Ashok Mankad

'Captaincy is about saying the right thing'

The late Bombay captain talks about leadership, coaching, and being the son of a famous father

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi |



'The surname helped' Shailesh Mule

As the son of a legend, Ashok Mankad had the burden of carrying forward his father's legacy. But he reconciled himself to the fact that he couldn't achieve all that his father, Vinoo, had, and looked instead to carve out his own identity, using the strength of his leadership skills. Many who watched him lead Bombay with distinction reckoned he was India captaincy material. Cricinfo spoke to Mankad in 2007.

Acceptance is the first lesson of life - and even cricket. The toughest part is to be magnanimous when you lose and balanced when you win.

Being in the Bombay dressing room, you didn't need to be taught, you learned automatically. I shared the dressing room with giants like Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Manohar Hardikar, Bapu Nadkarni. Had coaches like Polly Umrigar, Vasant Amladi, Ramnath Keni and Vijay Manjrekar. All these men were legends.

My father, who was a great coach, said, "The first shot is always the hit of a brave man. Go out and play your shots."

He had the will, the determination and dedication. I had everything, but on the softer side.

Cricket is a team game. The individual should not be glamourised. These Man-of-the Match, Man-of-the Series awards have no place in my book. But for the support of your partners and fielders, but for the support of your captain to bowl you at the right time, how can you excel?

In the dressing room there should be only one coach, and the players.

Individuals like Vinoo Mankad or Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar are possibly not cut out to lead others. They could inspire. I was a limited player but I could lead others as a captain and as a senior player.

To have played for Bombay and led Bombay was much greater for me than playing for India even. I make that statement with a lot of thought. I thought there was a big question mark in those days as far as players' allegiance to the country was concerned, but not so when it came to playing for the state.

The surname definitely helped. I got some breaks that an average player may not have got.

A good coach needs to have a strong character. Also, players need to realize: what this man is saying is for my own good.

I had tremendous admiration for my father's imagination: he could visualise what would happen the next day in a game. He had that vision, that understanding, that cricketing knowledge, that grasp of the opposition - all of which I wanted to emulate.

Unfortunately the world doesn't like frankness.

My father wasn't educated but he was well educated as far as cricket was concerned. He was a self-made man. We were born with a silver spoon; he was born without even a spoon.

Rejoicing in the success of others is very difficult. It's on the thin line of hypocrisy, it's on thin line of jealousy - and it's also on the thin line of your being pushed out of the reckoning.

Give your big stars the space and they'll deliver.

Whenever I was picked for India, it wasn't for the long term. They were always waiting for me to fail. Some players are repeatedly picked till they establish themselves.

For a coach to be successful, the captain needs to be communicative.

Kaka was my nickname. In my youth I used to watch a lot of Rajesh Khanna films. Khanna was known as Kaka and my team-mates started calling me that after him.

 
 
The toughest part is to be magnanimous when you lose and balanced when you win
 

You need to have the right words at the right moment. That is the art of captaincy.

We were playing Hyderabad in the 1976 Ranji Trophy quarter-final at the Wankhede Stadium. They needed a little over 200 runs to win and were 40-odd for one wicket, and we had almost conceded our chances. Rakesh Tandon, one of our spinners, was complaining about the ball being out of shape; he called it abatata wada (potato patty). During a break I told Tandon I'd ask for the ball to be changed, but asked him to bowl one last over with it, and that he should believe it was the best ball he had bowled with. He was amused, but he went on to get six wickets with that ball, and we won. Call it positive thinking.

A captain should always hope for miracles.

Winning the Ranji Trophy as captain was much easier than winning it as a coach. When you're the captain it is much easier to control the game, but when you're a coach you can only communicate with the captain and players, so in a way you are helpless.

There was a section of the BCCI that thought I was India captaincy material, and they knew I had this talent of being able to motivate others. So they thought it was better to sidetrack me before I got established.

Whatever comes free has no value. If there is no value, there is no learning. And if there is no learning, you are wasting everybody's time.

A player may be difficult or inconsistent, but I would look at how effective he is and how important he is for the team. For example, Virender Sehwag might not have consistency but the day he clicks he can help India win a match.

Most successful cricketers are self-disciplined. You can't have a military regime with cricketers.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

 

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