Mankad: Brand icon born 100 years ago

Mulvantrai Himmatlal Mankad or Vinoo Mankad. The man of many firsts. Pioneer. For Indian cricket. And global as well, in many a senses. Born precisely 100 years ago, Vinoo was cut for the competitive edge and commercialization of modern-day cricket. He had charisma on field. Style off it. Courage to break conventions if rules permitted. The man had appeal, backed by talent and performance, to be what we call a “brand icon” in modern parlance.

Mankad performed acts which in modern day media would become headlines with graphic descriptions, special features and in-box highlighters. In an era when bowlers and fielders would clap in appreciation for a good shot, Mankad showed guts to run out a non-striker for backing up before the ball was delivered. That was 1947-48 tour to Australia. Rules supported the act, now termed as ‘Mankaded’. So did Sir Donald Bradman. For the
‘gentlemen’ of the game, this was against sportsman spirit.

First Indian to score a double hundred in Test match cricket, to create then the world record of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 23 Test matches. Only to be replaced by Ian Botham. Also the first Indian to get 100 Test wickets. He was the first Indian  to score a Test double hundred – 231 against visiting Kiwis at Madras (now Chennai) during the 1956 series. Incidentally, Sunil Gavaskar bettered that record at the same venue with a 236 in 1983. Mankad’s record innings at Madras and his opening partner Pankaj Roy recorded the highest opening partnership of 413 runs, a record that stood for 52 years.

The dashing all-rounder, who would bat right-handed and bowl left-arm slow orthodox, aggregated 2,109 runs and 162 wickets in 44 Test, played between 1946 and 1959. Wisden has paid him rich tribute on his death in 1978, stating him as “one of the greatest all-rounders that India has ever produced”. Kapil was not born on cricketing horizons, though.

If the generation that watched television in 1980s and 1990s, Kapil appearing on screens in “Rapidex English Speaking Course” and Palmolive da jawab nahin” promotionals brings the first memories of a cricketer appearing in brand promotions. Here too, Mankad had treated the path much before.

Much before cricket acquired its present status of a ‘professional’ sport, Mankad had embraced the commercial side of the game. Turning up for the Haslingden Club, Lancashire, in 1952. He endorsed hairgel brand Brylcream. Farokh Engineer was the next.

The BCCI has commemorated Vinoo Mankad’s contribution to Indian cricket, naming the domestic Under-19 One day tournament as the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. But that is not enough to describe the iconic status of Mankad, who made his international debut at the of 29, missing out seven precious years in his career to World War II. That prevented the cricketing data against his name to match his greatness. For Mankad the persona and Mankad the brand, the icon has certainly born at least seven decades much earlier for draw market data and media attention for any comparisons with the way “sports endorsement brands” are assessed today.

There were no Arjuna Awards to honour  the sporting legends of his era, but the Government has decorated him with country’s third best civilian award – The Padma Bhushan