India’s oldest test cricketer, mentor of Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar, a sportsperson who had seen cricket’s past and present, had a vision for the future, a gentleman. The words fall short when we describe Late Mr. Madhav Mantri who passed away at 92.
From amchi Mumbai’s gully cricket to Mumbai team’s captaincy at Ranji Trophy to International test cricket against England and Pakistan, Mantri had indeed travelled long and far. Yet there was a glitz in those experienced eyes which still aspired to serve the gentleman’s sport.
He went on to done the hat of BCCI’s treasurer, manager and national selector and still held every responsibility with the same zest which he had for cricket when he used to get 4 annas by his father during his gully cricket days.
Grey hairs crackling bones, cervical collar and hearing aid never meant a faded enthusiasm for Mantri who still followed Indian team’s all matches live on television despite his ill health.
Be it the appreciation of Madhav Apte’s finesse or Dhoni’s leadership skills, be it the applause of Imran Khan’s bowling consistency or praise of the new brigade comprising players like Virat and Rohit; Madhav Mantri was always a pragmatic and honest critic who valued the significance of past and power of present.
BCCI has paid its tribute to the legend and expressed the sorrow over the heavy loss incurred to Indian cricket. BCCI secretary, Sanjay Patel has said “Indian cricket will be indebted to him”.
Madhav Mantri was struggling against ill health. He had survived heart attack in the beginning of the month but he couldn’t continue the battle after the second heart attack as his soul departed to the heavenly abode.
Although he could not establish his position in International arena and represented India only in four test matches but he was a consistent player at Ranji. His scale of his prestige and contributions can be gauged from the fact that U-25 ‘Madhav Mantri Trophy’ is organized by Mumbai Cricket Association every year. Mantri used to distribute the prizes for the tournament and even attended some of the matches himself.
Mumbai Cricket association has also expressed its gratitude to the cricket legend for his successful career as a captain of Mumbai at Ranji. He may have looked diminutive, but Madhav Mantri was well and truly one of the giants of Mumbai and Indian cricket, said Mumbai Cricket Association’s president, Mr. Sharad Pawar .
The lost legend was India’s oldest test player and the world’s fourth oldest surviving test player at the time of his demise. Now, Pananmul Punjabi would be the oldest surviving test player of India.
Besides Sunil Gavaskar, of whom he was maternal uncle, Madhav Mantri was a big inspiration for many other cricket legends like Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil.
Sunil Gavaskar still remembers his uncle’s advice to never give away the wicket, instead to let the bowler earn it. This mantra stayed with Gavaskar throughout his life, who was always a tough wicket for bowlers. Respect for Indian Team’s cap and blazer and discipline in sports are some of the precious lessons given by Mantri to his juniors. He was indeed a great mentor.
He followed his mantras and rules in his life even after his retirement. A true disciplinarian , he followed a strict time-table , fixed timings for his meals,and used to get ready before the pick for the events arrived and never failed to share his experience and give advice to budding stars.
Be it the strict disciplinarian who sometimes set unbreakable rules for the whole team or the caring one who climbed 30 stairs at 92 just to congratulate Maharashtra team at Ranji , Madhav Mantri always carried the love for cricket in his heart.Mantri died a bachelor, maybe the sole love of his life was his sport.
Mantri might have played only four tests for India but he would always be remembered as a true gentleman of the gentleman’s sport who never lost the zeal for his life: cricket.