“Curator at Ahmedabad has done a great job ! ” Ravi Shastri said to journalists in his usual confidently professional after match speech after beating England 3-1 in recently concluded series while defending the turning track at newly built Narendra Modi Stadium.
We (Myself and Rajesh ) were co-incidentally at a farm house of the former Indian cricketer Yajurvindra Singh , who is neighbor of Ravi at Sportsfield Mumbai residence as well as visitor at his Alibaug house when Ravi gets a break from cricket coaching assignment and relaxes at his Alibaug home.
“Do you know when they started preparing turning wickets in India?” Former Indian Cricketer Yajurvindra Singh asked us while the TV in front of us showed after match speech of Ravi .
“Not exactly!” I said as India had once again beaten England in the fourth test on one more turning track.
Yajurvindra Singh who took 7 catches in a Test Match against England at Bengaluru , in year1977 to equal Greg Chappel’s record of catches in Test Cricket was witness to first turning wicket bulldozing of an England side, perhaps.
“India had lost first 3 Test matches in a row against visiting England in the 1977 India tour when Bishen Singh Bedi was skipper. Angry Bishen felt we could beat the England side only if we could make a turning track” Yajurvindra took us back to those days when India’s losing a Test match and Test series did not hurt us as much as it does today.
“Generally our Pitch curators used to be happy pleasing the strong oppositions (those days) like England, Australia by preparing fast green tracks even though it meant that India would be at the receiving end of their fast bowlers and lose matches in a lot” he (Yajurvindra) revealed something we innocent spectators were unaware of those days.
“India scored 250 odd in the first innings and bowled England out for 195.on a square turner with Chandra running through England’s batting . India started the second innings with a flurry of strokes by Sunil Gavaskar Scoring quick 50 . Sunil was smart enough to take advantage before spinners could wreak havoc” He rekindled our memories. Sunil could play strokes at will if he desired (and play ‘Pujara’ if wanted)
“It was the same match you took those 5 catches at short leg in the first innings and 2 in second to equal Greg Chappel record of 7 catches ” I quipped.
“Yes ! ” He confirmed with a deservingly proudish smile.
” Was it the same match where Vishwanath scored those 80 odd runs to save his place in the team, after having a bad series?” I did not have to scratch my head much to remember listening to commentary of that match, It was the same Test match when Vishy saved himself (from getting dropped) as well as resurrected India in crisis.
“India playing in the second innings lost three quick wickets including Sunil (50) . I somehow remained not out with Underwood (the best left arm spinner of that era ) turning the ball viciously and making every delivery look unplayable.Underwood looked so deadly that Vishwanath avoided coming to bat at number 5 (his batting number those days) at the fag end of the day” We could sense how vulnerable it must have been facing Underwood’s fastish left arm spin.
Underwood may not be known to this generation but he has troubled the world’s greatest batsmen including our master of spin (and pace of course) Sunil Gavaskar , whom he has claimed 12 times in 20 Tests where both have played against each other.
Murali and Warne fans may bite nails, if told the fact that Underwood is till date the most successful spinner against India taking 54 wickets at 26.5 in 16 Tests. Both Shane Warne and Murali average over 40 against India.
Coming back to the Test match Yajurvindra said ” Vishy batted at number 7 in that Test but was quickly in control and returned to his usual stylish form hitting Underwood whenever and wherever he wanted .
“Yaju you don’t play strokes otherwise you will get out. Vishy had told me” Yajurvindra said that he was warned by gentle but classy batsman Vishy .
“Ultimately I tried sweeping a short ball which took top edge of bat .” Yajurvindra still looked like hitting the bat on floor of the hall.
” ‘I told you do not play strokes ‘ Vishy told me while I departed ” Yajurvindra still seems to be repending not listening to the little master.
“Vishy took India to 259 in second innings with superb display of skills against square turner Underwood . India set a target of about 300 in the fourth innings for England. Our spinners (Bedi 5 and Chandra 3) did rest and India beat England by 140 runs ultimately. ” He summarised .
India had discovered the turning wicket success formula as late as 1977 , which has given us many more 2 days or 3 days destructively authentic victories.
This has at least ensured ample time for visitors to enjoy some unexplored Indian sightseeing spots .
A Sportsnasha Exclusive
Feature Image by Prakash Parsekar