Sourav Ganguly was the most inspiring captain India has ever had. In spite of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, this Behala boy had done his hard yards quite well. And he inspired his team to do the same. He made to the Indian team for the first time during the 1992 , had an indifferent tour, then returned home trimmed to size, scored runs by tons in the domestic matches, earned his place on the England tour of 1996, had a dream Lord’s debut, followed it up with another century in the very next test, and then he was unstoppable.
After Azhar’s infamous dismissal from captaincy, he was the chosen one to lead the Indian side. The 2002 Indian team was a formidable one. Sachin, Sourav and Dravid were already amongst the best batsmen in the world, the pace attack was well populated with quality seamers in Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra, and there was the ever-dependable Anil Kumble to bowl spin. The captain was in control of the team, and in spite of the occasionally abrasive nature of his, the team had supported him well. If there was a strong Indian side well balanced in all respects, all in good form, which went to England ever, this was the one. However, traditions die hard, as India were to prove at the Lord’s in the first test. Coming off a high after beating England in the Natwest “shirt- flinging” trophy final on the same ground, India were brought down immediately by England.
Nasser Hussain won the toss and elected to bat. England posted a healthy total of 487 in the first innings, riding on Hussain’s 155 and fifties from John Crawley, Craig White and the fiery Andrew Flintoff. Simon Jones made a useful 44 towards the end of the innings. India lost Wasim Jaffer early, but with Sehwag batting as if he was batting in the first 15 overs of an ODI, and Rahul Dravid refusing to give his wicket away, India were at a healthy position at 128/1. Sehwag fell for 84, Night-Watchman Nehra for 0, Sachin for 16, the skipper for 5, and India were in the familiar position of staring down the barrel at Lord’s.
Dravid made 46 in his characteristic fashion and the Stoic VVS Laxman remained unbeaten on 43. India folded up for 221. England didn’t impose the follow on and made a brisk 301/5 riding on a brace of even 100s by John Crawley and Michael Vaughan. Set 588 to win, India started positively with Sehwag and Jaffer putting on 61 for the first wicket, and Dravid and Laxman getting half centuries too. The skipper scored a first ball duck, wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra fell with the score on 170, and in walked Ajit Agarkar. Seldom would he have thought that by the end of the match he would gain a place which even Sachin Tendulkar could never occupy despite his unmatchable records- mention on the Lord’s Honours board. Batting Honours board !!! He and VVS Laxman added 126, but Laxman was removed by Simon Jones and the Indian hopes of saving the match took a blow. Kumble and Zaheer Khan didn’t last long, but surprisingly, Ashish Nehra helped Agarkar complete his century and take the Indian score to 397. Agarkar remained unbeaten on 109. India lost comprehensively by 170 runs.
In the second test at Nottingham, Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat. Sehwag made a swashbuckling start, and then batted sedately with wickets falling at regular intervals to score his maiden test hundred in England. Ganguly himself scored 68, but all the others got starts and couldn’t capitalize. India made 357 in their first innings. England replied with a mammoth 617. Riding on Michael Vaughan’s 197, Alec Stewart’s 87 and Craig White’s 94 not out. Starting badly in their second innings, India lost both their openers when their total had reached 11. But Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar steadied the ship by adding 163 runs when Sachin got out making a blistering 92 off just 113 balls off the benign off-spin of Michael Vaughan.
Saurav joined his deputy and added a further 135 to take the Indian total to 309, and slowly cruising towards saving the match when Dravid departed for a well made 115. Laxman didn’t last long, but Agarkar hung around with his captain, who looked well on the way for his third century in England. But when the score reached 378 Ganguly was removed 1 short of his hundred by debutante Steve Harmison, and it fell on another debutante Parthiv Patel to save the match for India. He and Zaheer Khan grimly hung on and the match ended in a draw with India making 424/8 in their second innings. First match lost, second drawn. Much like the previous two tours. But India were to turn the tables in the next test at Leeds.
India elected to bat first on a placid looking Leeds pitch, and lost Sehwag early. 584 runs thereafter were scored by three huge partnerships, and the scene which the Indian fans got used to, and later on started expecting every time India batted, was painted for the first time in England. The Great Indian Middle Order had fired! Though not all cylinders, (Laxman missed out) it put England out of the game by the end of day two of the match. Dravid made 148, Tendulkar 193, and the skipper made a stroke filled 128. What a treat to watch !!!
India declared their first innings closed on 628/8. Then the bowlers came to the party. Zaheer Khan and Agarkar took two wickets each and Kumble and Harbhajan took 3 each to dismiss England for 273. Only Vaughan (61) and Alec Stewart (78) showed some fight. Saurav promptly made England follow on. They made 309, Nasser Hussain made a fighting 110 and Butcher and Stewart made 40s. Anil kumble, claiming 4 wickets was the destroyer-in-chief. However their efforts came to no avail, and India beat England by an innings and 46 runs. India had levelled the series.
In the last test, England came back strongly, posting 515 in the first innings with Vaughan making a superb 195, and Trescothick, Butcher and Dominic Cork making half centuries. Harbhajan Singh bagged 5 for 115. India replied strongly with 508, with batsmen batting well around Rahul Dravid who made a mighty 217. Tendulkar and Ganguly made fifties and Laxman made 40. England had a slender lead of 7 runs, but too much time in the match had passed, and a result was not evident. England made 114 without losing a wicket in their second innings. The series was drawn at 1-1. And Ganguly was the second Indian captain not to lose a series in England, after Kapil Dev in 1986. In the very next year, he would go on to square a series in Australia in Australia, and lead India to the 2003 world cup final.
Saurav Ganguly went on to become one of the most successful Indian test match captain. His style of captaincy was a real passionate one, and he was not shy of getting under the skin of the opposition. His bare-chested display at Lord’s after the Natwest trophy win, defines him as a person. He always played to win and expected his players to do so. Some might have called him lucky, as he had Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag in his team and the batting battery was capable of dominating any attack in the world. But yet, he was a captain who made things happen. He kept Steve Waugh waiting at the toss at Kolkata when India did the epic turnaround to win the test in 2001. He also used to give it back to the sledgers with vengeance, and was never afraid of criticism. Players like Sehwag, Dhoni, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh owed their success to the confidence Ganguly instilled in them with from time to time, and his persistence with them even in their lean patches. It was unfortunate that he lost captaincy and even his place in the side due to the Greg Chappell interferences, but he was strong enough a player to make a great comeback and a great team-man to give his 100% to the team, even when dethroned from captaincy. Saurav Ganguly was a man with a lot of character and firepower. And of course, supreme artistry.
Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 12. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
At 8, Mohammad Azharuddin started playing hard-ball cricket. At the All Saints’ Missionary School Hyderabad, Brother Joseph honed his skills of seam bowling well enough to earn him a place in representative schoolboy cricket. He was never coached to bat. It is evident from his unorthodox, self-made technique. It just came naturally to him. So Azhar, who at 17 was a good seamer who could bat a bit made his debut for Hyderabad as a batsman who could bowl a bit three years later.
The debut first-class season was lackluste, but for a solitary fifty. Seemingly, the talent pool in Hyderabad was scant in the early eighties, and Azhar was retained for the next season. In that season, came the 1st first-class hundred, a double century in the Dulip trophy followed and then came the national call. Azhar was the twelfth man in the first and second test of the 1984-85 home series against England. In the third test, Kapil Dev and Sandeep Patil were dropped from the side for “Irresponsible batting” in the Delhi test, and Azhar came into the side as a replacement of Sandeep Patil.
He scored a century on debut. And one more in the next test. And one more in the test next to that. Three hundreds in his first three test matches and Mohammad Azizuddin Azharuddin was a world record holder at the age of 21. The performance in the second half of the 80s was nowhere near the promise shown in 84, yet he managed to perform well in the 1985 Benson and Hedges series in Australia, didn’t do badly in the 1987 Reliance world cup, and the other limited overs matches. Yet, Test cricket was an entirely different ball game for him.
He did well on spinning tracks, and tracks which didn’t offer bounce to the quick bowlers. He had an awkward method of ducking blindly in bouncers and it was his undoing in the away test matches. In the test matches in the subcontinent though, he was like a tiger. “Dada” batsman as is called in Mumbai cricket slang, a useful bowler, and a fielder, past whom it was impossible to get the ball, at any fielding position. He was actually playing for his place in the 1989 tour of Pakistan, which saw the emergence of Sachin Tendulkar.
In the first test in Karachi, he just managed to do enough to stay in the team for the next match, scoring a brace of 35s. Before the next test in Faisalabad, he came across Zaheer Abbas, who suggested that wrapping the right hand a bit more on the bat handle would help him score more runs against the pace bowling. Azhar scored a first ball duck in the first innings in Faisalabad but came back with a blistering 109 in the second dig. Then came a 192 against New Zealand in New Zealand, and the confidence in playing on seaming and bouncing wickets grew.
The 1990 series of England, under Azharuddin, was the one whom fans were actually expecting India to exceed all their past performances in England. They had an attacking captain in good batting form, the Lord of the Lord’s Vengsarkar was still very much there, Ravi Shastri had grown to be a very dependable batsman and a very miserly bowler, Kapil Dev was still in control of his all-round skills, Kiran More was one of the best wicketkeepers in the world at the time, and a young 17-year-old Sachin Tendulkar, with superhuman talent and promise, was in good nick too. The team would not be bogged down by the might of the English line-up. After all, they had won the last three-match series in England 2-0. And the combative Bhishen Singh Bedi was in the coach’s seat.
The first test started on an auspicious note for India, with Azhar winning the toss. And immediately Azhar made a huge blunder, by putting England in to bat. The weather, which was overcast at the time of the toss cleared up, and the Lord’s strip offered no juice for the Indian Seamers, Kapil Dev, Sanjeev Sharma and Manoj Prabhakar, each conceding over a hundred runs. It is history now, that Kiran More Dropped Gooch when the latter was on 36, and the blunder cost India 297 more runs. Allan Lamb and the Hard-hitting Robin Smith also peeled off centuries on the placid track, and England piled up a mammoth 653/4 in just under 2 days. Traditionally, India would have wilted under this huge score, but what was to come was an epic fightback led by one of the most aesthetically pleasing salvo by the Indian captain.
Ravi Shastri stoically held the fort for 4 hours to make an even hundred. His partners, Sidhu and Manjrekar were back in the pavilion when the score reached 102. When he was joined by his Bombay teammate and the Lord of Lord’s Dilip Vengsarkar, they added 89 precious runs and Shastri fell to the innocuous-looking gentle off-spin of Eddie Hemmings. At 3 for 191, the Indian captain came to the crease, India still in large arrears. He added 50 runs with Vengsarkar, and for the first time in 11 years in a Lord’s test match, Vengsarkar fell before reaching his hundred. He made 52. Young Tendulkar fell cheaply for 10, at 288, Prabhakar lasted only till the score reached 348, and India still had a 300+ runs deficit to erase.
The captain though seemed oblivious to any pressure despite this dire situation. He was stroking the ball merrily, playing delectable drives on both the sides of the wicket, cutting ferociously, and sending anything pitched on his leg-stump and around screaming past the boundary. At 348/6 he was joined by Kapil Dev, who was in his elements too. But the partnership didn’t last long, and Azhar departed for 121 glorious runs to his credit scored of just 111 balls. India- 393 for 7. Kiran More scratched around with Kapil Dev, and helped take the total to 430, 223 short of England. He fell to Frazer, and Frazer quickly also issued a ticket to pavilion, to the debutante Sanjeev Sharma, not allowing him to score.
Kapil Dev at one end unbeaten with a fifty-two off 70 balls with 8 boundaries. With India needing 24 more to avoid the follow-on, and with a solitary wicket in hand, in came Shri Narendra Hirwani, who looked extremely apologetic with a bat in hand. He was to survive 5 remaining balls of Frazer’s over, which he miraculously did, and Kapil took strike to face Hemmings in the next over. He played out the first two deliveries and suddenly realized that there is only one batsman remaining with him, and he too is highly incompetent. The jaunty Jat decided to take matters in his own hands. The next remaining balls of Eddie Hemmings’ over were sent packing out of the ground, 24 runs were scored, India avoided the follow-on, and promptly, Hirwani got out on the first ball of the next over. India finished at 454, 199 short of England, and the talk of the town was not Gooch’s 333 or the centuries of Lamb and Smith, but the elegant and audacious 100 of Azhar, and the daredevil manner in which Kapil Dev ensured that England had to bat again in the match. England were clinically efficient in their second innings, Gooch adding 123 off 113 balls to his first innings 333, and Atherton scoring a patient 72. England declared at 272 for 4, setting India 472 to win. India folded up for 224, the middle order making 30s yet no one being able to convert their starts.
India had revived the tradition of losing their first test of the England tour, but not without putting up a fight. And a gallant fight it was. Azhar was not an outstanding captain, he was unimaginative, but there was no questioning his supreme abilities as a batsman. With Shastri and Vengsarkar in good form, Tendulkar looking promising, and Kapil Dev striking the ball sweetly, India hoped to make a comeback in the series. Their bowling though, was a major worry.
England nearly repeated their first innings performance in the first test by posting a mammoth 519, riding on the centuries from both the openers and Robin Smith. Atherton was dour, but Gooch and Smith batted as if they were using sledgehammers instead of the bat. Indian reply was a treat to the sore eyes of Indian fans, even if they didn’t get a good start. Quickly reduced to 57/3, the Indian ship seemed to be sinking yet again, but when the technically correct Sanjay Manjrekar was joined by the unorthodox Azharuddin, things suddenly started looking better.
With Sanjay Manjrekar solid as the rock of Gibraltar at one end, Azhar could bat freely, and he made the most of it. The pair added 189 gorgeous runs, and Manjrekar departed, missing his century by 7 runs. In walked the prodigal Bombay Bomber, Sachin Tendulkar. With all the reputation he was gathering, he surprised his fans right from the outset. He took over an hour to get off the mark. Then he settled in and scored a resolute, Half century. In the meantime, Azharuddin departed for a masterly 179. This innings of Azhar was full of lyrical stroke play and quicksilver footwork. He hit 21 boundaries and a six. Once Azhar departed with the score on 358, wickets fell regularly around Sachin Tendulkar and when Sachin was the last man out for 68, India were 87 runs short of England’s total.
In their second essay, England scored swiftly, and declared on 320/4, giving India a target of 408 to win. Atherton scored 74, Robin Smith 61, and Alan Lamb an efficient 109. Indian second innings had a stuttering start, with both the openers back in the hut before the score passed 40. Then, the Bombay duo of Manjrekar and Vengsarkar steadied the ship a bit and took the score to 109 and both of them departed. The captain left soon after, contributing only 11, and the responsibility of saving the match fell on the 17-year-old shoulders of Sachin Tendulkar. He was the last recognized batsman to walk in, allrounders Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar were not in a very good batting nick, and all the onus was on Tendulkar.
Kapil and Tendulkar added a further 56 runs, and Kapil fell with the score still 225 runs short of the England total. The pitch was breaking, and even the rotund Eddie Hemmings had started to look dangerous. But, Tendulkar was in a different mindset altogether. He didn’t scratch around like in the first innings, and attacked the bowlers, especially being severe on Eddie Hemmings. To add insult to the injury to his own bowling figures, Hemmings also floored a simple caught-and-bowled chance off Tendulkar. Maybe Sachin had got the luck he needed.
His first test century came by, and the tantalizing wait for his fans, who had backed him as the next Sunny Gavaskar was finally over. Sachin had come close to a hundred in Napier earlier in the year but was out 12 runs short of three figures then. Here, with a solid Manoj Prabhakar assuring him of not losing any further wickets, Tendulkar blossomed. He batted for three and three-quarters of hours and scored 119 punctuated with 17 sizzling boundaries. And he was there till the end with Manoj Prabhakar, steering India out of turbulent waters and bringing them ashore undefeated. The match was drawn, but a Genius had announced his arrival!
Having put up decent fights in the first and the second tests, despite being 0-1 down in the series, India were down, but not out. Their spirits weren’t damp. Azhar won the toss again, and without a second thought elected to bat. His batsmen responded admirably. Shastri made 187, Azhar himself made 78, Kiran More made 61, Prabhakar, Manjrekar, and Tendulkar all chipped in with useful 20s, And Vengsarkar made 33. Kapil Dev made a sedate century by his standards, scoring 110 off 142 balls. Even the rabbit Narendra Hirwani made 2 runs. India declared at 606/9, and for the first time in the series, England were under the pressure of a pile of runs.
Azhar’s bowlers too did a fine job, dismissing England for 340 in their first innings. Prabhakar, with 4 for 74 was the spearhead of the attack. Azhar promptly asked England to follow on, but the oval pitch had eased out. Gooch and Atherton put on 176 runs, scoring 80s, And batting at three, David Gower, who was playing for his place, played the grittiest innings of his life, making 157 resilient unbeaten runs. Allan Lamb and John Morris hung around with him, and England had made 477/4 by the end of the fifth day. The match was drawn and the rubber went to England 1-0. In the subsequent ODIs, India turned the tables defeating England 2-0. Azhar was not a great captain in the series, yet his side had not done badly too. Azhar remained the India captain for a long time after that. He led India to some spectacular victories, albeit in the subcontinent only and none overseas. Azhar would also come back to England in 1996 leading the Indian team.
As always, India lost the first test. Azhar won the toss, elected to bat and Indian batsmen proved him wrong. All got starts, but none were converted to substantial innings. India made 214, largely due to Srinath’s 52 and his 9th wicket partnership with Paras Mhambrey, who made 28 valiant runs. Dominic Cork and Left-hander Allan Mullaly didn’t allow the Indian batsmen to settle at all and claimed 4 and 3 wickets, respectively. England reply was moreover the same story, but Nasser Hussein made the difference capitalizing on his start and converting it to a class 128. England led by 99 runs. Both, Srinath and Prasad, claimed 4 wickets each.
In the Indian second innings, wickets kept falling regularly. Amidst all the ruins, one man, who so often has stood tall in the Indian innings for 24 long years did it again. Sachin Tendulkar scored a counterattacking 122 out of India’s 219. India set England a paltry 121 to win, which they made losing only two wickets. Captain Atherton made 53 and saw England cross the line. The captain failed in both innings, and his indifference against swing bowling was glaringly visible.
The second test at Lord’s was a southpaws’ match, so to say. Sanjay Manjrekar was replaced by Saurav Ganguly. Mike Atherton won the toss and England elected to bat, but the Indian pace spearhead Srinath and debutante Sourabh Ganguly reduced England quickly to 107 for 5, and England appeared likely to repeat the 1986 Lord’s performance. Thankfully for them, the doughty Graham Thorpe was around, and he was joined by the eccentric painter and England wicketkeeper Jack Russel. They added 136 to take the score to 243, and Thorpe departed, missing his century by 11 runs. Russel added a further 83 runs with the mercurial Bajan Chris Lewis, and Lewis departed with the score on 326.
The rest of the wickets could count for only 18 further runs, and England was all out for 344. Srinath took 3, Ganguly 2 and Venkatesh Prasad mopped up the tail, ending up with a fifer. Russel scored a workmanlike 124. India lost Vikram Rathore early, and the makeshift opener Nayan Mongia too didn’t last very long. The newcomer Ganguly had come in to bat at three and was joined by Sachin Tendulkar who was fast climbing the summit to Greatness. Both put on 64 runs, and just when Sachin seemed to be settling in, he departed for a scratchy 31. Captain Azhar and Ajay Jadeja too didn’t last long, and fellow debutant Rahul Dravid walked in to join Ganguly. They put on 94, and Ganguly departed for a gritty 131 on his debut. It has been very often said (and I fiercely disagree with it) that Ganguly was all grace and no grit, but the people who say this should remember that Ganguly had started his test match innings with one of his grittiest centuries.
It was laced with 20 exquisite hits to the boundary, mostly between the arc of backward point to Mid-Off. The God of the off side had marked his territory in his very first salvo. Dravid at the other end was as solid as the rock of Gibraltar, and showing maturity beyond his years, farmed the strike beautifully. He added 55 with Anil Kumble, another 37 with Srinath, and 31 with Paras Mhambrey before losing his concentration and getting out 5 short of a debut hundred. The last wicket also added 10 runs and India was all out for 429. In their second innings, England trudged their way to 278 for 9 in 121 over to ensure a draw. Alec Stewart made 61, and the rest of the batsmen occupied the crease for a long time and little runs. Anil Kumble bowled 51 very economical overs to take 3 wickets, yet again proving his ability to bowl unwavering line and length, and his superb stamina. This match was the swansong of the umpiring colossus Harold “Dickie” Bird. He was an immensely popular umpire worldwide, but more in India, where a whiskey was named after him by some brewer.
After the spectacular debut of Ganguly and Dravid in Lord’s, the Nottingham test was set up nicely. Winning the toss, Azhar chose to bat first and was immediately disillusioned, when both the openers were back in the hut with the score in the 30s. Then, for the first time in international cricket, a partnership which went on to rule the world came together. Sachin and Saurav added 255 sparkling runs. Ganguly made 136, studded with 17 fours and 2 sixes. Sachin was then joined by Mumbai team-mate Sanjay Manjrekar, and the pair put on 89, and Sachin got out making 177. When he departed with the score at 377, the captain walked in but departed scoring a mere 5 runs. Manjrekar and Dravid added 61 more, and at 446/6, Dravid was left to do the job, and added 75 runs with the tail. He yet again got close to a hundred but missed it by 16 runs.
England replied with 564. Atherton and Hussain made centuries, and Thorpe and Ealham chipped in with useful scores. Nasser (Poppadum fingers) Hussain batted bravely despite a fractured finger. Ganguly was again amongst wickets, claiming 3 for 71. In their second innings, India made 211. Tendulkar made 74, Ganguly 48 and Nayan Mongia 45. But there was so little time left in the match that it was called off after the Indian second innings ended.
These were the stories of the two series Azhar led India in England. Two very similar stories. A loss in the first test, India finding their bearings in the second and third test matches of the series, on both occasions second and third tests drawn and England winning the series 1-0. India has never performed well in the first test match in England, barring the Lord’s 1986 Test. The cause has always been the same. Lack of serious practice matches. In 1996 though, India had good 7 practice matches before the first test, but the counties chose to rest their better players and played second-string sides.
Acclimatization to the foreign conditions has always been the problem for touring Indian sides. As for Azhar, he was never a good captain. He was captain for a long time merely due to an absence of anyone worthier for the post. If he put any thought in captaining the Indian sides, remains a mystery. When asked what his strategy for the match would be, he would say the much ridiculed, “we have to bat well, bowl well, and field well” on most occasions. Fundamentally correct, yet very casual. Never outside the subcontinent, it has been seen that he has been aggressive as a captain or has tried to make things happen. As a batsman, he was one of the finest though. His dazzling performances of 1990 speak for him. He was an artist, made to lead because none other would qualify. But as a leader, he reminds us of Nero, who chose to keep playing the fiddle even when Rome was burning. The 1996 tour was the beginning of the end of Azharuddin, and what a phenomenal beginning the man had had, and what a tragic end… Perfect plot for a movie which was eventually made, albeit badly.
Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 11. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
A cricket humourist, a stand-up comedian, author of the famous book- ‘How Sachin Destroyed my life’, fan boy with an all-access pass to the world of Indian Cricket, presenter who interviews cricketers and ex-cricketers with ease! While we have seen him mimicking few cricketers and interviewing a lot of them, here’s an opportunity we got to interview the creator of ‘What The Duck’- Vikram Sathaye!!!
So Vikram, we all are huge fans of What the Duck and we wait for the episodes- (we even tweet in case the episode gets delayed), for the benefit of our readers to know more about you, let’s have a round of Brain Fade (not in real sense) Q & A for you.
1) Finishing MBA, taking up a job, and ending up being India’s first Stand-up comedian… How did that happen?
The answer to this question is very easy. I was bored of my corporate job. I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. I had a skill to imitate cricketers. Unfortunately, back in 2002, I didn’t know what stand-up comedy was. I used to work in MTV as a Marketing Manager. While the VJs used to do the hosting, I used to perform a 10-min skit with Cyrus Broacha and a few others. People started liking it and I realized that if I could extend this a little bit, there’s a lot of scope. Unfortunately, YouTube was not there in 2002-2003 & I didn’t have any reference of stand-up comedians from anywhere in the world. But being from Maharashtra, I knew what Pu La Deshpande (famous Marathi author P. L. Deshpande) used to do. Broadly had an idea, that when you go up on the stage, you put up a story, even if the imitations are there, it’s part of the story line. So, I started developing this concept. And, when I realized that it has started working, that was the same time I got offer to go to the 2003 World Cup in SA, for a 2 min skit in ‘Extra Innings’. People noticed and approached me saying “Humara corporate event hai, why don’t you do a ten minutes show of what you do.” When I realized that this was working, I started to put my act together. I read up and found that stand-up comedy was a proper profession abroad with people performing one hour sets, and realized that it’s something that I can pull off. When Corporates started calling me after the World Cup, and when the CEAT Awards- which was one of my first show to be telecasted on Sony Entertainment Television, I thought I was sitting on something that had a huge potential. I quit my job at that point of time. I was finding a way, and Comedy helped me get out of it.
2) When did you realize you can imitate cricketers? When was the first successful attempt in?
I have been imitating cricketers since my childhood. And, as kids, we all used to watch Gavaskar play regularly. For my first CEAT Awards show, I imitated Gavaskar. Obviously, there’s certain amount of skill that you already possess, because imitating people, either you have it or you don’t. In college, I used to imitate Tony Greig. During MTV, I refined it and added a structure to it. I started doing that, and people in MTV said this is good stuff, ‘you can do it on stage’. Slowly, I started doing cricket events in front of the cricketers and when they said they are enjoying it, I knew that without hurting them, I was doing something that everybody was liking. I used to imitate the likes of Gavaskar, Azhar, Vengsarkar and whole lot of cricketers. I was a natural imitator of cricketers, I have been doing this for a while, but in 2002 it became refined and then I made it into a career.
3) Have you ever played alongside the God- Sachin Tendulkar? How was the experience?
I have not played alongside Sachin. But when I played for U-15 for my club in Pune (I was 13 years of age), Achrekar Sir used to send Sachin to play some of the matches with our team, also. I have played in a match he was there, but beyond that nothing. It was not like I have played regularly with him, just one odd match here and there in U-15 days.
4) How was your experience in the 2003 World Cup sharing the mic with the great commentators?
2003 was a brain fade moment for me. From somebody imitating a Tony Greig or Ian Chappell, suddenly in a month’s time, I was on a flight to South Africa with an ICC accreditation & in the company of renowned commentators. I was wondering what happened in one month that changed my life so much. Now, I was required to do a segment on national television. The producer of channel went to Tony Greig and said, “This guy has come from India and apparently he can do a good ‘Tony Greig’. Why don’t you chat with him?” So, he said, “Mate come on, do what you have to.” I imitated Tony and he started laughing loudly. That was the moment that convinced me that, Agar Tony Greig hass raha hai, that means something is right, and it’s not that my friends are pulling my leg when saying that I am good imitator. Soon, from mimicking, I became popular amongst the commentators as well. That eased the pressure on me that I have to go on my own, and do something. Suddenly, Tiger Pataudi was calling and saying here’s a friend of mine, please imitate Geoffrey Boycott in front of him and I was imitating, Geoff. Kapil Paaji would come and say, “Tu yaar iski nakal achchhi kar leta hai, yeh kar.”So, for me, I didn’t know what was happening and everything was going so well.
5) Did you face any resistance from commentators?
That resistance was not in 2003. Later on, when I did a stint with ESPN, and they actually put me in the commentary box with Sunny & Ravi Shastri, that time I realized that the cricketing fraternity not necessarily likes an outsider. I never intended to be a broadcaster. I like to have fun around the game. I realized that it’s a difficult thing to be in the box being an outsider. Harsha has managed to do it very well. From 2006, I decided thatI will not be in and around the commentary box. I will do my own standup comedy and my own stuff, that would be better because cricketers (ex-cricketers, commentators) don’t really like people from the outside world.
6) Why is your first book is Titled – How Sachin destroyed my Life.
If you read the first chapter, you will realize the reason for that title. Because I have always said that during my generation, when we grew up in the times of Sachin Tendulkar, if you scored a 50 or a 70 in a U-15 game, Sachin scored a 300. Whenever you played, your mother would say- “Bagh, Sachin kasa khelto aahe”
The whole premise of my generation was that – Everything you did, you were still not equal to that ‘guy’. He gave you a benchmark that you would never achieve.
7) We have observed that you generally address the players as ‘Tu’ (Sachin, Virendra Sehwag), how did you generate that comfort level?
Comfort level with this generation was always there with Tendulkar, Viru and even for that matter Rahul, Zak and Yuvi. What happened was a very funny incident. Being a Maharashtrian, when you say ‘Tu’, ‘Tumhi’, it’s a matter of endearment. Some kids address their dad as ‘Tu’. In Marathi, ‘Tu’ is not disrespectful. But when you go up north, and speak in Hindi, you can’t say ‘Tu’ or ‘Tumhare’ to anybody. You have to say ‘Aap’. That’s something I had forgotten in the first season and while I was speaking to Sachin, I was saying “Tu”, he was saying “Tu aisa kiya tha…” – that is a typical Bambaiya way of addressing, which I have been exposed to all my life. When I did that, I got trolled from a lot of people saying that, “boss what do you think of yourself”, how can you talk with the ‘god of cricket’ like that? Bahut gali pada!!! Then I realized the gravity of situation that in north of India ‘Tu’ is considered as disrespectful. It was a mistake on my part to not understand that. But later, 99% times I have corrected it. Once in a while it did get slipped and I came back to ‘Tu’. If you realize, in the 3rd season, I have ensured that if I was speaking to Kuldeep Yadav, who is probably half of my age, I would still say ‘Sirji’, ‘Aap’, as I don’t want to commit the same mistake. So, it was not necessarily comradery with the players, but a mistake, more than anything else.
8) Why such name WTD?
It just started on an evening when I decided to do a show. I thought, Centuries toh sabhi celebrate karte hain, why not celebrate ducks? Every person is scared of scoring a duck. The most significant moment of watching cricket on Channel 9 was this duck. If I am not mistaken, Daddles was the name of that animated duck, and that image kind of stayed on in my mind. WTD was just a way of representing that duck. If you see the first season, we had a WTD question in all episodes and gave away T-shirts, and celebrated the number of ducks they had scored. It was just a creative treatment and lighter way of celebrating something that cricketers hate having on their bio-data, the most.
9) Our favorite episode was ‘God- SRT’s episode and the best part was Debashis Mohanty’s bowling. A question in his action… Your favorite episode?
Obviously Sachin & Sehwag – I have natural inclination to call them the favorite, but personally, I enjoyed one of the other episode of Murli and Sanga. I don’t know Sanga that well. I thought Sanga hai, what will I talk? I know Murli is a nonstop talker, but Sanga, I was not sure. When I came out of episode, I learnt about the many Sanga stories & of course that of Murali, too. To me, episodes with Sachin & Viru are obviously no. 1, as even the stories that Sachin had narrated on that episode about John right, and few others, even I didn’t know of. And I knew of these stories only when I was interacting prior to the episode. Whereas Sanga & Murli, I didn’t know a single story. From just my point of view, forget about being the host, and just from a personal happiness point of view, Murli & Sanga stories were amazing. I am fan of Ashwin. I like the way he speaks. He was unbelievable with his stories in last season. For rest of episodes also, in phases, lots of interesting stuff came out. Last year, Parthiv Patel’s episode – I had liked a lot, as Parthiv also revealed some amazing stories.
10) You have been mimicking so many cricketers, has any of the senior player ever taken it as an offence?
Surprisingly, nobody has taken offence up till now. I am trying to remember in the past … did anybody … actually people had taken it as an offence in the beginning when I used to imitate Sachin, they used to say it’s not in the right spirit because Sachin had that connect with the fans. And I said “Sachin ko koi problem nahi, to tum ko kya problem hai ..” But , people can be sensitive. As far as I remember, I don’t think anyone has ever come to me and complained. I have been lucky that nobody has felt offended from the cricket field so far.
11) Is there any player you feel you can never mimic because you respect him immensely?
No, not really.
13) Why don’t you mimic women’s team players?
Apart from the World Cup, I have not followed much of Women’s cricket. Typically, observation comes only when you see something for a long time. Jhulan Goswami’s action was different. I think I will be able to imitate. For earlier generation, it was easy to pick up as there were lots of ‘characters’. Either, I have become old, or I feel that the characteristics have gone down a little bit, or maybe they are not there in the playing 11. I’m sure Mithali has some characteristics, Smriti has something, but I am not being able to pick that up till now. But, as I said, Jhulan has a unique action so I think I can manage her bowling action.
14) Season 3 was doing so well? Why did you end the season so early?
Dus ho gaya yaar. 10 episodes karte karte meri jaan nikal gayi. 20 cricketers ko ikkaththe lana, back to back during IPL, was a nightmare. Two cricketers coming together was the pain, so 10 episodes, for me was a lot of hard work. I am happy that it got over.
15) When is season 4 launching? Where can the audience see it?
Looking forward for conceptualizing something new for season 4, let’s see how it goes. This will be mostly during IPL as I will start prepping during that time, else, I won’t get time from cricketers. If I am shooting with the same lot or even others, I will not be getting any players unless, I go out and shoot in in Australia or England. Shooting with full budget, crew and doing all episodes outside, becomes a little expensive, so IPL time is the only time we can. That’s also when the budgets are pretty robust. Am conceptualizing, but if something happens, great if I get a window somewhere, some new format emerges, I might think of doing something before also, but broadly, I think, the season would happen only during IPL. The audience can watch it on Viu and YouTube together, hopefully.
16) Tell us more about ‘Bawraas’ and ‘Think Cricket’
The other passion that I always had was music as I come from a musical family. My mother teaches classical music and light music so I used to always be a ‘wannabe’ singer, you can say. Luckily, being in MTV and being in show business, in terms of doing live gigs, I was exposed to lots of musicians- Sonu, Shaan, Shankar and Shreya – they are personal friends. At one point of time, I always thought that we got lucky in our profession. People in unconventional careers, why not support them when they do something interesting and that’s when I met Krishna Patil who was India’s youngest mountaineer who had climbed Everest and didn’t have money to go to the next mountain. So, once when Swanand Kirkire, Shantanu Moitra & I got chatting, we agreed to do a concert to raise money for her expeditions. It happened on a whim and we got together, and then Shaan said he will support, Shreya said she will support. We did a concert , we raised the money for her, and that became pretty successful. Post that, we raised a little bit money for the Gopichand foundation, much before the Olympics. We raised money for an athlete called Ankita Gosavi from Pune, who had to go for the Asian Games. So, it became like, let’s do a concert for people who are doing good stuff. Unfortunately, last one year we didn’t have the bandwidth to do much, but we are reviving it by identifying two or three interesting people for whom we will do something, this year.
Think cricket was something Harsha Bhogle and me have been talking about for some time with Anita, Harsha’s wife. Between me and Harsha, we must have done 1000’s of corporate events. And over a period of time, both of us meet and chat about management and cricket, so thought why not have a platform where we chat with the clients that we have always interacted with – CEOs, VPs who come on an evening and chat cricket with them and when we chat cricket it’s a free-flowing conversation. We had Rahul Dravid speaking on the art of batting. Sundar Raman spoke on his BCCI experience, Ashwin spoke on Spin Bowling, so we keep calling interesting people to talk about cricket in a free-flowing conversation with the heads of companies. So, think cricket was something we thought we would do very regularly.
All’s well that ends well. A big thank to Vikram Sathaye to take out his precious time and answering our questions. All the best for your future assignments.
Hope you liked the special interview. Stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com for more on cricket.
In an era of muscling the balls into the stands, waiting for the first day of Lord’s Test still gives goosebumps to cricket lovers. Yes, T20 has made it possible for us to watch a cricket match in 4 hours. But nothing can replace the excitement of walking into MCG on a Boxing Day test, or walking into Eden Gardens and see Wasim Akram running into ball, mind you , that time Eden could hold up to 1,00,000 spectators. Hence, my idea of real contest is still a game played over 5 days where pendulum would be shifting from time to time and the team with never-say-die attitude will come up winners. While some say 5 Test series is too long, the old fashioned like me would say, that’s clear opportunity of 25 days of real hard cricket.
The occasion in Lord’s and I hate to say this that I traveled from India to London, just to catch the first day at Lord’s, see the captains walk to toss, see umpires throw the new ball to the bowler, the bell ringing, everything. But, God had other plans and an extremely painful personal loss has deprived me of this honor but only for this time. Nevertheless, I am in London and I hope to catch up one of the days in between.
In the meantime, as stated before the heat wave has been extremely killing. But suddenly, yesterday (7th August), the weather Gods changed their minds. It did not rain but cloud covers had covered London. It was pleasant for a change, not to mention, I love rain. But if you are cricket lover and specially an Indian fan, you would know English weather is flirting with Virat Kohli. Till now, grass has been left on the 22 yards, weather is swinging between hot and cold, Andy Flower goes on to record and say Kohli has to play more years to reach Sachin and become one of the all-time greats, Bumrah is not fit, India has lost the first test within the first 4 days, and adversary are still hitting Indian Team. I am sure in my mind that Kohli is already quite baffled about what to do with the batting order and now with the weather playing its part, he sure will be confused with his bowling combinations.
It is pretty easy for all us fans and the commentators say a few things while the game is on or after the match is done and dusted. But, Kohli is leading the team right there. He is feeling the heat and he is taking some bold decisions. I think he will still back KL Rahul since one test is not good enough to judge someone. Now, Dhawan should not be dropped since that might press the panic button in the dressing room and bring in more insecurity amongst the players, so would guess Dhawan sticks again. Rahane will stick on for past performances. There is really no need to change the batters at this point of time. We also need to bear in mind Pujara has done nothing extra-ordinary in these conditions. But if Kohli wants to get in the extra batsman, it has to be Pujara and where do you fit him.
If Pujara comes in, then automatically Umesh goes out. Now, permutations and combinations looks very interesting given this is a must win game of India. It will be a real test of character and mentality of these players. But above all, it will be an opportunity to see if these players are ready to amend their mistakes. Since, this looks like the last chance for many in the team. Kohli himself needs to think before finalizing the final 11. He has never played the same 11 in consecutive Tests and that could and might have created doubts in the mind of the players like Vijay and Rahane. If you look at Vijay’s batting, it has not been the same from the time he had been dropped from the time. He is poking and prodding outside the offstump and God knows why. Similarly,Rahane has not found his magic touch yet after being dropped in the SA series after being the vice-captain of the team. However, Pandya keeps getting the captain’s backing even after some really ordinary performance, but definitely some lighting of brilliance from time to time.
Kohli will be the big difference between the defeat and win once again and I hope to make my presence felt in one of the days in between.
Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!
So, India travels to England after a span of 4 years and this time they come with a lot of expectation and one of the main reasons of that expectation is Virat Kohli. Kohli happens to be the man who has scored heavily across the world and across formats. If you are a kid and wanting to play cricket, you want to like Virat Kohli. He is setting the trend with fitness and his batting.
The only place where he has to stamp his authority is England. A dominating century in England is still missing from his long list of achievements and CV. Having won the T20 series and lost the ODI series, it was time to get ready to face English fast bowlers. With the heat wave being nothing less than torturous in England, it was expected to help Indians since much swing was not expected but the Duke ball had a different story to tell.
England wins the toss and elects to bat. Kohli brings in a major change and drops Pujara for KL Rahul. I have always maintained KL Rahul has a problem against the moving ball but captain trusts his former IPL team mate. Again, with only Ashwin in the team, it looked a little heavy in the pace department. While we talk about the different players, it is an absolute must to mention that just like Kohli, Ashwin as well did not have a great performance in England last time. So, another one to set that record right.
As the Test match started, England looked pretty comfortable against Indian attack and looked to set a big score. There were no demons on the pitch and I still maintain that it was 400+ pitch. However, keeping Kohli out of the game is just impossible. You can call it half a chance, but it did come in the form of Bairstow mis-judging a run and taking a chance against Kohli. I simply call it stupidity. A direct hit at the bowlers end and the priced wicket of Joe Root, probably the best batsman of England. This turned the game and England collapsed for 287. Not to forget, Ashwin showed his guile and experience by bagging 4 wickets and some superb bowling from the senior pro Shami.
I was almost certain that India would bat only once and score something around 450 since this wicket has got nothing. Vijay and Dhawan was alright at the crease. But more importantly, Broad and Anderson did not look threatening at all and I was quite confident that this series is going our way from hereon. As the old saying goes ‘ Little knowledge can be dangerous’ and thats what exactly happened with me. A 20 year old left arm fast bowler was marking his run up and I was of the idea that he would not be much of a threat given the experience our batters have.
But, suddenly we had lost 3 wickets of our Top 3 within 8 runs. I looked at the replays 10 times and I could not understand whether we threw the wickets away or our batsmen are that stupid. As Geoff Boycott would say “ Even my mum would have left those balls”. Highly disgusted and disappointed with our batters, I continued my optimism since Kohli and Rahane was at the crease. Now, the whole match had narrowed down to Anderson vs Kohli.
Kohli eager to stay put and stamp his authority, as the couple of reckless shots would indicate and similarly, Anderson, being old wily bowler that he is, kept tempting and probing Kohli and at times challenging Kohli to satisfy his ego and play that expansive drive. But for the next 4 hours what I saw is a normal guy changing himself and maturing to a man.
The innings had 3 dropped catches and 2 catches fell short of the slips, thats 5 balls and in the rest 220 balls, this man re-wrote history, wiped the past away and created his own legacy which would be part of cricketing folklore for ages to come. The innings was not filled with beautiful shots but tremendous willpower, the innings did not have the power of Kohli but the mind of Kohli and finally it got the result for which millions had tuned into cricket for that day. Scored a superlative 149, took India to 274. Conceded the lead but not by much.
England comes into bat, again Ashwin weaving his magic around the English batsmen and snatching 3 wickets. Ishant joins the party takes 5 superb wickets. At one stage 87/7, looks like game over England. But again, walks in that under-rated player named Sam Curran and smashes 63. What was disgusting to see is Dhawan kept dropping catches and kept smiling. What on earth was he thinking???? Did he think Kohli would say “Sardar khus hua???” If that stupidity was not enough , he would thigh slap every time he took a catch. What does that even indicate??? Anyways, finally England was bundled out for 180. With the famed batting line up of India, it was almost given that we would win this game. Target 194, should be done by lunch Day 4.
In comes the opening pair of the world no. 1 team, Vijay and Dhawan, oh sorry, I should be saying in comes the fashion stars of the World No. 1 team. Since what followed for the next 3 hours is called Fashion Parade by the Indian batting stalwarts. You name them and they are ready to go to Lakme Fashion show or something in Paris as well. They can give the best model in the world a run for their money. What was unfolding in front of me, is called callousness, unprofessionalism and I felt like cheated and I would like to know if Kohli and the Indian bowlers felt any different.
If there is a term which is worse than throwing away wickets, I would like to know since, looked like Vijay, Dhawan, Rahane, KL Rahul did not care what was going in the middle. They did not even have the heart to fight it out. And at the other end, there was this man who has so much pride of playing for India that he kept trying and trying. He even tried to shield them but at the same time tried not to insult the so-called batsmen. The Indian captain was stranded, dejected and all this was apparent when he walked back to the pavilion after another superb 51. As a fan and cricket lover, I felt sorry for him.
I have not seen an Indian batsman in a long time to play like this, not seen someone to carry a team like this. I am sorry to say but the rest of the batters do not deserve our love or our criticism. They are not worth it.
Its time to bring the Shaw and Gill into the team because it cant get any worse than this. It pains us , as a fan , to see Kohli going through after that kind of efforts. Its a sad state of affairs.
Hope you liked the review of the first test match. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!
One fine afternoon while Randomly surfing a TV channel in a summer afternoon at Melbourne, in 2008, I came across a live match and saw a chubby youngster full of energy, emotions and adrenaline rush batting like a man possessed.
They say love at first sight exists in romance but here I was falling in love with an U19 kid, who was 2 years younger to me. I predicted to my house mates that he will be the next great of Indian cricket, to which, my mates ridiculed me!
In matter of 10 days, he was the captain of the U19 World Cup winning team. Some people labelled the celebration over the top and arrogant maybe it was, I don’t know!
He made his debut few months later, thanks to his potential identified by then selector colonel Vengsarkar!
It was a Luke warm beginning. In fact, till a year up until Dec 2009 he just another fringe player and then he scored his maiden century against Lanka at Eden garden. The greatness nipped under the bus was about to emerge!
He made his way to be a permanent member of the team. By the time 2011 World Cup started, he made a century in his debut World Cup match, however, he is remembered more for his quote on SRT after the World Cup Final in that tourney.
He was picked for tests in WI and was found out against shirt bowling, dropped for tests against England, and was on verge of being dropped after 2 tests in Australia. Then Perth and Adelaide happened.
The knock against SL at Hobart in ODI elevated his career to the next level. The now ill famous tour of 2014 happened ,134 runs in 10 innings, but Incidentally this was when he became more than a cricketer for me! He didn’t give up went to Australia 6 months later and scored 4 centuries and rest they say is history!
While Virat Kohli, the cricketer is well known, the qualities that I love about him are :
1. Fitness freak: The journey from chubby cheeks to six pack abs.
2. Passion: I learnt from him that we must be extremely passionate about the profession we are in.
3. Style: The way he carries himself in public his commendable just so classy.
4. Hard work and Grit: he may not be naturally gifted like Rohit but with his sheer determination and dedication he became a world class athlete.
Hope you like Aprits emotions for Virat Kohli. Stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com for more on cricket.
Special thanks to Arpit Awasthi for contributing this article. Arpit is an avid cricket fan who carries passion on his sleeves,firebrand of Viratian. This article stands testimony to his undivided devotion. May his god smile on him.
India plays their first Test match at Edgbaston from 1st August, which about 2 hours drive from my place but I do not have any intention to watch the match there. However, the weather is pretty English at this point of time. Unpredictable rains has already forced all clubs across London to cancel all their matches which also means my own induction to my local cricket club got halted for another week.So, what is Edgbaston?? It is one of the most affluent suburbs of Birmingham, rather central Birmingham and it is also home to Warwick County Cricket Club which again happens to be the home club of Ian Bell and Jonathon Trott, 2 of the most dependable players of England.
First Test is expected have majority of Indian crowds due a number of reasons but the most important reason is, everyone wants to see Virat Kohli score that elusive hundred. Don’t be surprised if you hear “Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega” loud and clear on your television sets!!! They will chant “Kholiiiiii Kohli” and that too repeatedly.
The atmosphere is there, Indians need to turn up on 1st August and play to win, that’s what few of us Indians think. Any defensive approach will put back Indians but with Kohli at the helm of the things, we don’t expect anything else other than positive cricket. So, I am expecting out of the 25,000 seats available 15,000-17,000 would be filled with Indians by the third day itself. We are not only fanatic about cricket but we worship our cricketers and our recent Demi-God is Kohli.
Now, the twist is, as Indians, we don’t want this hot and humid and so-called Indian weather. We, and we believe, Indian team also wants the English conditions to turn up when the day comes. Not only do we need to just beat them, but also but beat them in their home conditions and home weather so that Cook and Root wouldn’t have much to complain and next time Ricky Ponting gives an interview about the best batsman of the world, he is forced to take Virat’s name. We want to win it in style this time and bring it back home!!!
Hope you liked first hand experience right from Edgebaston .Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!
As we inch closer towards the end of the series, we get to see names that are more popular to my generation. In Part 10 of the series- From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, we are talking none other than the Haryana Hurricane, the most complete Cricketer India has produced – Kapil Dev Nikhanj. It was as though, nature had created this specimen with the sole objective of making a cricketer.
During his playing days, Kapil was only second to Sir Garry Sobers in terms of excelling in all the departments of the game. I am sure that many would vociferously counter my claim, but there are solid reasons behind it. Kapil did play in the same era as Imran Khan, Sir Ian Botham, and Sir Richard Hadlee.
Imran was by far the best batsman of the three. Bowling prowess was nearly equal with all the four, but Imran and Botham were clumsy fielders, were unfit to play a good number of test matches in succession. Hadlee’s batting performances were extremely sporadic in nature. Besides, Hadlee chose to miss series in the subcontinent a lot too, where his bowling would not have been as effective. But Kapil was always a free-flowing batsman, a wicket-taking bowler, and one of the best fielders the game has ever seen. And this was throughout his career.
The 1986 squad Kapil led to England was in an upbeat mindset. India had lost badly to England in the home series in 1984-85. They had bounced back and recovered well enough to win the Benson and Hedges World championship in 1985. In the 1984-85 series, India had discovered an artist who could match Gundappa Vishwanath stroke for stroke and had a voracious appetite for runs, in Md. Azharuddin.
Besides, the team had the colossal Sunil Gavaskar. Also had the ever-reliable Lord of Lord’s Dilip Vengsarkar, the man for the crises in Mohinder Amarnath, and the medium pace attack spearheaded by the captain himself, along with Roger Binny, Chetan Sharma, and Manoj Prabhakar. Ravi Shastri, Shivlal Yadav, and Maninder Singh could be entrusted the job of spin bowling.
India had broken the Lords Jinx strongly by winning the 1983 Prudential World cup, and the man in charge then was the man in charge now. And he didn’t have any notions of doing anything different this time around too.
In the first test at Lord’s Kapil won the toss and put England in. Gooch and Robinson made a solid start adding 66 runs for the first wicket, but the fall of Robinson’s wicket triggered a mini-collapse, and England were suddenly 98 for 4. At this juncture, Gooch found an able ally in Derek Pringle, and by the time Gooch fell making a fine 114, the two had taken the score to 245. Pringle too fell for 63 24 runs later, and the rest didn’t contribute much. England All-out for 294. Chetan Sharma (5 for 64 and Binny Sr. 3 for 55) were the destroyers in chief.
The Indian reply was wobbly to start with, Krish Shrikkanth fell when the score was 31, but the two senior pros, Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath held the fort and saw the day off taking the score to 83 without any further damages. Gavaskar fell early on the third day with his individual score on 34 and Jimmy Amarnath was joined by the Lord of the Lord’s, Dilip Vengsarkar.
At that point in time, Vengsarkar was the best batsman in the world, and at the top of the PWH rankings. And he did bat like the best. He had crucial partnerships of 71 apiece with Mohinder Amarnath and Azharuddin, and 49 with debutante Kiran More. He also had a last wicket partnership of 38 with Maninder Singh in which Maninder’s share was only 6 runs. Vengsarkar remained unbeaten on a superlative 126, and India had taken a smallish, but crucial lead of 47 runs.
England did an India of the past tours and was skittled for 180 in the second innings, Kapil taking four wickets and Maninder bagging a superb return of three wickets for only 9 runs. India had to get 134 to win, and there was ample time to get them. Yet they floundered, Gavaskar and Shrikkanth both falling when the score had just passed 30. Yet again Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath had to do the rescue act.
Vengsarkar made a crucial 33, and Amarnath 8 in one and a half hour, but more importantly not losing his wicket. But both departed in quick succession with the score on 76 and 78, and then it fell on young Shastri and Azhar to steady the ship with a patient partnership of 32 runs.
When Azhar departed with the score on 110, the captain walked in in a no-nonsense mood. He finished the match in a matter of ten balls, scoring 23 with 4 fours and a towering six over midwicket off Phil Edmunds to finish the match. At last, INDIA HAD WON A TEST MATCH AT LORDS.
More joy was to come.
With the star of the first test: Chetan Sharma unfit, India had to summon the services of the golden oldie Madan Lal, who was then playing in the Lancashire league. India won the toss, elected to bat first, and with all the batsmen getting starts and making small contributions in the fashion of the piggy bank of a middle-class family, amounted to 272. Vengsarkar top scored with 61.
England never settled in their first innings. They folded up for 102, Binny taking five wickets, and SOS help Madam Lal taking 3. Out of the English batsmen, only Bill Athey scratched around for two and a quarter hour to score 34.
India batted again, started in a complacent fashion, and promptly lost their first five wickets by the time they reached 70. Yet again, it fell on “Colonel” Vengsarkar to steer the company to a safe position. He batted with the tail, and took the Indian second innings score to 237, thereby securing a total lead of 407 runs. In the process, Vengsarkar had scored his second century on the tour, again unbeaten, 102. With a daunting target of 408 runs to win, England batting again tumbled like ninepins.
Maninder Singh took 4 for 26, and England innings folded up at 128, giving India their biggest win in England, a win by 279 runs! And of course, Their first series victory in England. Tide seemed to be turning now, and the Colonials had beaten the old masters in their own backyard.
The third test was a dead rubber, as the series had already been decided. England won the toss, batted first and made 390. Mike Gatting made a dandy 183, Gower and Pringle made useful 40s. India matched the England first innings score in their first innings and after the completion of the first two innings of the match, both the teams were literally even Stevens. All the Indian batsmen pulled their weights, with Amarnath top-scoring with 79 and Azhar making 64.
England made 235 in their second innings, setting India 236 to win in 78 overs remaining. For some godforsaken reason, they chose to bat slow and could score only 174 for the loss of 5 wickets. The match was drawn, but the series won. Deservingly, Dilip Vengsarkar was named the player of the Series. He certainly knew what to do with the champagne magnum he received as his prize! 😊
The effect Kapil had on this series was mind-boggling. No centuries, no five-fors, yet he would take the crucial one or two wickets, make vital 20s and 30s at crunch situations. With him showing complete confidence in close friend Vengsarkar, who could bat freely and score heavily (Avg. 90) in the series.
He also backed his bowlers well, and all of them responded with wickets and tight bowling spells. Kapil was a man who could infect the team with his vibrant vitality and immense energy to bring out the best in them. It was the hallmark of Kapil Dev. Having had to train himself on the docile Indian pitches, grounds devoid of grass, this big-hearted man didn’t give up. Instead, he always gave his best.
He played the game wholeheartedly, always stretching himself beyond limits, and inspiring his teammates to do the same. No wonder, he was as complete a captain as the cricketer he was. He may not have been a shrewd strategist, but the brave knight, for whom his army would move mountains to win. Kapil Dev is certainly an Icon of Indian cricket.
Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 10. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
And we move towards the 9th part of the series From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, the days get ‘Sunny’. Sunil Gavaskar is the greatest opening batsman of all times. In 1982, he was the best batsman in Test Cricket. In 1981, playing under him, India had beaten Keith Fletcher’s England 1-0 in the home test series. On this high note, Sunil Gavaskar took the Indian team to England in the English summer of 1982. However, Gavaskar must not have been very happy with the side given to him. His trusted opening ally, Chetan Chauhan was mysteriously dropped by the selection committee like a hot potato, in spite of having performed admirably in the Australia- New Zealand tour of 1981.
Gavaskar was given Ghulam Parkar who had a questionable technique against quick bowling, and a young Pranab Roy, whose dad Pankaj had opened for India with reasonable success in the past. Rest of the batting line up was alright, and with the days of glory of the famous quartet of spinners over, the responsibility was on Dilip Doshi, Shivlal Yadav and young Ravi Shastri. Madan Lal and Randhir Singh were selected to assist India’s prime all-rounder Kapil Dev with the new ball. Syed Kirmani was the wicket-keeper. The England team too was fairly depleted; as Boycott, Gooch and a few other players had earlier chosen to go on a tour to South Africa, and were banned from representing England at that time.
For the choice as the captain, there was no disputing of Gavaskar’s claims. He was by far the best equipped batsman to succeed in England, with his impregnable defensive technique, an ice cool temperament and immense powers of concentration. Besides, Sunny was never shy of giving it back to the Englishmen, as he showed before the first test at Lords. Earlier, when England had toured India in 1981-82, captain Keith Fletcher had objected to the standing of a few Indian umpires in test matches, and Gavaskar returned the favor by objecting to the appointment of David Constant to officiate in the Lord’s test. The TCCB gave in and Constant was replaced by Barry Meyer. Yet it was the first test of an England tour, and Indians kept the tradition alive by losing it.
England batted first and scored 433. The erratic Derek Randall scored 126 and Botham and Phil Edmunds scored 60s. Kapil Dev was the pick of Indian bowlers, taking 5 for 125. The fact that he bowled 43 overs out of the innings’ 148 would underline the pressure he would have to bear in the series, and the ineptitude of the other bowlers. Indian batting fell apart and they were skittled for 128, conceding a 305 run lead to England. Gavaskar (48) and Kapil (41) were only substantial contributions. India had no answer to the English seam attack. Botham took five for 46. England asked India to follow on.
When India was keeping the tradition of losing the first test in England alive, Dilip Vengsarkar was starting a new personal tradition of scoring centuries at Lord’s. He bettered his performance in 1979, and scored 157 runs in an innings which exuded courage and beauty. Yet, India was still 53 runs in arrears and half their side had fallen when Vengsarkar got out. In walked Nikhanj Kapil Dev. In those days, he knew only one way to bat. And he did just what he did the best. He scored a whirlwind 89 in only 55 balls, hitting 13 fours and 3 sixes, and took India 66 runs ahead of England. England got the required 67 runs to win losing three wickets, all of them to Kapil Dev. Though India had lost the test, Kapil Dev was named the player of the match for his all-round display. As is the English tradition, he got a magnum of champagne as a prize. Wonder what the teetotaler Kapil Dev would have done with that. 😊
The second test at Manchester turned out to be a nothing test, as rain washed out a major chunk of play, and not even two innings could be completed. England, batting first made 425, with both their openers crawling to their respective half centuries, then Botham coming and hitting 128 brutal runs, and Geoff miller unlucky to miss his hundred by two runs. Dilip Doshi took 6 wickets, Madan Lal 3 and Ravi Shastri 1. When India started their innings, they were quickly reduced to 25 for 3 by Derek Pringle and Bob Willis, and a collapse looked in the offing. However, Veteran Vishwanath (54) and night -watchman Syed Kirmani (58) steadied the ship and took India to 112.
Yashpal Sharma fell cheaply, and Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev added 96, Kapil scoring 65 off 78 again in his characteristic fashion. Madan Lal added another 97 with Sandeep Patil, and Patil remained not out on 129. It was a memorable century for Sandeep Patil, as he hit Bob Willis for 6 fours in an over during the course of that innings. The skipper failed to make a big score, and with the entire fifth day of the match washed out, the match ended in a draw.
The third and the final test was played at the Oval, where in the last tour Gavaskar had nearly won the match for India, singlehandedly. However, there was no single-handed display by the captain this time. England batted first and posted a mammoth 594. Geoff Cook made an even 50, Allan Lamb 107, and Derek Randall 95. But the star of the innings was Ian Botham. He scored 208 off only 226 deliveries, hitting 19 fours and 4 sixes. It was entirely Botham’s day. Such was his luck, that he removed India’s most prized batsman when he was batting. A blistering cover drive off Doshi’s bowling hit towards Gavaskar, who was fielding at silly point with brutal force shattered Sunny’s shin. Gavaskar couldn’t take any further part in the match. He had single-handedly pulled India out of trouble on this ground in 1979 but had to leave the same ground in 1982 limping on a single leg.
In Gavaskar’s absence, Shastri and Vengsarkar opened the innings for India and though Vengsarkar fell early, Shastri, Vishwanath, Sandeep Patil all made half centuries, and Kirmani a typically gritty 43. Kapil Dev made a fiery 97 off only 93 deliveries, hitting 14 fours and 2 sixes. India replied with a formidable 410 in the first innings, and England had to bat again. They made 191/3 in their second innings, with Tavare making 75, and Gower and Lamb a brace of 45s. India were given an improbable target of 376 in 36 overs. This time India opened with Ravi Shastri and Suru Nayak. India made 111/3, out of which Gundappa Vishwanath made a sparkling 75. The match was drawn, and the series was lost 1-0.
Much has been written about Gavaskar as a player, as a person and about his game. Me trying to write on it would result in a mere repetition.But I would still like to make an observation.
Gavaskar versus England, in England is a curious case. He had all the wherewithal to succeed in the English conditions, in terms of technique, concentration, reflexes, and temperament, yet he couldn’t match his own high standards while playing England in England. Albeit, he played what he himself rates as his finest Innings (57 at Manchester in 1971), and arguably what the critics call his best innings (221 a The Oval in 1979) came in England, he only made 1152 of his overall 10122 runs in England. His average in England is a good 10 runs lower than his overall average of 41.12. He has scored only 2 out of his 34 hundreds in England (5.88%) where he played 16 out of his 125 tests (12.5%). Much that I am a fan of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, I must concede that he was a failure in English conditions.
However, this fact doesn’t devalue his contribution to the Indian Cricket, both in terms of runs, and psychology. In a country which lacked self-respect during Sunny’s playing days, it was he who exemplified standing tall against the opposition and giving it back to the opposition when the opposition cricketers used to dish out sledges and abuses to the meek Indian cricketers, both on and off the field. Till this pocket-sized rookie appeared in the West Indian tour of 1971-72, Indian batsmen had a world-wide reputation of being scared of fast bowling. By the time Gavaskar retired, tail-ender Shastri had become a regular opener, and even the likes of Shivlal Yadav and Madan Lal had developed courage to get behind the line of the ball when express bowlers were bowling. This might appear insignificant to the fans who have watched majority of their cricket in the new millennium. In today’s days of sledge-hammer sized bats and rules favoring batsmen, the fast bowlers look hapless more often than not. But back in the 70s and 80s, quick bowlers from West Indies, England, Australia and Pakistan invariably induced the fear of death in the minds of the batsmen then. There were no helmets then, use of chest guards and thigh guards was considered unmanly, and batsmen had to purely rely on their technique, reflexes and concentration for their own physical safety.
Gavaskar was never injured while batting. It was not that he was not capable of exhilarating stroke play. He has shown it in the 1983 Delhi test against the west Indian attack of Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Daniel, and again in the following Ahmedabad test, and again in the 1987 world cup match against New Zealand. But, for his entire career the Indian batting was hinged to him, and unless Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath came up with their sporadic special performances, it was he who had had to hold the innings together. I dare say, that if he would have been allowed the luxury to bat more freely in his career, he would definitely have ended with 13,000 runs and 40 test centuries. But that was not to be, and Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was destined to carry the burden of Indian batting on his 5’5” frame for 12 of his 16 years in international cricket. And how admirably did he do it !
Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 9.Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com
Moving on to part 8 of the series- From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England, its turn of the next Indian Skippers In England.
Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan has had the longest active cricket career. He debuted for Tamilnadu (Then Madras, as the team was called then) at the age of 18 in 1963. He represented the country in 57 Tests from 1965 to 1983, was captain in five Tests and the first two World Cup competitions, a manager who doubled as a coach on the tours of Australia in 1985-86 and West Indies in 1989, was secretary of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association from 1986 to 1989, a national selector in 1991-92, a regular and respected columnist for newspapers and magazines for many years, expert commentator for television for innumerable Tests and one-day internationals, ICC match referee in the 90s, and ICC panel umpire from 1993 till 2004.
He was a very stingy off-spinner, miserly yet penetrative, could bat when the situation demanded, was a live-wire fielder even in his late 30s, and was an astute student of the game. Maybe his engineering education had imbibed a constant pursuit of perfection and precision in him, and he expected the same from his team-mates. This was good for a cricketer individually, but it made him a very grumpy and short-tempered captain. He was always the fittest player in the team, and as a captain, expected the entire team to match up to his very high fitness standards. The portly Prasanna, beer-loving Vishwanath, and the reluctant Vengsarkar were not exactly comfortable with this.
After the 1978 home series against West Indies, Sunil Gavaskar was mysteriously removed from Captaincy and Venkat was appointed the captain for the Prudential World cup 1979 and the subsequent test match series against England in England. Venkat had earlier captained India in the inaugural 1975 world cup too. Indian Performance in 1979 world cup was similar to that in the 1971 world cup. Disappointing. The Indian team just hadn’t matured to play one day cricket till then. In the test series that followed, India fared much better.
Of course, they started with the customary heavy-first-test-loss in Edgbaston. England scored 633 for 5, riding on two centuries of polarly opposite natures. Geoff Boycott’s 155 was painstaking for the batsman himself, and painful for the spectators to watch, and David Gower’s 200 not out was one of the most beautiful innings one could ever see, laced with 24 delightfully effortless 4s. A budding batsman called Graham Gooch made 83. All the five wickets to fall were taken by the 20-year-old Kapil Dev at the cost of 146 runs, and Ghavri, Venkatraghavan, and Chandrashekhar all ended up wicketless and conceding more than 100 runs. Barring Kapil Dev, the rest of the bowling attack was rendered impotent by the English wickets, and this sorry state of affairs prevailed for most of the series. Indian first innings was worth 297 (Gavaskar 61, Vishwanath 78), and England promptly imposed follow on. In their second essay, India could muster up 253, with only Gavaskar (68) Chauhan (56) and Vishwanath (51) resisting. India lost by an innings and 83 runs. Ian Botham took 5 for 70 and began a dream series for himself.
In the second test, the Lord’s wicket continued its angry spell on Indians. India were shot out for 96, and only Gavaskar (42) made a substantial score. Ian Botham took his second five-for (5/35). England made 419/9. Gower (82), Miller (62), Randall (57) and Bob Taylor (64) being the mainstays of batting. India was again staring at a huge Lords defeat, but the epic courageous display by the two most stylish Indian batsmen Vishwanath (112) and Vengsarkar (102) denied England the victory. These were the second and third hundreds scored at Lords by Indians after Vinoo Mankad had scored 184 27 years before. Gavaskar made 59. Gavaskar had made good scores in all the innings in the series so far, yet had failed to convert them into a big one. It might be an awesome display for an average player but was way below Sunny’s own lofty standards. He was the best opening batsman in the period and would deal in hundreds. However, the hundreds were just not coming. But it was a most honorable draw secured by Indians, nevertheless.
The third test began at Leeds, and Botham spanked a blistering 137 in 152 balls in England’s modest total of 270. India responded with 226 for 6 riding on Gavaskar’s one more non-hundred score of 78, Dilip Vengsarkar’s unbeaten 65 and Yashpal Sharma’s gritty 40. The match was very interestingly poised, and heavy rains washed out any possibility of further play.
India had to win at Oval in the fourth and final test to avoid losing the test series. Much was at stake. England elected to bat first and scored a respectable 305, Gooch and Peter Willey scored fifties. The captain, for once took 3 for 59, and Kapil Dev took 3. India, in reply, were all out for 202, only Vishwanath (62) and Yajurvendra Singh (43) offering resistance. India had conceded a lead of 103 runs in the must-win game. The probability of Indian victory now was next to nothing. England pounced on this and scored 334 more runs at the loss of eight wickets. Geoffery Boycott presented another insomniac’s delight by scoring 125 runs in 7 hours. David Bairstow (Jonny’s dad) scored 59. India was to score a small matter of 438 runs in four and a half sessions to win the match and square the series. What followed was an incredibly astonishing display of the greatness of one single man. Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.
India began their innings with an intention to bat out the four and a half sessions of the match to at least salvage a draw. That was the best they could do with their backs to the wall. By the end of the fourth day, India hadn’t lost a wicket and posted 76 on the board. Both Gavaskar (42) and his most trusted opening partner, Chetan Chauhan (32) off to a decent start. On the fifth and the final day, yours truly, an eight-year-old but fast succumbing to the beautiful addiction of cricket was following the commentary on radio BBC. To me then anything that Gavaskar did was divine and had to be imitated. The memory of listening to the commentary and with a bat in hand trying to essay the shots described is one of my most cherished memories.
Gavaskar and Chauhan stayed together till the scoreboard read 213, and Chauhan, sticking to his habit of missing out on 100s, got out on 80. Gavaskar was joined by Dilip Vengsarkar, and the two took the score to 366, 72 runs away from victory and Vengsarkar fell to Edmonds, scoring 52. Gavaskar was going strong at the other end. And here, Venkat made a tactical error which cost India the win, if not the match. He changed the batting order, suddenly sending Kapil Dev in the place of the in-form Vishwanath, who had top-scored in the first innings. Kapil Dev was immediately removed by Willey and had failed to score. Still no Vishwanath. Yashpal Sharma came in, and looked to hold on the other end, but consumed valuable time in scoring 19 of 47 minutes. In the meantime, Botham, Gavaskar’s closest friend, and fiercest foe was introduced in the attack, and as he warmed up, Gavaskar called for water. I feel this was a grave error Gavaskar made. His innings was always built on concentration, and the distraction of taking a drink in the innings at such a critical gesture proved fatal, and in Botham’s first over of the spell, Gavaskar on-drove a half-volley uppishly straight in the hands of David Gower at Mid-on. India 389-4.
Finally, Vishwanath walked in to replace his brother in law. He gave it his all, scored 15 off 13 balls, but fell to Willey. India 410-5. Yajurvendra Singh, the last of the recognized Indian batsmen, walked in and walked out, scoring a solitary run. The captain tried throwing his bat around but was run out for 6 made in 4 balls, India were tottering at 419 for 7. After 4 runs were scored, Yashpal, who was holding one end up fell trying to up the ante, and India were 423 for 8. All Ghavri and Bharat Reddy could then do was to play out the rest of the overs, ensuring that India doesn’t lose. Winning was out of the question; so close, yet so far. What would have been a heroic win and a feather in the cap of Venkat, turned out to be a disgrace for him. Venkat was unceremoniously removed from captaincy and replaced by Gavaskar. The pilot of the aircraft carrying the Indian team back to Bombay from England made this announcement in the plane. How inappropriate! But that’s the Indian Cricket fan-hood for you.
Yet Venkat wasn’t the one to easily give up. He persisted, made a comeback in 1982-83, played for that entire season, and retired from playing cricket, yet didn’t retire from cricket. His stints as an administrator, Match referee, and Umpire speak volumes about his commitment to the noble game. Venkat’s cricket credentials stretch over a period of 40 years . Has any other cricketer in the game anywhere in the world and at any time during the last 141 years of international cricket run up a resume even half as varied and impressive?
All this can be achieved only by a man who thinks deeply about the game, is passionate about it, and is able to analyze issues objectively. Venkat’s transition from player and captain to match referee and umpire was quite natural. As a player and then as captain, he was always interested in the cerebral aspects of the game, and he made a close and careful study of the laws. He was a sound leader not only tactically, but also technically. Indeed, in the days when he was captain, I frequently saw Venkat pull up the umpires on a point of law! With this background, his taking to full-time umpiring did not come as a surprise, but few would have expected him to emerge as one of the leading officials in the world.
But then, for Venkat, there are no half measures. His attitude has always been that anything worth doing is worth doing not just well but very well. Of course, the initial study of the laws and the interest in the technical aspects of the game did come in handy, but Venkat also brought the stamp of authority to a rather lackluster job. He had played the game at the highest level for many years and had led his country. No other umpire in the history of international cricket could boast of these credentials, leading players to respect Venkat’s decisions something that today’s cricketers do not always do.
However, I haven’t seen any of the current cricketers caring to consult Venkat about anything. Strange. But our Cricketers are demigods. They need no Gurus.
But Venkat is still well and truly around, and accessible. It would only take the Indian cricketers to get rid of their IPL-inflated egos to reach out to this reservoir of immense cricketing knowledge and acumen. Hope the day arrives soon. Venkat is 73 now.
Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 8. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com