India’s oldest living professional cricketer, Madhav Mantri, has died. He passed away at the age of 92. Younger cricket fans have heard that Mantri was a strict disciplinarian. In fact, Sunil Gavaskar, his nephew, described him as “The last of disciplinarians.”
Mantri was known to mentor the younger players, such as Ajit Wadekar. Wadekar was the first successful overseas test captain from India. In 1966, Mantri was one of the selectors of the team and Pataudi was the captain of the team during the selection for the India tour of the West Indies. The other selectors were convinced by Mantri to include Wadekar in the team because of his great ability to make runs.
Wadekar said: “I would not have played for India if ‘Nana mama’ had not persisted with Tiger Pataudi to pick me in this side.”
He further commented: “But above all, he gave me as captain and to Indian cricket – Sunil Gavaskar.”
Mantri’s nephew, Gavaskar, reminisced about Mantri and the guidance he received from him as a cricket player, which were also excellent life lessons. He said: “His first lesson to me was when I asked for his cap and blazers as a young boy. He refused and told me “you have to earn you India cap or India sweater.” That’s why when I later went on to play for India and got the cap and blazer in West Indies in between the 16 member squad, I didn’t play with the cap even in the tour games. I only wore it when I played a Test match for India.”
Gavaskar spoke about how his uncle had mentored him and supported him even during the difficult times. He said he also saw Mantri as indestructible and that he never thought the day would come when his uncle and mentor would pass away.
Mantri is remembered not only by his nephew, Sunil Gavaskar, and the rest of his family, but also by many Indian cricket players and fans.