By Sanjjeev K Samyal

Indian cricket has had its fair share of interesting stories to narrate over the years. A look at some of the famous anecdotes from the second era…

When Wadekar hid Gavaskar to deny Sobers’s luck

In his debut Test series against the mighty West Indies away from home, Sunil Gavaskar plundered 774 runs, which till date remains a record for the most runs scored by a player in their first assignment. In a five-match Test series, Gavaskar played four games and hit four hundreds to average 154.80.

Apart from his impressive display of technique and temperament, Gavaskar also benefitted from a few fielding lapses. In his very first innings, at the score of 12, none other than Garry Sobers spilled a regulation catch off a thick edge as Gavaskar went for a drive. He went on to score 65 runs.

India had taken a 1-0 lead having won the second Test. It all boiled down to the second innings of the fifth and final Test where West Indies had to chase 262 in quick time. Naturally, the explosive Sobers was the key wicket. In a bid to stop him, Ajit Wadekar decided to engage in some mind games. As Sobers was coming into the Indian dressing room, the India captain locked up Gavaskar in the washroom. As usual, Sobers greeted everyone but could not find Gavaskar and the “touch of luck” that day.

When Gavaskar asked his captain what if Sobers touched him on the field, Wadekar argued: “He only gets runs when he touches you in the dressing room.”

As it happened, Sobers was bowled first ball. Later on, narrating the incident at an event, Gavaskar recollected: “That evening, as we were celebrating, my captain said: ‘I told you so. He did not touch you and got out for a duck. So, luck plays a part.’”

Making a statement vs mighty West Indies

In the first 1971 Test at Sabina Park, the shrewd tactician Ajit Wadekar did the unthinkable, enforcing the follow-on against the mighty West Indies at home.

Wadekar took the call even though there wasn’t any realistic chance of a result. The Test had been reduced to four days after the opening day was washed out. India’s lead was only 170 runs. The pitch too was flat. The India captain’s only intent was to ruffle the West Indies star players’ egos. Remember, this was a time when Indian captains weren’t known for throwing down the gauntlet of a bold follow-on

In an interview to Indian cricket board’s official website, bcci.tv, Wadekar narrated the incident: “You’re right in saying that the Indian captains were not known to enforce the follow-on in those times, let alone going for a win over West Indies. The match was curtailed to four days and so the deficit of follow-on was reduced to 150 from 200. There was no way we could win because the wicket was rolled out extremely well. When I told my team mates, most of them said, ‘No, no. We will have some batting practice’

“But I was convinced that this was our chance to tell them that we are at par with them. I should have told the umpires that I am enforcing the follow-on, but instead I went straight to the West Indies dressing room, called Garry (Sobers) out and told him, ‘Looks like you are batting again’. He and his entire team were shocked, and there was silence in their dressing room. They were taken aback and that, I think, gave us some psychological edge going forward in the series.”

Bishan Singh Bedi was India captain during the tour of Pakistan in 1978.

The stung West Indian batters went after the bowling with Rohan Kanhai hitting an unbeaten 158, Clive Lloyd making 57 and captain Sobers himself hammering 83. However, the damage had been done and India went on to win the second Test, and clinch the series.

Bouncer barrage irks Bedi

Bishan Singh Bedi was not a captain to tolerate negative tactics by the opposition. During the third one-day international against Pakistan — at the Zafar Ali Stadium in Sahiwal — in November 1978, Bedi refused to send back his batters once Pakistan fast bowlers started to bowl bouncers well over the batters’ heads to thwart India’s victory bid.

Going into the final game, the ODI series was locked at 1-1. After Pakistan scored 205 for seven in 40 overs, India looked well placed for a win, needing 25 runs in five overs with eight wickets in hand.

At that point, home team captain Mushtaq Mohammad brought back his pace bowlers, Imran Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed, to launch a bouncer barrage. With the umpires unmoved as a series of short balls sailed well over the Indian batters’ heads, Bedi came out to speak to the Pakistan captain in the 38th over.

With Mushtaq standing his ground, Bedi decided to call back his batters Anshuman Gaekwad (batting 78) and Gundappa Viswanath (batting 8). It was a time when the wide rule wasn’t well-defined, and the home side pacers exploited it. When Bedi refused to send back his batters, the Pakistan umpires awarded the game to Pakistan.

Jamaica bloodbath

April 25, 1976, is one of the bizarre days in cricket history. India were 97 for five in the second innings of the series decider being played at Sabina Park, Jamaica, but captain Bishan Singh Bedi called the innings closed. West Indies batters came out and knock off the 13 runs to win the game and clinch the four-Test series 2-1.

The scorecard of the second innings reads “absent hurt” against the name of five Indian players: Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Bishan Bedi, and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar.

Following the hostile bowling of the West Indies fast bowlers, which the visitors felt was aimed at maiming their batters, the game has since come to be termed as “the bloodbath in Jamaica”.

India were already three down when they came out to bat in the second innings with the injured Vishwanath, Gaekwad and Patel unable to bat. In the first innings, Vishwanath had fractured his hand after being hit by a Michael Holding delivery, Gaekwad had retired hurt after being struck by a bouncer on his left ear and Patel edged a rising delivery from Vanburn Holder on to his mouth, which needed stitches. Bowlers, Bedi and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, had injured their fingers while fielding. Madan Lal came in at No. 4 for the only time in his life in Test matches and S Venkataraghavan was the No. 5 batter. There was little love lost between the two sides as the game came to an end. West Indies had won by picking up just 11 legitimate wickets in the match. The rest of their victims were injured.

Bedi did not take field as West Indies came out to knock off the 13 runs. The home team assumed that the second declaration was a sign of protest. Indian team manager Polly Umrigar called a press conference to protest against Lloyd’s tactics. Bedi later clarified that the rest of the batters were injured and not fit to play. “The West Indian tactics in this Sabina Park Test were not part of the game. They were a deliberate effort to subdue us,” said Bedi.

Gavaskar walk out

India’s 1981 Test tour of Australia was dogged by some inconsistent umpiring, and things came to a boil in the Melbourne Test when, upset at a leg-before decision, captain Sunil Gavaskar almost forced his opening partner, Chetan Chauhan, to walk out with him.

The fiery Dennis Lillee was the bowler and the decision was given by umpire Rex Whitehead who was standing in just his third Test. Gavaskar was sure the ball had got an inside edge on the way to the pad and he protested by standing his ground long enough.

Things got ugly with Lillee getting into an argument with the India star.

Gavaskar and Chahan stormed off the ground but, at the boundary rope, the batsmen were met by team manager Shahid Durrani and assistant manager Bapu Nadkarni, who sent Chauhan back to the middle.

He has since cleared the air behind the walk out. The trigger was not the umpiring decision but being sledged at.

“The misconception is that I was upset at the lbw decision,” Gavaskar told a TV channel. “Yes, it was upsetting. But the walk-off happened only because the Australians had given me a spray as I was walking past Chetan (Chauhan) on the way to the change rooms. They told me to get lost, which is when I came back and asked Chetan to walk off with me.”

Shastri’s Audi

An Audi A6 sedan is easily the most talked-about car in Indian cricket. Won by Ravi Shastri as player of the series at the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia, the scenes of Shastri taking it for a spin at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with his team mates sitting inside (and on top), caught the imagination of the Indian fans. Speaking about it on the talk show Breakfast with Champions, Shastri revealed how his team mates had made a mess of the car. The wicketkeeper-batsman Sadanand Viswanath, who was wearing spikes, damaged the car while some also spoiled the seats by opening up champagne bottles.

In fact, after India’s semi-final win, there was a discussion among the players about the prize. Shastri revealed he had made it clear that if he wins the car, he wasn’t going to share it, if anyone wanted to share something, “they can share the stepney lying in the car boot.”

1971 - 1988