Ashok Mankad: A talent unfulfilled due to selectorial whims

Published: Friday, August 1, 2008, 15:01 [IST]
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A file pic of former India batsman Ashok Mankad. Mankad had the talent, class but had no permanent batting spotMumbai: Ashok Mankad, one of the astute brains in Indian cricket, however, suffered as he never really enjoyed the confidence of the selectors, nor was he given a fixed place in the batting order.

The son of legendary Vinoo Mankad, played in only 22 Tests, spread over almost a decade and he batted from anywhere between No 1 and No 8, and quite often, he played in only one Test of a series.

This was a pity, for Mankad possessed a wide range of strokes and even though he could never measure up to the level of his great father Vinoo Mankad, he did have the talent and class to run up better scores than his overall career figures suggest.

He first came into prominence by scoring a half century as a teenager against the MCC for West Zone in 1963-64. A series of big scores over the years saw him get his break against New Zealand in 1969-70.

He went in late in the order, and then because of circumstances was pushed to the opening slot. He was an instant success in his new role against Australia, negotiating McKenzie and Connolly with ease and running up successive scores of 74, 8, 64, 68 and 97.

He was also a member of the twin tours of West Indies and England in 1971 when India under Ajit Wadekar scored back to back Test series wins in both the tours, heralding a beginning of a new India, which knew how to win abroad.

He had a fair amount of success on the tour of West Indies in 1971, striking up a good combination with 'new boy' Sunil Gavaskar, with whom he shared partnerships of 68, 74, 72 and 123 (unbroken). But he failed in England in 1971 and thereafter a question mark hung over his Test career.

Overlooked for the series against England in 1972-73, he played in only one Test against England in 1974 and another against West Indies in 1974-75, always being shuttled up and down the order. He missed the dual tour of New Zealand and West Indies, but was back for the series against New Zealand at home in 1976-77. He did well enough but was dropped and was again considered for only one Test against England later that season.

He did reasonably well in the series in Australia in 1977-78 (he headed the tour averages with 508 runs at 50.80), but was not considered thereafter. He also figured in a solitary one-day match, making 44 runs and taking a wicket against England in 1974.

In first-class cricket, however, Mankad was in a class of his own. In the Ranji Trophy alone, he scored 6619 runs (76.08) with 22 hundreds with a highest score of 265 against Delhi in the 1980-81 final.

Mankad after retirement went on to coach the Mumbai side to three successive Ranji titles in the early 2000s. However following a failure in the next tournament after helping Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy three times in a row, Mankad was removed from the job of the Mumbai coach.

He also coached other Ranji sides, but could not replicate the success he had with Mumbai.

All in all, Mankad was one who did not fulfil his potential for different reasons.

Mankad married a tennis national champion Nirupama and both his sons Mihir and Harsh Mankad are professional tennis players, with the latter having represented India in the Davis Cup competition.


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