The story of the cricketer, whose talent literally forced Balasaheb Thackeray to come on the field
In the 1950s, Mumbai cricket legends like Bapu Nadkarni, Madhusudan Patil, Ramakant Desai used to play matches or practice at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. Then a youngster used to come to Shivaji Park to watch another young player play. That cricket fan Tarun Bal Thackeray, who went on to be immortalized in Indian history as Balasaheb Thackeray, and the sportsman Tarun also became an equally revered figure in the Indian cricket world. That respectable cricketer is Mumbai and India wicketkeeper batsman ‘Madhav Mantri’. Today is the eighth death anniversary of the minister. He left the world on 23 May 2014.
Mantri was a wicket keeper and an opening batsman. After making a name for himself in Mumbai cricket circles, his batting reached new heights in the 1948-49 Ranji Trophy. In three consecutive matches, he scored 117 against Bengal at Eden Gardens, 116 against Madras at Chepauk (quarter-final), and 200 against Maharashtra at Pune (semi-final). They managed to score 70 and 30 in the final at the Brabourne Stadium. Mumbai won the title in that Ranji season.
India suffered a humiliating defeat on the 1952 tour of England. At that time, Doug Wright, who often bowled Don Bradman, was bowling. Then the minister hit Wright for a six. That six went into the audience. The six he hit was caught by the British commissioner. Former Indian player Vinu Mankad nicknamed the minister as “George”. Mankad feels that wicketkeeping ministers like England’s great wicketkeeper George Duckworth.
The incident of his taunting the umpires in the first Test on Pakistan soil in 1954-55 is famous in cricket circles. Indian spinner Subhash Gupte was bowling when the umpire, Idris Baig, awarded a no ball. So, the minister approached Baig and said, “You might want to enroll in Wisden. Subhash never bowls a noball. “
On both sides of the ladder, the minister has fulfilled his responsibilities well. He took 192 wickets as a wicketkeeper, scoring 4403 first-class runs at an average of 33.86. Unfortunately, due to challenges from Prabir Sen and Narine Tamhane, the minister could only play four international Test matches.
The minister is Sunil Gavaskar’s uncle and Gundappa Vishwanath is his uncle. Sunil Gavaskar writes in his book ‘Sunny Days’, ” Once when I was a child I went to my uncle’s house. Mama had recently retired from cricket as a player at that time. There was his cap for the Mumbai team as well as the cap he played for the Indian team. I told them I wanted that hat. Then he categorically refused and said, Sunil these hats are not gifted, but to be earned.”
After retiring as a player, the minister began to look after the work of the Dadar Cricket Union. The minister is credited with discovering players like Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Manjrekar. He was the manager of the Indian team during the 1990 England tour. He gave Sachin Tendulkar more opportunities in this tour. In addition, he remained the Chairman of the Indian Cricket Team Selection Committee as well as the Treasurer of the BCCI. He was 92 years and 264 days old when he died in 2014. At the time of his death, he was India’s oldest surviving international cricketer.
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