CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1947

Vinoo Mankad

Mulvantrai Mankad, known throughout the world by his cricket nickname of Vinoo, left arm slow bowler and right hand batsman, so distinguished himself on his first tour in England as a member of the 1946 India team that, both in performance and ability, he became recognised as the leading all-rounder of the season. Fittingly he crowned his great debut before the English public by completing the coveted "double" of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, a feat accomplished by only one other player R. Howorth of Worcestershire whose record was slightly inferior to that of Mankad. Not since L. N. Constantine achieved the feat in 1928 had a member of a team visiting England accomplished this all-round performance until Mankad made cricket history as the first Indian ever to do so. As chief agent in India's attack Mankad was called upon in first-class matches to bowl 1,160 overs, 380 in excess of any of his colleagues, and as many as three times as many as either Banerjee, Sohoni, Sarwate or Nayudu. In so doing he took 129 wickets, more than twice as many as the next most successful Indian bowlers, Hazare and Amarnath (56 each). As a batsman, accustomed at home to going in first, he was given no settled place but used rather as a utility man. In spite of so much bowling responsibility and the irregular batting position Mankad showed himself a very fine player. Seven times he shared in century partnerships, on four occasions with Merchant, the other three with Hazare. Mankad took part in the biggest stands of the tour for the first, fourth, sixth and eighth wickets, putting on 293 with Merchant against Sussex, 332 with Hazare against Yorkshire, 227 unfinished with Hazare against Middlesex and 110 with Merchant against Lancashire, at Old Trafford. Moreover, Mankad opened with Merchant in the Lord's Test and for a good time in the second innings looked capable of demoralising England's bowling.

These stood out as some of his batting triumphs, whereas in bowling he consistently presented a problem to English batsmen. Although called upon to bowl so often on all types of wickets Mankad rarely departed from a perfect length and, even if not carrying all before him on a wet wicket he was rarely mastered. Indeed but for the shortcomings of some of his fieldsmen, his number of wickets might have been increased by as many as 40 to 50.

Mankad, born on April 12, 1917, at Jamnagar in the Nawangar State, began to play cricket regularly when a pupil at Nawangar High School. There he received tuition from Albert Wensley, the Sussex professional, and to Wensley he readily attributes much of his bowling success. Wensley taught him the art of flighting, variation of pace and spin, and advised him to discard off-breaks because of the possibility of losing his natural grip and action for the more deadly leg-break. Mankad's batting came under the guidance of K. S. Duleepsinhji and when still at school Mankad accomplished an all-round performance which put him on the path to fame. In the final for the High School Shield he took 13 wickets against Alfred High School, Rajkot, was top scorer for Nawangar with 35 in the first innings and, after his school lost seven wickets for 80 when needing 153 to win, Mankad turned the scales with a freely hit 92 not out. He first appeared in big cricket for Western States in the Ranji trophy in 1935. Next year, the Nawangar Cricket Association, in the first season of its formation, won the Ranji trophy and Mankad played a leading part in the success. Even then he was little known outside his state until Lord Tennyson's team toured India in 1937-38. In the unofficial Tests he headed both bowling (14.53) and batting (62.66) averages, and Lord Tennyson was stated to have given his opinion that Mankad would step into the World's Best XI. After leaving Nawangar, Mankad played for the weaker Gujrat team and his opportunities for big cricket became mroe scarce until in 1945 he toured Ceylon with the representative Indian side. One performance by Mankad, when he took eight All-Ceylon wickets, did much to re-establish his reputation and in the same year he bowled so well against the Australian Services XI that A. L. Hassett, the Australian captain, freely tipped him as a certainty to do well on the English trip.

So necessary was Mankad to the Indian team in England that he missed only two matches, and those on account of an injury which slightly affected his bowling for the remainder of the season. When fielding at cover-point against Surrey at The Oval in May he jarred an ankle and his left elbow; subsequently he found that he could not deliver the faster ball, which went with his arm, either so quickly or so often as before. Nevertheless, this same delivery was responsible for a large proportion of his wickets. Many English batsmen confirmed that though they were prepared for it beforehand they could not always detect its coming when at the wicket. Mankad, of slightly round-arm action, takes only a few steps before delivery near the extreme edge of the crease. He imparts an unusual amount of spin to his stock ball, the leg-break to right-hand batsmen. His batting varies from the stolid to the adventurous according to the situation and his place in the order. This example of team spirit has characterised his constant approach to the game.

© John Wisden & Co