Nari Contractor remembers ‘fierce competitor’ Vinoo Mankad

On Vinoo Mankad’s 102nd birth anniversary, Nari Contractor, the former India captain, narrates a handful of untold stories about him at the Cricket Club of India.

Nari Contractor addresses a gathering at the Cricket Club of India on Friday. Photo: G. Viswanath

The Legends Club members and their guests were happy to see Nari Contractor after nearabout nine months at the Cooch Behar Room on Friday evening. The seventh oldest living Indian Test cricketer — after Dattajirao Gaekwad (90 years, 168 days), C. D. Gopinath (89, 43 days), Chandu Patankar (88, 140 days), Madhav Apte (86, 190 days), R. G. ‘Bapoo’ Nadkarni (86, 9 days) and S. R. Patil (85, 185 days) — the former India left hander and captain, Contractor (85, 37 days) made it a point to attend a Club event celebrating the 102nd birth anniversary of Vinoo Mankad.

A hip related injury necessitated a surgery which rendered him immobile for many months, but on Friday evening, Contractor travelled to the Cricket Club of India from his Cusrow Baug Estate residence for Parsis and walked in with a tripod mobility aid.

“You see, for many years I walked with a bat in hand, now it’s this (tripod stick),” said Contractor, who survived a nasty skull injury, taking a blow from Charlie Griffith in the Barbados Test of March, 1962.

Untold stories

Around 50-odd Club members and guests had gathered to listen to chief guest, former India cricketer and BCCI administrator Suru Nayak; but the chief guest and others were all rapt as Contractor narrated a handful of untold stories about India’s and one of the world’s greatest all-rounders whose full name was Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad.

Contractor revealed that Mankad’s parents affectionately called him “Minoo,” but it was “Vinoo,” the nickname given to him by his schoolmates, that stuck to him forever. “Vinoo had several achievements; he completed the all-rounder’s double (1000 runs and 100 wickets in 23 Tests) and he was the greatest Indian all-rounder till Kapil Dev emerged. But not many know that he began his cricketing career as a pacer. And if Vinoo came into Indian cricket in a big way, we must thank the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, who employed Albert Wensley as his bowling coach and Duleepsinhji as his batting coach.

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“It was Wensley (Sussex all-rounder from 1922 to 1936) who converted Vinoo into a left-arm spinner. He must have been a great coach to do this and Vinoo became a world-class all-rounder. During this 1946 tour of England, Vinoo played 26 consecutive matches. Just imagine what [his fitness] would have been, and people are [nowadays] talking about this and that (workload). You did not have physical trainers and all that; a player had to keep himself fit,” Contractor said.

‘Among the best in the world’

Apart from recalling Vinoo’s all-round capabilities and professional virtues, especially the “Mankad Test” at Lord’s in 1952 (72 and 184, and 5 for 196), and his two centuries against Australia in two Test matches in Melbourne (116 and 111) after adjusting his backlift on the advice of fast bowler Ray Lindwall, Contractor said: “Vinoo was a fine fielder of his own bowling and a fierce competitor. He will do anything to get a batsman out if things are not going his way. He was a master of flight, very accurate and hence could anticipate the shot a batsman was going to play. During his time and afterwards, Vinoo was the best Indian all-rounder and one among the best in the world.”