Former cricketer Madhav Mantri on Friday recalled an incident about being reprimanded by cricket great Vijay Merchant for wearing sun glasses, albeit for just a minute or so, while on the cricket ground.
“I was then in college (and a Mumbai Ranji player) and was watching a match with some friends and one of them had with him a pair of America-made goggles which everyone borrowed for a brief while to wear.
“I too did but Vijay Merchant tapped me from behind and told me not to wear them as he said it would then be difficult to get adjusted to natural light when playing,” Mantri said.
“That happened in the 1940s, seventy odd years ago, and after that I have not worn goggles at all,” said the former India and Mumbai stumper at the launch of the Mumbai Cricket Association Under 22 tournament for the Madhav Mantri trophy.
When pointed out the trend of most modern-day cricketers wearing goggles on the field, Mantri said it started in Australia but for a different reason - in order to keep out the harmful rays of the sun due to Ozone layer depletion.
“That’s the reason they apply the skin cream on their faces in Australia, to prevent skin cancer, but there’s no need for the players to do so in India,” he commented.
Mantri, known as a strict disciplinarian and stickler for punctuality right from his playing days, said he learnt these traits from his father who was a school teacher and Merchant.
“I learned the virtues of punctuality from my father and Vijay Merchant,” said the 89-year-old maternal uncle of cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar.
Former India skipper and MCA vice president Dilip Vengsarkar recalled an incident about Mantri’s penchant for discipline from the 1990 tour of England when Mantri was the Indian team’s manager.
“I got to know him quite closely on that tour. He used to love McDonald burgers and we made it a point to deliver them to his room before 9 pm as he used to go to bed at 10 pm. One day (Ali Irani (team physio) was late in delivering it by five minutes and he did not open the door,” the former chief selector said.
Mantri, who later became a well-respected cricket administrator and also headed MCA, said he learned from another legend C K Nayudu the importance of a wicket-keeper’s observations in the team’s overall strategy while fielding.
“I was playing under him and suddenly he asked me about the quality of the bowling and his field placing. I realized then that the wicket-keeper should be the friend, philosopher and guide to his team because he’s in the best position to watch everything on the field,” he said.