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By Partab Ramchand
I am a nut when it comes to nostalgia. After following cricket closely for more than half a century it is but natural for me to look back at the games, events and personalities and remind myself "I was around when this happened" or "I was at the stadium when this took place’’ or "It was the time when I met this cricketer for the first time."
I well remember the first Test match I followed closely. It was the India vs England at Trent Bridge in June 1959. I rushed back from school to hear the commentary in the pre-lunch session. England were in the midst of a recovery after losing three wickets for 60 and Peter May and Ken Barrington were leading it. The following day I eagerly opened the newspaper and saw the multi-decker headlines that The Hindu in Chennai (then Madras) used to carry. These read ``England 358 for six’’, ``Good bowling by Surendranath’’ and ``May hits century’’.
These days in the midst of my writing I always have before me the two volumes of Bill Frindall’s Book of Test Cricket which covers every match from 1877 to 1989. I flip through the pages and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It’s such a pleasurable journey and one that recalls for me my younger days when like any other cricket mad youngster in India I followed every ball on the radio and of course saw every match in Madras be it the Nehru stadium or Chepauk.
I also follow the matches that I covered after I became a professional cricket writer in 1968 and the incidents relating to these bring me a lot of memories, the majority happy though there are a few sad or seamy ones. And at this time of the year the mind flashes back to only one match that became a historic event – Tied Test II.
I am often asked about the most memorable moments of my long sports reporting career. Who is the greatest sporting personality you have interviewed? What is the most unforgettable event you have written about? Normally I should be thinking hard before coming up with replies but astonishingly the answers are ever ready. ``The Greatest’’ is the answer to the first question and I have been fortunate to have interviewed Muhammed Ali more than once in Madras. And the answer to the second has to be Tied Test II.
I was a pre-teen school kid when I heard a lot of hullabaloo around me about a Test match in Brisbane having ended in a tie – the first such result in Test cricket. Within a few years I was the proud possessor of Jack Fingleton’s ``The Greatest Test Of All’’ a whole book devoted to the Brisbane Test. It aptly caught all the thrills and excitement of the match as also the unique denouement and the very fact that year after year no game came anywhere near ending in a tie underlined the unequalled aspect of the match.
Almost 26 years later - and as the scorers at Chepauk reminded us some 550 Test matches later - finally occurred Tied Test II. Anything historic has to take pride of place and on this count there is admittedly nothing to match the game at Brisbane. But the Chepauk match too had its share of great feats, thrills and excitement and of course the same result. The fact that more than 900 such matches have been played without a tie being duplicated underlines the extreme rarity of such a result.
I for one will always count myself fortunate to be present at Chepauk from September 18 to 22 1986 to see every ball of the game and for a nostalgic nut like me this will always take pride of place. I can reel off the names of the 22 players who took part at a moment’s notice and can recall innumerable moments that ranged from Dean Jones’ heroic 210 during which he retched repeatedly by the crease overcome by dehydration in the extreme heat and humidity to the admittedly seamier happenings – the ugly altercation between Tim Zoehrer and Chetan Sharma on the final day. I can stick my neck out and say for sure that I am not going to see another tied Test in my lifetime and that is why it will always have a special place in my cricketing memories.