By Vivek Krishnan

The summer of 1971 remains etched in the minds of Indian cricket fans. Led by Ajit Wadekar, the team achieved their first series victory in the Caribbean, beating West Indies by seven wickets in the second of five Tests at Port of Spain to complete a 1-0 win. Three months later, India scaled another peak as they defeated England in England for the first time ever.

Riding the exploits of leg-spinner BS Chandrasekhar, who took 6/38 in England’s second innings, India defeated England in the third Test at The Oval by four wickets after the first two Tests at Lord’s and Old Trafford ended in draws.

While the ODI format made an entry in 1971, India played their first limited-overs game in 1974. India managed to win just one game in the first two World Cups -- against East Africa in the inaugural edition in 1975. In 1983, though, India upset two-time champions West Indies in the final to win the World Cup, triggering its rise as a cricketing power. While the victory was considered an anomaly, India stamped their authority in the format for good when they won the Benson & Hedges World Championship in Australia two years later.

Top batter: Sunil Gavaskar

The diminutive opener made his Test debut on the landmark tour of Caribbean in 1971 and immediately revealed his greatness, racking up an astonishing tally of 774 runs in four Tests with four centuries and three half-centuries to boot. The smooth beginning set him on his path to becoming India’s first truly world-class batter. In a career spanning 16 years, he became the first to surpass the 10,000-run barrier and also overtook Don Bradman’s tally of 29 Test tons, finishing up with 34 centuries.

His ability is reflected in his record against the West Indies, which was the best team for a majority of Gavaskar’s playing years. In 27 Tests against them, he scored 2,749 runs at an average of 65.45.

While ODI cricket was not Gavaskar’s forte – he notoriously scored 36 not out off 174 balls against England in a run chase of 335 from 60 overs in the 1975 World Cup – he showed signs of adapting towards the latter half of his career. His only ODI century came in his penultimate game when he hit an unbeaten 103 off just 88 balls against New Zealand in the 1987 World Cup.

Top bowler: Kapil Dev

Kapil Dev’s emergence in 1978 was a pivotal point in Indian cricket’s rise. Until then, India had produced eminent batters and spinners, but Kapil’s ability to bowl fast and his all-round skillset immediately made it apparent that he was a rare talent. While he was an attacking batter and played some memorable knocks during his 16-year-long international career, his bowling was his primary strength. That he took 434 Test wickets – a record at the time – was testament to his ability and endurance to bowl long spells without breaking down. During this period, he played 91 of India’s 92 Tests, and never missed a match due to injury.

1971 - 1988