of West Indies on medical grounds. I am indeed sorry that I will have to withdraw from my assignment from Haslingden Cricket Club on medical grounds."
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