December 9, 2018
By Hemant Kenkre
Controversies tend to inevitably dog India Australia Test series. Remember Steve Smith’s Brain Fade in the last series in India? Similarly cricket fans will remember ‘Monkey Gate’ that led to an Indian team threatening to abandon the series in Australia or in an earlier tour, Sunil Gavaskar’s near walk out, an action, he later said he will always regret.
Even the very first test series between the two nations, wasn’t free of controversy. In fact, it led to a new cricketing term that many including Gavaskar felt was unfair to a legendary Indian cricketer.
The first time India toured Australia was in 1947-48. The team was led by the mercurial Lala Amarnath. India missed the presence of their star batsman Vijay Merchant who dropped out due to fitness issues and two more top order batsmen, Syed Mushtaq Ali and Rusi Mody. They were pitted against the 'Invincibles', led by the legendary Sir Donald Bradman.
As a contest the series was pretty one sided. Bradman's charge with the bat, with an average of 178.75, coupled with a weak Indian batting saw India lose the series 0-4. The saving grace for the Indians being the performances of Vijay Hazare (two centuries in the same Test), Vinoo Mankad (two Test centuries and 61 wickets) and Dattu Phadkar (one century).
The controversy erupted in one of the early matches, even before the start of the Test Series. In a warm up game, Mankad ran out Bill Brown at the non-striker’s end as the batsman was backing up too far. This was done after giving Brown a fair warning. The Aussie media erupted, calling the act “unfair”.
Unfazed by the criticism, Mankad again ran out Bill Brown in similar manner in the second test match. This was too much for the Aussie media to stomach and poor Vinoo bhai (as he was known) received quite a bit of flak. This form of dismissal was termed as ‘Mankaded’ by the media.
But support came from a most unexpected quarter, skipper of the Australian team, the great Don himself. "For the life of me, I can't understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship. 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 obviously gaining an unfair advantage," Bradman said.
Recently, some Indian and international cricketers led by the little master, Sunil Gavaskar campaigned that this form of dismissal should not be termed ‘Mankaded’ but ‘Browned’ after the batsman who had erred. The suggestion has been accepted.
Interestingly, all this controversy did not affect the spirit with which the two teams played the game. In the first two tests, Mankad was finding it difficult to score runs, falling often to Ray Lindwall, the spearhead of the Australian attack.
Vinoo bhai then walked up to his tormentor and asked Lindwall what he was doing wrong. The fast bowler told Mankad that his backlift was so high that his bat came “all the way down from Sydney Harbour Bridge,” enough for Lindwall to penetrate. The quick learner that he was, Mankad scored 116 in the third Test with a restricted backlift, the first of his two centuries on that tour!
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Hemant Kenkre is the former captain of Cricket Club of India. Among those he led during this stint was a young Sachin Tendulkar
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