I look for Vinoobhai’s name on the Lord’s honours board: Gavaskar

India’s batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar talked cricket in his own inimitable way, with seriousness, wit and with reverence for Vinoo Mankad, India’s greatest spin-bowling all-rounder.

Rahul Mankad receives a memento from Gavaskar, Madhav Apte and Ajit Wadekar.

India’s batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar talked cricket in his own inimitable way, with seriousness, wit and with reverence for Vinoo Mankad, India’s greatest spin-bowling all-rounder. It was Mankad’s birth centenary celebrated by the Legend’s Club at the C.K. Nayudu Hall, Cricket Club of India and Gavaskar said, “Whenever we think of Indian cricket, the first names that come to our mind really are these three names (Vinoobhai, Merchant and Hazare). The fact that we remember them is so important, because often as Dilip (Doshi) said quite correctly, there are times when the past is quickly forgotten.

“But for the fact that had the past not laid the foundation, the future would not have been there. So we must remember the past, and try do something when our cricketers, particularly of the 1930s and 40s are remembered because they were actually the ones who gave the foundation and that’s the reason Indian cricket is doing well today. If they had not played the way they played and sustained the interest of the Indian cricket public, maybe the game would not have been as it is today. Vinoobhai’s achievements were absolutely phenomenal. His deeds at Lord’s (1952) , which even after so many years is referred to as “Mankad’s Test.” He had scored 72 in the first, 184 in the second and in between had done the small matter of taking five wickets. Everytime I go to the Lord’s dressing rooms, I love to see the honours board there which shows Vinoobhai’s 184 and five wickets. That’s something fantastic.’’

Gavaskar began his 25 minute address highlighting the significance of giving respect to elder cricketers. “I think it was from his (Vinoobhai’s) time itself that there was this business of calling elders as `Bhai’. It is such a good thing, something you find only in India… in Indian cricket. You cannot think of anybody, say in England, Australia or New Zealand calling another cricketer brother. This is such a nice respectful way of acknowledging somebody who is a senior or mentor and someone who is always going to be around to give you some tips in his inevitable way. That exactly was Vinoobhai.”

Talking about the Vinoobhai style of coaching Gavaskar revealed: “He had this incredible knack of conveying a message, often without saying anything, often just raising the eyebrow, often just the shake of his head. When you are being watched by somebody like him, from behind the nets or just behind the bowler’s arm, you are that much more serious. One of the things he said to me when he was our coach at the St. Xavier’s College was, that you have to practice everytime as if it is a proper match.”

Gavaskar further added, “We were not encouraged to play the lofted shots, although he played the lofted shots to a great extent. I think what he was doing with that kind of coaching was not only telling you how to take your technique to a particular situation, he was also building you temperamentally. I have always believed that at the highest level what separated the men from the boys was temperament. If the temperament is good… never mind if your technique is not the best…it will carry you through difficult situations and help you to achieve your goals.’’

On a personal note Gavaskar said, “Vinoobhai was the first person who broke the news to me of my selection in the Indian team for the West Indies tour in 1971.He said: Beta, well done. You have been selected. Now go on and bat freely. Those were his words. He was very happy after I returned from the West Indies.”

Manohar (Sunil’s father) had played cricket against the great all-rounder and this is what Gavaskar had to say: “Whenever I visited him at ‘Sindhu’ building at Marine Lines, Vinoobhai would invariably enquire of my father, who was the opposite of me as a batsman. He would like to smash the ball everywhere. Once my father had hit Vinoobhai for one or two sixes from the P J Hindu Gymkhana pitch to the old Islam Gymkhana. Vinoobhai had always called my father as `Danda master’ I could see the delight on my father’s face when I told him what Vinoobhai had said. There was so much respect for Vinoobhai.’’

The Legends Club President, Madhav Apte and former India left arm spinner Dilip Doshi, also spoke about Vinoobhai, and Rahul Mankad (Vinoobhai’s third son after Ashok and Atul and former Bombay player) welcomed the gathering.

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