Madhav Mantri, the oldest living Indian Test cricketer, turned 92 on Sunday, but he still has a very sharp memory and remains active socially. He continues to take ‘ runs’ inside his home in Mumbai, and follows the game closely on television and through newspaper.
Since Sunday morning, Mantri received a lot of calls from friends who wished him on his birthday. He later cut a cake as his entire family got together at his second floor flat in Mahalaxmi Building No. 1 in Hindu Colony.
"I am first class, no problem. I was born on September 1, 1921. So I have completed 92 years and the 93rd has started," an upbeat Mantri told Mail Today on Sunday afternoon.
Mantri did not have to be reminded about his birthday. "He remembers his birthday; we didn’t have to tell him that. That way (memory-wise) he his pretty fine," Arti, his niece, who lives along with him and her father, told Mail Today.
That Mantri, a maternal uncle of Sunil Gavaskar, also remains a warm host was again evident on Sunday. "You can come home, anytime," he said, answering the phone call from this paper, assuming it has come from Mumbai.
Gavaskar said that his uncle looked as slim as ever. "He is well and we had a great hour or so of reminiscing about some old games. He is looking good — touch wood — and looks as slim as he was when he was playing," Gavaskar told Mail Today .
These days, Mantri, who played four Tests and 95 first-class matches between 1941 and 1968, watches a lot of television, particularly the live telecast of the matches that the Indian cricket team plays, and when there is no cricket, he watches the soap operas. He also reads a lot.
"His memory is still sharp. And he is fit physically, too. He walks from the balcony to the kitchen and he says it is like taking a run as the distance is about 22 yards. He walks for 30 minutes in the mornings and 30 minutes in the afternoons," Arti said.
A strict disciplinarian, Mantri’s breakfast, lunch and dinner timings are fixed.
"He remains very punctual; in fact, much more than that.
When someone invites him to a function or a cricket event and sends a car to pick him up, he gets ready before the appointed time for the cab to arrive, and starts looking down from the balcony for the vehicle," Hemant Kenkre, a relative of Mantri and a former Cricket Club of India captain, said.
Mantri is active socially. "He is a director with the Saraswat Co-operative Bank Ltd. — of which he was earlier the chairman — and still attends their meetings. Also, he regularly attends cricketing events and, at times, matches," said Arti.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) organises an annual under-25 Madhav Mantri Trophy and the former Test wicketkeeper-cum-batsman presents the prizes to the winners, like he did in May this year. "He is still very social. He even attended some matches of the Madhav Mantri Trophy this year, besides presenting the trophy to the winners," said Arti.
Mantri wore many caps in his distinguished cricket career — both on and off the field. He was a national selector from 1964 to 1968, and the Indian team manager, including the tour of England in 1989-90 when Sachin Tendulkar scored his maiden Test ton.