Watching the pulsating proceedings on the final day of the just concluded Mohali Test my mind went back 46 years ago almost exactly to the day.
By Partab Ramchand
Watching the pulsating proceedings on the final day of the just concluded Mohali Test my mind went back 46 years ago almost exactly to the day. The date was October 7 1964, the venue was the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai (then Bombay) and it was also a Test between India and Australia. It was Dushera while this time the festival is about ten days away. There were many similarities in the script and even the final result was the same – an Indian victory. The one difference was that it was not identical; the margin of victory at Mohali was one wicket – the first such result in the history of Indian Test cricket - while at the Brabourne stadium India won by two wickets.
I well remember the day and throughout the years the memories for once have not dimmed. Of course those were the times when victories were rare as far as the Indian team was concerned. Only eight had been notched up in 88 matches and as play resumed on the final day the Australians were the favourites – as was the case at Mohali. For one thing they had against all expectations retained the Ashes in England. Hopping over to India they had won the first Test at Madras by 139 runs and after four days of gripping cricket they had managed to get their noses ahead. To Australia’s 320 India replied with 341 and then dismissed the visitors for 274. But a target of 254 was going to be tough given the conditions of the pitch which had the inevitable wear and tear. By stumps on the penultimate day India were 74 for three. On the final day thus India required 180 runs while the Aussies had to take seven wickets. As I said the situation was not dissimilar this time with India 55 for four at stumps on the fourth day while chasing a target of 216.
The similarities continued on the final day. For starters it was a frontline batsman and a night watchman to begin the proceedings on both occasions. Forty six years ago it was Dilip Sardesai and Rusi Surti while this time it was Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan. The night watchman was the first to go on both occasions and the next wicket to fall was that of the other overnight batsman.
At the Brabourne stadium the sixth wicket fell at 122 while at Mohali it fell at 119 though the score at one time did read 122 for six. But at this total MS Dhoni was run out making India 122 for seven. On the earlier occasion a seventh wicket partnership of 93 runs between Vijay Manjrekar and MAK Pataudi raised Indian hopes of victory. At Mohali it was the ninth wicket partnership of 81 runs between VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma that put the hosts in a similar position after they had slumped to 124 for eight.
At the Brabourne stadium Manjrekar and Pataudi fell within nine runs of each other making India 224 for eight before Chandu Borde and KS Indrajitsinhji playing in only his second Test steered India to victory. At Mohali Ishant Sharma was out with eleven runs still needed for a win and it was left to Laxman and Pragyan Ojha in only his seventh Test who took India past the victory post.
Those were the days of radio commentary and I can well recall the tension packed moments during the Manjrekar – Pataudi partnership that lasted some 165 minutes and obviously held the key to an Indian victory. The commentators – among them Anant Setalvad, Dicky Rutnagur and Vijay Merchant – admirably caught the tension and excitement as India inched towards victory. Forty six years later we could experience the drama, tension and excitement visually thanks to the medium of television as Laxman and Ishant Sharma played the rescue act and carried India to the threshold of victory leaving the former and Ojha to apply the finishing touches. Forty six years ago the finishing touches were applied by Borde who played two on drives off Tom Veivers that raced to the boundary to signal a rare Indian win and spark off the celebrations fittingly enough on Dushera.