Mumbai, May 23 : India’s oldest Test cricketer Madhav Mantri, maternal uncle of the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, died here early this morning in a local hospital due to old age complications, sources close to him said. He was 92 and died a bachelor.
Mantri was a wicket-keeper-batsman, who played only four Test matches, one in India (1951), two in England (1952) and his last in Dhaka (1954-55 in the then East Pakistan), compiling 63 runs and accounting for 8 catches and a stumping. His most impressive performance with the bat in Tests was a 75-run partnership. He made 39 and also put on as opener with Pankaj Roy in the first Test in England on the disastrous 1952 tour in which India lost all four games.
Mantri was incidentally one of four batsmen dismissed for 0 by fiery Fred Truman against India on the same tour in the second innings of the Leeds Test, when the visitors were tottering at 0 for 4 before captain Vijay Hazare and all rounder Dattu Phadkar scored half centuries and took the score to 165 and forced England to bat again.
But he was a consistent performer in Ranji Trophy and a mentor for the likes of Polly Umrigar and Bapu Nadkarni. In his first-class career spanning a quarter of a century, he piled on 2,787 runs at a plus 50 average. His highest score was 200 for then Bombay against Maharashtra in 1948-49 semifinals, the third of three successive centuries Mantri captained Mumbai (then Bombay) to three Ranji Trophy titles in the 1950s.
He was also the skipper of the top Associated Cement Companies team and had stalwarts like Umrigar and Nadkarni playing under him.
After his playing career was over, Mantri turned to cricket administration and rose to become the last cricketer to head Mumbai Cricket Association in the late 1980s before he was overthrown by Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi in the 1992 elections to pave the way for politicians to dominate India’s most successful cricket association.
Mantri was also a former national selection committee member – between 1964-65 and 1967-68 when Dutta Ray was the chairman – and also accompanied the Indian team as manager to England in 1990 when the team was led by Mohammed Azharuddin. He was also a former chairman of Saraswat Bank.
He was an ardent cricket follower and as MCA President used to sit in the committee box along with his protege Umrigar and watch the entire duration of each day’s play in domestic and Test cricket.