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My first brush with Cricket – Part I

By: Narayan Mahadevan
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The India Vs Australia series played in 1969-70, the series from which I was attracted to this so-called Gentleman’s Game of Cricket.

This series was on hyperbole from the word go. India was lead by Nawab of Pataudi Jr. and the Australian team was headed by Bill Lawry- one of the sharpest captain of Australia. He had under him a team which housed the likes of Ian Chappell, Ian Redpath, Doug Walers, Keith Stackpole and bowlers like Garth McKenzie, Ashley Mallett and Gleeson, who on their day could win a Test match of their own. The Indian Cricket Team lead by the charismatic Nawab of Pataudi, Dilip Sardesai, Farooq Engineer, Ajit Wadekar, Chandu Borde and three world class spinners of the highest order in Bishen Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna and S. Venkatragavan. Circa First Test Day one at Wankade Stadium, it was a fiercely fought series. In the first innings, with the help of half centuries from Ashok Mankad (74) and Pataudi (95) India could muster up a total of 271. Garth McKenzie was their best bowler with a five-wicket haul. Australia replied with the help of a century by their opener Keith Stackpole (103) and half century by Ian Redpath (77), Australia ended up scoring 345 runs. Prasanna had a 5-wicket haul but it came at a cost of 121 runs. As has been our wont in the past, our second innings was pathetic as our team was bowled out for a paltry score of 137 runs, main wrecker in chief being John Gleeson 4/56 and Allan Connoly 3/20. The Australians had to achieve a measly target of 67 runs, they scored them in no time for the loss of 2 wickets, which was accounted by our medium pace bowler Rusi Surthi. Australia took a lead of 1-0 to travel for the second Test at Kanpur.

The Victory at Mumbai was also marred by the wrong dismissal claim of S. Venkatragavan, who was adjudged caught behind by wicket keeper Biran Taber, who himself admitted that “He missed it by a foot”. There were some disturbances by the crowd for the dismissal and as usual, the OZ Captain Lawry exhibited their unsporting character by not recalling Venkatragavan, who was giving a good stand to Ajit Wadekar.

Well, the second Test at Kanpur was a dream debut for one of my favourite cricketer, Gundappa Viswanath, who was fortunate enough to get the support of Captain Pataudi, who preferred performing players to play for the country. Gundappa was done in by the aura of playing for the country and failed to tickle the scorers in the first innings, he bewitched the crowd with a scintillating century (137) in the second innings, with 25 fours. His trade mark square cut and wristy flicks through the slip cordon was music to our ears then thanks to AIR for their ball by ball commentary. We scored a healthy 320 in the first innings, Australia too replied with 348 with a century by A.P. Sheeshan (114) and half centuries by Redpath and Walters. We declared our second innings at 312 on day 5 and there was no chance of a result and ended in a draw.
To be continued… >>

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