In a team"s batting line up, a lot of emphasis is put on the opening pair, as they are the ones who give the side stability. They are the crucial elements, in what decides the outcome of a match, for a solid opening stand is paramount. Over the years there have been some reliable pairs and they are firmly etched in the history books. Some of the combines like Geoff Marsh and David Boon, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting are ones that come quickly to mind! More recently those that come to mind are Pakistan"s Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar, Sri Lanka"s Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu and Australia"s Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. The lists can carry on, for there have been some successful opening pairs as the record books will tell you. Just to put things in perspective, we are referring to the original version of the game, Test cricket. Talking about records, every now and again, they are broken and a new pair is hailed as the custodian of the new achievement. But there"s one record that has stood the test of time, for no less than 51 years now!! That is the opening partnership record for Tests, held by Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad better known as Vinoo Mankad to all and Pankaj Roy for a grand 413 runs! People in the recent past have gotten close to matching the effort but the record still stands and that is all that matters. It was the Indian pair of Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag who scored 410 for the first wicket, in the 2006 away series in Pakistan. That was the closest attempt till date!
Not many of us were alive to see the duo create magic that half century ago. No one really expected them to achieve such a landmark, but then when you least expect, wonderful things happen. It"s time to rewind and turn back the clocks. It"s in articles like these that one can go back in time. So often in life you really want to do just that, but it"s not possible!
The year is 1956! And the series is India v New Zealand, in India. But before we go there, let"s go to the start of the careers of Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad. 1951 was the year when the twosome first opened for the country. This was in the third Test of the match against England in the 1951 series in India. They had opening stands of 72 and an unbeaten 103, which was commendable. India had found their opening equation; at least that is what they had thought. This pair, was not so successful in the matches to come, and after the 103 stand that they had in 1952 at Lords" they failed in matches to come and ceased to be an opening pair!
Pankaj Roy, was the defaulter in this partnership, as he had fluctuating times as a batsman. He started off with scores above 100 in his first series at home but these were followed by 5 ducks in 7 test innings, the following year in England. His partner Vinoo Mankad on the other hand, had more respectable scores but he was discontinued as Roy"s opening partner after a few more tries and started batting lower down the order, and even captured wickets with his slow left arm bowling. He was an all rounder who would go on to etch his name in the greatest all rounder book, of Indian test players. After the England series, Roy and Mankad opened one more time, in the first Test against Pakistan in the 1952-53 home series. But since that did not quite work, Roy got new opening partners in the series against West Indies and Pakistan there after.
As luck would have it, both players who opened with Roy, failed to keep their positions in the team and it was once again, a chance for the Roy – Mankad combine that had started rather well, to be able to prove themselves! The 1955 home series against New Zealand was the time to show that this pair could succeed. But in the first test Roy got out for a duck and that meant, that three other partners were tried out with Mankad for the next three matches. In the final Test, it was decided that Roy and Mankad will open one more time for India. And that day, the 6th of January 1956, will go down as the red-letter day for this opening pair. Their captain Polly Umrigar won the toss and elected to bat. The rest is history.
On day one, the pair put on 234 with both getting centuries, Vinoo Mankad amassing 109 and Pankaj Roy ,114. Day two was the day that history was made. The 7th of Jan 1956 was up in neon lights, for Test cricket"s highest partnership was created. A mammoth 413 was put on for the opening partnership, but the dream run came to an end when Roy was bowled by Poore for 173 that had twelve fours. Miffed that he did not reach the 200 mark, Roy could take heart in the fact that his name along with Vinoo Mankad would go down in the record books. But even he could not imagine that this record would remain unbeaten for 51 years later! Mankad eventually ended his innings after scoring 231 with twenty-one fours!!
The all time highest record for any wicket is the gigantic total of 624 that Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put on for the third wicket against South Africa in Sri Lanka, last year. It remains to be seen when this feat will be equaled or surpassed.
For now what is important is the fact that this Roy and Mankad record for the opening partnership of 413 remains. For another 50 years? Maybe just maybe, given the fact that more and more one dayers and twenty20 matches are being played these days. But then again this is cricket and nothing is impossible!!
Photo courtesy: The Hindu