Last Word: Of maintaining memorabilia

When I re-discovered Vinoo Mankad’s scrap book of his famous 1952 tour of England, I felt I had been reunited with a long-lost friend.

Invaluable: Opening the batting in the second Test at Lord’s in the 1952 series against England. Vinoo Mankad made 72 and 184 (then India’s highest individual score), and with his left-arm spin claimed five for 196 as England made 537. In all he bowled 97 overs in the match.

Invaluable: Opening the batting in the second Test at Lord’s in the 1952 series against England. Vinoo Mankad made 72 and 184 (then India’s highest individual score), and with his left-arm spin claimed five for 196 as England made 537. In all he bowled 97 overs in the match. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Photo Library

When I re-discovered Vinoo Mankad’s scrap book of his famous 1952 tour of England, I felt I had been reunited with a long-lost friend.

I am not a serious collector of sports memorabilia, although if something worthwhile falls into my lap, my interest trumps my laziness in these matters. Which is why when I re-discovered Vinoo Mankad’s scrap book of his famous 1952 tour of England, I felt I had been reunited with a long-lost friend.

Mankad, India’s leading all-rounder and architect of India’s first-ever Test win (in Madras in 1951-52) was dropped from the tour of England that followed. Mankad, with a contract from the Lancashire club, Haslingden, had asked the cricket board if he would be selected for England but was given no guarantees. The board then decided India could do without him. India went to England without an opening pair, its match-winner and with only three players who had toured before.

India’s start in the first Test in Headingley was zero (runs) for four (wickets). Desperate calls were made for Mankad for the next Test at Lord’s, and although England won again, it became known as ‘Mankad’s Test’ . Opening the batting, Mankad made 72 and 184 (then India’s highest individual score), and with his left-arm spin claimed five for 196 as England made 537. In all he bowled 97 overs in the match.

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“The merit of Mankad’s batting strains the vocabulary,” reads one of the clippings in the scrapbook. This was from E. W. Swanton of the  Daily Telegraph. John Arlott spoke of Mankad’s “bird-like eyes quick with intelligence.”

According to Robertson-Glasgow’s profile, “Mankad in attack is instantaneous, timeless in defence; he is the cat that springs and the cat that waits.”

I know I have had the scrapbook for over 30 years, but cannot verify its provenance. According to my first sports editor who gave it to me, Vinoo Mankad himself had given it to him, and now he was giving it to me.

Would the scrapbook have been maintained by Mankad’s wife (and the mother of Ashok, Atul and Rahul) Manorama? It is usually wives or mothers who do so. Sharmila Tagore once showed me the scrapbook on Tiger Pataudi (when I was editing a book on him) which his mother had kept.

You could see how much of an impact Mankad made after the Lord’s heroics by the stories newspapers carried on his family. Manorama Mankad is quoted as saying that she had some 60 sarees but her favourite was the Lancashire cotton one she had picked up. There are stories of Ashok, later an India player, then aged six and “Atoll” (Atul) Mankad. There is the story of Mankad missing a party at Grosvenor Square because he had to be in bed by 10.

“Mankad means money,” went another headline, grateful that his counter-attacking at Lord’s would mean bigger crowds for the remaining Tests, and hence more money for the counties.

On the front page of one of the newspapers, alongside a picture of Mankad and a headline of his heroics is the heading: “U.S. will explode final H-bomb in a few weeks.” Meanwhile, inexorably, life went on.

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