The Green Park Stadium in Kanpur will be the venue for Team India’s historic ‘500th Test match’ when they face New Zealand in the first match of the series on September 22,
As India gears up for the milestone, here’s a look at the eras which defined their 84-year Test history:
It was a tough initiation for Indian cricket with wins being few and far between. At the time, players like Vijay Hazare (30 Tests, 1946-53), Polly Umrigar (59 Test, 1948-62) and Vinoo Mankad (left) (44 Tests, 1946-59) managed to lift India’s fortunes with their performances.
Hazare led India to their first ever Test win in 1951–52 against England at Madras (now Chennai), winning by an innings and eight runs. Umrigar (130*) was one of the heroes of the win. From there on, he took over as the batting mainstay and when he retired he held all the important records — most runs and tons. Mankad was India’s first genuine all-rounder, and is best known for his world record opening partnership of 413 runs, with Pankaj Roy, in 1956.
No spin attack in the world has ever been as feared as that of India’s in the 1960s and 1970s. Left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi (left), legspinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, along with off-spinners Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkatraghavan together posed an intimidating challenge for batsmen, especially in the sub-continent.
They complemented each other brilliantly. Although, all four played only one game together, it came to be known as India’s spin quartet. They played a combined 231 Tests and grabbed 853 wickets. It also helped in that period India found two captains, MAK Pataudi and Ajit Wadekar, who knew how to get the best out of spinners.
Having an immaculate technique and fortitude to churn out long innings, Gavaskar emerged as one of the most successful batsmen of his generation. His approach saw him become an inspiration for his teammates.
Gavaskar scored a total of 10,122 Test runs at an average of 51.12, with 34 centuries. It was under his guidance that India began challenging the big boys of cricket. His knocks against the West Indies are part of cricket’s folklore. In 27 Tests against the Windies, he scored an almost unbelievable 2749 runs at an average of 65.45, with 13 centuries.
His impact though stretched far beyond the realm of just statistics. During this period India turned a new leaf and started proving strong opponents in all conditions.
All-rounder Kapil Dev soon joined Gavaskar to shoulder the burden. He was by far India’s greatest bowling all-rounder. He led by example, performing consistently with both bat and ball.
His tally of 434 wickets was an Indian record at the time. At a time when there was a dearth of fast bowlers in India, Kapil was godsend for Indian cricket.
As the duo blossomed, India climbed steadily up the ladder in Test cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar was the driving force in the 90s powering India to attain some of their biggest highs of the decade.
The era will be remembered most for Tendulkar’s aggressive game. Like Gavaskar before him, Tendulkar challenged the might of the dominant bowlers of the time. In the 1990s, he was at the peak of his powers and with better support could have helped the team register some important wins.
In the early 2000s, Tendulkar teamed up with Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid to complete the ‘fab four’; the quartet going on to form the core of India’s batting.
The side would go on to break barriers. India would register some historic wins during this era. They went on to beat Australia in the famed 2001 series in India and later registered Test wins away in Australia, Pakistan and England in the following years.
As India prepare to play their landmark 500th Test, they will do so under the leadership of Virat Kohli, a young captain who is not just the lynchpin of India’s batting but has also led from the front since taking charge from MS Dhoni.