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News : Ashok Mankad dies aged 61
Features : Batsman, captain, inspiration
Players/Officials: Ashok Mankad
MANKAD, ASHOK VINOO, who died on August 1, 2008, aged 61, won 22 Test caps for India but constantly struggled to live up to the reputation of his father, the great all-rounder Vinoo. He was also frequently forced to play as an opener, which he did not enjoy. Promoted to open in his fourth Test appearance, he started brilliantly, scoring 64, 68 and 97 in successive innings against the 1969-70 Australians at Kanpur and Delhi, but never went on to make a Test century, and struggled on faster pitches overseas. He did quite well opening with Sunil Gavaskar in the Caribbean in early 1971, but later that year his scores in the (ultimately triumphant) three-Test series against England were 1, 5, 8, 7, 10 and 11.
Gavaskar recalled that Mankad kept his sense of humour and told the England players they were lucky it was not a five-Test series because he was obviously improving and would have got to 25 by the end. After that, he became a fringe player, but remained a heavy scorer in domestic cricket, averaging 76 in the Ranji Trophy compared to 25 in Tests, and proving a canny captain of Bombay. His maiden century had come in the 1967-68 Ranji final and his highest score, a ten-hour 265, set up yet another Trophy-winning victory, over Delhi in 1980-81. "He was a wonderful batsman, but he was not allowed to fulfil his potential because he was converted into an opener for which he was not well equipped," said one contemporary, Bapu Nadkarni. The batsman Ajit Wadekar agreed: "He could have done better had he continued to play in the middle order. He was a great reader of the wicket and opposition." After retirement Mankad turned to coaching, taking charge of four Indian state sides including Bombay (by now Mumbai) and inspiring them to the Ranji title in 1999-2000. He married an Indian tennis champion, and one of their sons, Harsh, played in the Davis Cup.