Ashok Mankad, the former Indian batsman, died in his sleep early on Friday morning in Mumbai. A Mumbai stalwart, Mankad's death came as a shock as he was suffering from no reported ailments. He was 61.
Even though he never could reach the heights that his father, Vinoo, attained, Mankad possessed a clever cricketing brain which he would utilise later in his career as a leader of various teams, including Mumbai, to script the downfall of their opponents.
As a batsman, Mankad's career was staggered across a decade, where he played as high as an opener to as low as a No. 8, but he failed to establish himself and only played 22 Tests, between 1969 and 1978, scoring 991 runs. He made an impact against Bill Lawry's Australians in his debut season in 1969-70, compiling four half-centuries. His 97 in the third Test in New Delhi, also his highest Test score, helped India square the series 1-1. However, he managed only two more fifties in what turned out to be an unfulfilled Test career. He retired from first-class cricket in 1982-83, compiling 12980 runs at an impressive average of 50.90. He scored 44 in his only ODI, against England at The Oval.
"Indian cricket lost one of its stalwarts when Ashok Mankad passed away earlier today," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, said. "He was a gifted batsman, an outstanding captain, and a respected cricket guru. An individual who dedicated his life to the sport, 'Kaka' will be missed by every single follower of cricket in this country."
"I was shocked to hear the sad news of the demise of Ashok Mankad, former Test cricketer," Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, said. "In the passing away of Ashok Mankad, the cricketing fraternity has lost a great friend, philosopher and guide."
Vasu Paranjpe, another Mumbai legend and Mankad's contemporary, thought Mankad never did "justice to his batting career". But Paranjpe had no doubt about Mankad's leadership skills.
"He was one of the best captains Mumbai had," Paranjpe said. "He was a clever player and shrewd leader."
Mankad's legend as a captain was first established at Mafatlal's in Mumbai's premier corporate tournament where he led the likes of former India players Eknath Solkar and Brijesh Patel before captaining Mumbai. Here he worked out strategies in company of Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar to carry forward Mumbai's supremacy on the domestic front.
After his playing career, Mankad quickly moved to coaching. He was manager of the Indian team in 1982, at a time when the post involved a coaching element, though he was not in the reckoning when India moved into the era of full-time coaches. At the domestic level, Mankad coached Madhya Pradesh, Railways and Mumbai with Baroda being his last assignment. Mankad coached Mumbai to a Ranji Trophy title in 2000 and came close once again with Baroda in 2006-07. The hosts had Mumbai reeling at 0 for 5 in the semi-finals but failed to drive home the advantage and eventually lost the match.
Mankad is survived by his wife Nirupama, and two sons, Mihir and Harsh.