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Friday, August 03, 2007

India's Test Cricket Victories Abroad - Part 2

Since the first post of this series on India's test wins abroad, the Indian team has improved upon its miserable overseas record posting an emphatic win at Nottingham. I was surprised that not a single commentator on Star Cricket, including the likes of Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar made a mention of the fact that India was playing its 200th Overseas Test - that small but glaring omission when contrasted with much discussion and news surrounding Sachin's 11,000 runs points to the Indian cricket fan's obsession with individual feats and records.
I remember the awe and pride with which the elders in my home used to discuss the feats of Salim Durrani and Eknath Solkar - his catches and the sixers he hit for the galleries, not refraining from poking fun at Gavaskar's reluctance to 'get going'. While Sunny and then later Ravi Shastri and for some time Rahul Dravid were made fun of by 'such cricket fans', they worshipped Solkar, Srikkanth, Sehwag and for quite some time Sachin before things changed. Now, i'm no critic of the movers n shakers, but the fact remains that Sunny did more for Indian cricket than did Solkar. Only today, I saw Sunny making an apt point in the Star Cricket Commentary Box: "I was happier when my innings was applauded by my dressing room rather than the crowd."

7. Continuing with our series on India's test wins abroad, we now move to Victory # 7, where one of the heroes of our victory was none other than Sunil Gavaskar. Chasing a mammoth 406, it was the combined patience of Gavaskar, Amarnath and Vishwanath which saw India home. The trio took their own sweet time, especially Jimmy who took a good 440 minutes to compile his 85. The magnitude of this chase can be gauged by the fact that it took a very long 27 years for the record to be broken! The batters were ably supported by the spinners, with Chandra taking 6 wickets in the first innings and Venkat 3 in the second.

West Indies: 359 & 271, India: 228 & 406/4. Ground: Queen's Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, 7-12 Apr 1976

In the larger context of the history of Test Cricket, this match would be remembered for another very important reason. This match marked the beginning of WI's complete dependence on pace, a strategy which would reap them huge dividends in the next decade and more. Remarked Clive Lloyd, "Spin is a luxury I am ready to dispense with."

8. The next win came in the New Year Test at the MCG. On the morning of 4th January 1978, the Australian tail tried its best to stretch India. But it was a case of too little, too late; the damage had been done the previous day as the spin duo of Chandra and Bedi ripped apart Simpson and Co., with Chandra doing the maximum damage. He finished with a pair he is unlikely to ever forget: 52 for 6 in both innings. Bedi claimed 6 of the remaining 8. Sunil Gavaskar scored yet another century and there were important contributions again from the men who did it at Trinidad - Vishy and Amarnath.

India: 256 & 343, Australia: 213 & 164. Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground, 30th December 77 - 4th Jan 1978
Did i mention that this was India's first test win against Australia in Australia, exactly 3 decades since India's first test in Australia. ( Playing in Brisbane against Bradman's Invincibles, the entire team, batting twice failed to overtake Bradman's 1st innings score of 185. India were dismissed for 58 and 98.)

9. That last test we discussed was the 3rd test of a 5 match rubber. Australia had won the first two and the series now stood at 2-1. In the 4th test at the SCG, Bobby Simpson, the Aus captain won the toss and chose to bat. In less than 50 overs, his team surrendered against the guiles of Chandra and Bedi, for a paltry 131. In reply, Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan provided India with a solid opening partnership, at one time threatening to overtake the Aussie score on their own, before they were both dismissed in quick succession around the 100 run mark. However Vishwanath, Vengsarkar and Karsan Ghavri rose to the occasion and India took a massive lead of 265 runs. Australia batted more purposefully in the second innings but they fell short and India won the match by an innings and 2 runs. The series was now tantalisingly tied at 2-2, one match remaining.

Australia: 131 & 263, India: 396 for 8 declared. Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground, 7-12 January 1978

The next match turned out to be a thriller with India taking a slender lead in the first innings. But the rare away failure of B.S. Chandrashekhar who failed to take a single wicket in the second innings cost India the match and the series. However, these 3 victories, beginning with the 406 run chase at Trinidad heralded the decline of Australia's supremacy at the top of world cricket. Clive Lloyd's West Indies , which had now dispensed with the luxury of spin, was getting ready to rule supreme - with the most fearsome pace battery ever.
10. Both Chandra and Bedi retired from tests in 1979, bringing to a close world cricket's most glorious era of spin bowling. Fortunately for India, a young man excelling with the cricket ball, though in a wholly different way, begun his career a few month before the spin duo brought theirs to an end. This man, Kapil Dev Nikhanj, who would be later voted as 'India's Cricketer of the Century' did something almost unthinkable of in the Australian summer of 1980-81. For the first time ever a pacer would lead India to victory in Australia, demolishing them in the second innings of the 3rd Test for just 83. Kapil's second innings bowling figures read 16.4 - 4 - 28 - 5 . Kapil had bagged a fiver in the 1st Test at Sydney too, but this was more special. It gave India a rare test win abroad, and what's more, it meant India didn't lose the series.

India: 237 & 324, Australia: 419 & 83 Ground: MCG, Melbourne, 7-11 February 1981

Of course, Gavaskar and Vishwanath too played very important roles, underlining the importance of this duo to Indian cricket. While Gavaskar got his due importance, his brother-in-law Vishy is often forgotten.
11. From 1981 to 1986, Indian cricket had its most memorable run in popular imagination with Kapil's Devils leading the team to a most unexpected World Cup Victory at Lord's in the summer of 1983. If that crown was described as a fluke, the Benson & Hedges World Championship win in 1985 was anything but that. Led by Gavaskar, India won the cup comprehensively, not losing a single match.

Surprisingly, India's ascendancy in Limited Overs Cricket was accompanied by miserable failures on the test front. In the 25 away tests that India played since the MCG victory, the team failed to win even one. This 5 year long drought finally ended at Lord's in June 1986. Spin had truly made space for pace in Indian cricket's scheme of things. While skipper Kapil himself took 5 wickets in the match, his pace partners and Haryana team-mate Chetan Sharma wreaked the maximum damage on the English. Sharma took a fiver in the first innings dismissing 4 of the top 5 English batsmen. Putting thing in perspective is the fact that the English spinners took more wicket than the Indian! Yet another difference in this win was that India did it without any major contribution from Gavaskar. (Vishy was already gone by then) India's batting hero at Lord's was Dilip Vengsarkar, who scored a fine 126 in India's first essay.
England: 294 & 180, India: 341 & 136-5 Ground: Lord's, 6 - 10 June 1986

This was the 1st of the 3 test series and India were now up 1-0.

12. That English loss at Lord's cost David Gower his captaincy. Replacing him was Mike Gatting, who would have his moment of glory against India next year, but not immediately. This was going to be Indian cricket's moment of glory, Indian Test Cricket's pinnacle of success. The chief architects of the Indian win at Leed's were again Dilip Vengsarkar and the pacers. Roger Binny finished the match with 7 wickets, but a description of this match would be incomplete without a mention of the young spinner who decimated the English side in the second innings. Maninder Singh claimed 4 for 26 and England were dismissed for a mere 128. India won the match by a huge margin of 279 runs and claimed the series 2-0.
India: 272 & 237, England: 102 & 128 . Ground: Headingley, Leed's . 19 -23 June 1986

Mention must also be made of another new skill-set that contributed to this famous win - for the first time the Indian team comprised a number of players who were adept at making contributions with both the bat and the bowl. The all-round skills of Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Ravi Shastri gave the team a fine balance. While these all-round skills had already brought home laurels in the ODI format, these was the first time that they succeeded in the biggest test - Tests Abroad.


The Chucker said...

Fascinating article. I think the current series shows how well matched the 2 sides are (even though India could still win the series 2-0!) I wish we were playing a 5 test series, it would be fantastic. Congrats on victory in the 200th test!


Amit Bajaj said...

yes...it's a real shame that the no. of test matches are being reduced to make way for more and more odis. 7 one-dayers is a bit too much..and now even England, the last citadel of test-cricket has now fallen..and how 20/20, Pro 40..where is Max!

The Chucker said...

7 ODIs is ludicrous - especially given the standings of the 2 teams. It'll be 7-0 or 6-1. England are hopeless. Surely 4 of these games could've been abolished to make way for another Test.

Amit Bajaj said...

knowing both India and England, i would doubt if either have it in them to do a 7-0 or 6-1. The moment one is 3-0 up, you can expect them to relax or do something funny with the team composition! Australia aint winning so much for nothing...they are being well supported by the stupidity of other cricketing nations.