Mid-January comes the harvest festival of Pongal. Apparently, BCCI used to schedule a test match in Chennai/Madras to coincide with this holiday week. What better way to celebrate Pongal & cricket than a post on great Tests in Chepauk? This is going to be a loooooooooooooooooong post. So without further ado, here are five of the best tests at Chepauk in chronological order:

I. India Vs. West Indies: 11th Jan 1975

Ah!!!! The GRV Pongal test of 1975! India vs West Indies! Vishy vs Roberts! My father apparently saw this match live. I say live because I have no idea whether it was telecast on DD and I am not bothered to check. This innings is in the top of my wishlist of innings that I want to see live in the stadium. As usual some history. India were walloped in the first two tests. That great opener Gordon Greenidge and the "only" Master Blaster Viv Richards made their debuts in the 1st test at Bangalore. Greenidge was hurriedly off the blocks scoring 93 and 107 on debut as Windies thrashed India by 267 runs. Richards, having managed only 4 & 3, falling to Chandra twice in Bangalore, soon found his range in Delhi, scoring an unbeaten 192 that included 6 sixes as Windies won by an innings.

Talks of a "blackwash" began. India were down 0-2 with star batsman Gavaskar out due to injury. There was only one world class batsman in the side, Gundappa Viswanath. He took it upon himself to save the series. In the third test at the Garden of Eden, Kolkata, he scored 52 & 139 as India spun the visitors out to win by 85 runs. As the 4th test began, Bernard Julien sent both openers back with the score on 24. Vishy walked in. Andy Roberts began to spit fire as 24/2 became 41/4 which then became 76/6 which in turn became 117/8. Roberts took all of the 6 subsequent wickets to fall. That graceful sardarji Bishen Singh Bedi walked in. He hung around for 40 odd minutes as Vishy, with uncharacteristic violence, counterattacked. They added 52 runs out of which Bedi contributed an invaluable 14. At 169/9, one-handed Chandra came to the crease. Chandra vs Chris Martin would probably be the ultimate contest for the history’s worst batsman. He took 242 wickets but scored only 167 runs in his test career! Realizing that there is no time, Vishy farmed the strike and took the score to 190 when Chandra fell to Roberts to give him his first 7fer (7/64). Vishy remained cruelly not out on 97. It ultimately ended up being one of the 2 sub-100 innings in the Wisden 100.

The spinners first spun the Windies out for a narrow 2 run lead. Vishy scored 46 and Gaekwad top scored in the second innings with 80 as India set the visitors a target of 255, Roberts took another 5fer and ended up with 12 wickets in the match. On a wearing track with three terrifying spinners in Pras, Bedi and Chandra, the 255 was probably as good as 552. India comfortably won a memorable test to level the series 2-2. West Indies ultimately won the 6 day 5th test aided by a rambunctious 242* from El Capitan Clive Lloyd. Nevertheless, a memorable series where India gave a much superior West Indies hell all thanks to Gundappa Rangnath Viswanath.

II. India Vs. Pakistan: 15th January 1980

The ol’ enemy. In the winter of ’78, India toured Pakistan for the first time in nearly 24 years. India’s original and most durable fast bowler Kapil Dev made his test debut in the drawn 1st test at Faisalabad. With a little bit of common sense and defensiveness, India could have and should have drawn the subsequent tests in Lahore and Karachi. In Lahore, Pakistan had to get 126 in 28 overs. With a bowling of Bedi, Prasanna, Chandra and Kapil Dev, India should have drawn the test with some negative bowling. The final test in Karachi was even worse. Pakistan had to get 164 in 25 overs. There is no way India could have bowled out a batting lineup of Majid Khan, Miandad, Zaheer and budding all-rounder Imran Khan in that many overs. Gavaskar’s twin 100s were in vain. I have a lot of respect for Bedi the spinner but Bedi the captain lost the plot here. He kept tossing the ball up to Imran as Pakistan won a maghrib chase with a ball to spare. Bedi conceded 33 runs in his 4 overs. We ended up losing the series 2-0 when it should have ended 0-0.

Pakistan toured on a return series in the winter of 1979 for a long 6 test series. After a drawn first test, India nearly pulled off a chase of 390 anchored by a nearly 9 hour 146 by Colonel Vengsarkar. India comfortably won the 3rd test by 131 runs in Bombay followed by a rain affected draw in Kanpur. On the first day of the Pongal test (5th test), Kapil Dev took 4 and Karsan Ghavri took 3 and India bowled Pakistan out for 272 early on day 2. At the end of day 2 India were precariously placed at 161/4 with captain Gavaskar batting on 92. After a 100 run partnership with Yashpal Sharma, Gavaskar was joined by Kapil Dev at 279/6. The two added 60 runs, as Gavaskar after nearly 10 hours making 166. Kapil Dev was the 8th man out with the score on 412 having scored a rollicking 84 out of the 133 runs that were scored during his stay at the crease. It was scored off just 98 balls with 13 fours and a six. India were bowled out for 430 with a lead of 158. Kapil was probably mad at missing out on his second test 100 and Pakistan felt his fury. He took 4 out of 5 to reduced Pakistan to 58/5. 50s from Miandad and Wasim Raja propped up Pakistan to 233 as Kapil returned on the 5th day to clean up the tail to finish with 7/56. India had to get 76 in close to 4 hours. Gavaskar and Chauhan polished those runs off in just 18 overs and India took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Kapil’s first 10 wickets in a match came in his 24th match but boy was it worth the wait. The 6th test was drawn giving India its first series win against Pakistan since the sides' first meeting in 1952/53.

III. India Vs. Australia 18th September 1986

Tied Test II. Only the 2nd tie in the history of test cricket but not a perfect tie (only 32 of 40 wickets fell). It is hard to believe now but Australia were the worst team in the world in the mid-80s. Even Sri Lanka had managed to draw a series against Pakistan and beat India at home. Australia had lost 5 and drawn 1 of their last 6 series. The drawn series was against India at home. Only combination of rain, some poor tactics by India and the usual dubious Aussie umpiring prevented India from winning their first series in down under.

This was the background before the 1st test began in Madras. Australia won the toss and elected to bat in the sweltering September heat of Madras. Marsh went with the score on 48. Boon scored 122 as he and Dean Jones shared a 158 run stand for the 2nd wicket. Jones, after completing his 150 on the following day, started vomiting in the heat. When he was batting at around 170, Dean Jones wanted to retire. Border infamously called him the weak Victorian. Jones completed a determined double hundred and fell for 210. Border also got a hundred and declared early on day 3 at 574/7.

Srikkanth, in his inimitable style, scored 53 off 62 balls as India rolled to 62/0. There was mini-collapse to 65/3. Shastri and Azharuddin scored 50s as India struggled to 206/5 when captain Kapil Dev walked in. With a longish tail and India still 168 runs adrift of the follow-on, Kapil scored one of the all time great counterattacking 100s. He was the last man out for 119 as India made 397 on day 4. At the end of day 4, Australia had score 170/5. Border declared at the start of day 5, setting India 348 to win in 87 overs. I feel if Gavaskar had captained he would have played for the draw but Kapil went for the win. Srikkanth, once again, scored a brisk 39 off 49 and he fell with the score on 55. Gavaskar played anchor brilliantly scoring 90. Amarnath made 51, Azhar 42, Chandrakant Pandit a quickfire 39 off 37. Kapil failed and wickets kept falling regularly. People kept losing their cool. I remember Shivlal Yadav waving his bat at Boon after a loud appeal. Ravi Shastri kept the pace, ultimately ending with 48 off 40. When the last over began, India needed 4 runs to win with a wicket in hand. Shastri took 2 off the 2nd ball and a single off the 3rd leaving Maninder Singh to score the winning runs off 3 balls. Maninder was out in the penultimate ball, a decision on par with Graham Thorpe leg before at Edgbaston, giving Greg Matthews his 2nd 5fer of the match and more importantly, the 2nd ever tie in the history of test cricket.

IV. India Vs. Pakistan 28th January 1999

The ol’ enemy part deux. Pakistan toured India for the first time in 12 years. It was also the first meeting between the two sides since a certain S R Tendulkar made his test debut. It was a short two test series. The first test was originally scheduled to be played in New Delhi. Shiva Sena, who were against Pakistan touring India, dug up the Kotla pitch so the venues were swapped. Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat. India started really well as they sent half the Pakistan side before the score reached three figures. The classic Indian inability to mop up the tail began to rear its ugly head. Moin Khan with the then Yousuf Youhana added 63 runs for the 6th wicket and another 61 runs with captain Wasim Akram to take Pakistan past 200. Kumble came back with a tremendous spell. He picked up the last 4 wickets to fall as Pakistan went from 214/6 to 238 all out. Overall a fantastic performance from the bowlers.

Sadagopan Ramesh, making his test debut, was off to a great start. On his home ground, he cut and flicked the Sultan of swing Akram, as India rolled to 48/0 in 8 overs at the day’s end. The next day, Pakistan roared back. At one point India were 188/7, 50 runs behind. Ganguly and Sunil Joshi took India close to visitor's total as India ended up with a slender 16 run lead. Shahid Afridi scored his first ODI 100 in his second match. He chose to score his first test 100 also in his second match. He scored 141 as Pakistan rolled to 275/4 at a run rate greater than 4 rpo. Then, came a bizarre sequence of events. First, Sunil Joshi removed the dangerous Salim Malik for 32. Venkatesh Prasad, who always did well against Pakistan, took 5/0 in 18 balls as Pakistan were shot out for 286. Whodathunk it? India did a Pakistan to Pakistan. The target was 271. India had to improve their highest successful 4th innings chase at home by 15 runs to win the match. The most successful chase in India had only been 276 by West Indies paced by a superb 109* off 111 balls by Master Blaster Viv Richards in Delhi. The most successful chase in Chennai – 125/7 in 1978. With a bowling lineup that read: Akram, Younis and Saqlain that we were up against it was an understatement.

Waqar Younis sent both openers back with the score in single digits. Without any further damage, India reached 40 at the end of day 3. Early on day 4, Wasim Akram bowled one of the greatest overs in test history to Rahul Dravid. Dravid was out lbw at least twice before he was bowled with last ball of the over. Please take a look at that video. That dismissal makes Shane Warne’s ball of the century look like a long hop. In my personal opinion, that is the 2nd greatest over in the history of cricket so far. Saqlain further reduced India to 82/5. Ganguly was hard done by a bump catch. Mongia and Tendulkar shared one of the all time great rearguard actions in test history. They slowly chipped away against Akram and Saqlain. Tendulkar was starting to get affected by back cramps but he bravely marched on. Mongia, rashly trying to hit out against Akram, was caught by Younis. Joshi and Tendulkar added 36 runs in 34 balls and India were now just 17 runs short of victory. By now, Tendulkar’s back pain was unbearable. He had tried to finish the game off quickly and hit Saqlain for 2 fours in the over but the wily off-spinner held his nerve. He had SRT caught at mid off. It was fitting that Pakistan’s safest catcher Akram was underneath it. That was the end. An all time great innings, in the 4th innings, on a crumbling pitch, against a fearsome attack was over. The poignant story of Tendulkar’s life. He never could finish the job in his career. The injury also meant that he was never the same player he was in the 90s.

V. India Vs. England 11th December 2008

The most recent test in this list. The tour was originally scheduled for 7 ODIs and 2 tests. It also included a first class match. India were leading 5-0 in the ODIs as the horrific attacks by Pakistani terrorists began on the day the 5th ODI took place. The two remaining ODIs and the first class match were cancelled. The tests scheduled in Mumbai and Ahmedabad were shifted to Chennai and Mohali. The first test began barely 10 days after the attacks ended. The Poms won the toss and decided to bat. Strauss scored 123 as England made a competitive 316 in their first innings. India were given a taste of their own medicine as spin twins Swann, making his debut, and Panesar shared 5 wickets helping England to a big lead of 75 runs. Strauss scored his second 100 of match, Collingwood scored his 2nd 100 in India as England declared at 311/9. 387 was 111 runs more than the highest successful chase in India and 232 runs more than the most successful chase in Chennai. On a 5th day wicket with two good spinners, England must have felt really confident. Somebody forgot to tell all this to Sehwag.

He started the innings as though he was Viv Richards on steroids and Richards usually batted as though he was on them. One Harmison over went for 14 runs as the 50 came in 6 overs. Sehwag brought up his 50 in 32 balls. He was ultimately out for 83 in 68 balls. India ended the day at 131/1. Imran Khan repeatedly tells this about Viv Richards. Richards' occasional quickfire 30s and 40s more than his 100s demoralized attacks to completely give up. Confidence is a strange thing. Once you lose it, it's hard to get it back. When the 5th day began, India needed 256 runs and England 9 wickets. If you are a betting man, odds of an England victory were much better but England’s psyche was destroyed by Sehwag. India, guided by an uncharacteristically steady Tendulkar, were coolly chipping away at the target. After tea, India were 83 runs short with 6 wickets in hand. Tendulkar, probably for the first time in his life, and Yuvraj Singh, a good ODI finisher, clinically got the job done with enough time left. It was Tendulkar’s 3rd 4th innings test 100. The first one, also his 1st test 100, saved the Old Trafford test. His second ended in an absolute heartbreak at this very venue but his 3rd was probably cathartic as he gave India something to lift their spirits up after the ghastly terror attacks. It was also one of the fewest times he finished the job in his career. Poor Strauss, his twin 100s went in vain.

There you go. Five memorable tests at a most memorable venue. Chepauk is also Tendulkar’s favourite and most successful venue in India. He has scored 970 runs at nearly 90 with 5 hundreds. I really hope BCCI scraps this stupid rotation policy for tests and always plays tests only in Wankhede, Chepauk, Chinnaswamy, Eden Gardens, Mohali and Green Park. It is the morally, ethically and obviously the right thing to do.


Popular Posts