When Mankad and Roy Set A World Record That Stood For Half a Century

Down Memory Lane

It was established in January 1956 and remains Indian cricket’s longest standing partnership record. In fact for 52 years it stood as the world record for the first wicket and on sheer longevity remains Indian cricket’s proudest statistical achievement. In 2008 Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie put on 415 runs for the first wicket for South Africa against Bangladesh at Chittagong and finally the 413 runs put together by Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy for India against New Zealand was finally pushed to second spot.

Records are made to be broken but as an Indian record the Mankad – Roy partnership has stood the test of time for 63 years now. In 2006 against Pakistan at Lahore Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid came within a stroke of surpassing it but the former never one to play for records was out for 254 with 410 runs on the board and the Mankad – Roy partnership survived.

To be candid the names of Mankad and Roy do not roll off the tongue together as naturally as some of the legendary opening pairs in cricketing history – Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook, Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson, Geoff Boycott and John Edrich, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton, Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs. But the fact remains that their partnership of 413 runs was beyond the reach of any of these legendary pairs.

Their feat was enacted at the Nehru stadium in Madras. The occasion was the final Test of the five-match series. India was leading 1-0 with three matches drawn. On a pleasant morning on January 6 with the pitch ideal for batting, the two walked out to open the innings after Polly Umrigar had won the toss. The New Zealand bowling held no terrors for the Indians who had in successive Tests, knocked up scores of 498 for four declared, 421 for eight declared, 531 for seven declared and 438 for seven declared. John Hayes and Tony MacGibbon opened the bowling but Mankad and Roy, sizing up the bowling and the pitch, made runs comfortably. In support, New Zealand had the medium pacers of skipper Harry Cave, the off spin of John Reid and Matt Poore and the leg spin of AM Moir.

With conditions heavily loaded in their favour, Mankad and Roy brought up their 100 and then the 200. But as SK Gurunathan wrote in Indian Cricket almanac, "it was by no means the best knock played either by Mankad or by Roy. Both were hesitant in making their strokes but there was no lack of concentration and determination to stay at the wicket as long as possible. Mankad now and again played his rousing pull shot and the drive to the off but he rarely brought off his dazzling cuts."

Roy won the race to the hundred. He had batted 262 minutes and had hit only six fours. Shortly afterwards the Indian record for the first wicket - the famous 203 run stand between Vijay Merchant and Mushtaq Ali at Old Trafford in 1936 - was passed. Just before close, Mankad reached his hundred in 287 minutes with nine fours. At stumps, India were 234 for no loss with Roy on 114 and Mankad on 109. They were the third pair of batsmen - and the first for India - to bat throughout a complete day's play in a Test match.

The next day, the two continued from where they had left off. Mankad overtook Roy and stayed ahead. They were still together at lunch with the score now past 300 and now the sights were on 359 - the record for all Test cricket by Hutton and Washbrook against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1948-49. This too was passed and then came up the 400 which was followed by Mankad's double hundred - his second of the series.

Hereabouts, so the story goes, Mankad and Roy received instructions from the pavilion to get on with it. Taking this as a hint that Umrigar wanted to make an early declaration, Roy tried to force the pace and was bowled by Poore for 173. The partnership that had realized 413 runs in 472 minutes was finally over. Mankad was second out at 440 after hitting the Indian Test record score of 231 and India went on to make a record total of 537 for three declared on their way to victory by an innings and 109 runs to complete a 2-0 win in the series.