Unique records and anecdotes involving the Indian Test team
Chennai, Sept 21: The Indian Test team is on the cusp of a record — 500 Tests. Just say it once again ‘500 Tests’ and let it all sink again. For, it has taken 84 long years, over which time — to give you a proper perspective — roughly 75,000 T-20 games could have been played.
In the course of these 499 Tests, Indian players have proved themselves on the world stage. But the high point has to be — not the achievements of the likes of Pataudi, Bedi, Chandra, Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble, Sehwag, Dhoni —- that of the Indian team itself which famously won a Test at the ‘Mecca of cricket’, the Lord’s, and the victory was achieved by the Indian bowling unit — get ready to let out a gasp — that also comprised Roger Binny and Madan Lal. “This was the equivalent of climbing the Himalayas, not without oxygen, but with hydrogen,” the Wisden duly noted later.
Be that as it may, India’s 500th Test is undoubtedly an occasion to celebrate and we have come up with a small compilation of special records and interesting anecdotes that India has seen through all these years.
Here they are:
# India will be the first Asian country to play 500 Tests. The previous Asian record for the highest number of Tests played, coincidentally, is also with India at 499 Tests. On the other end of the scale, the Asian country with the least number of Test matches is Bhutan, which for the record has no cricket team and also no cricket bats.
# India’s Test record over the 499 Tests so far is: 129 won, 157 lost, 1 tied, 92 drawn and the fate of 120 not known owing to the fact they were too boring and none, including the players, remained awake till the end. The 1983-84 India-Pak 3-Test series in India is a classic example. Nobody till this day has any idea what happened in the series after the 3rd day of the first Test in Bangalore.
# Staying with bore-fests, the first Test in Colombo against Sri Lanka in August 1997. Sri Lanka could have scored more than 952 (which is still a record) but by then two Indian players, R Chauhan and A Kuruvilla, had slipped into extreme coma and could be revived only 2 years later. The medical report of the two read: “A case of hit and run on a highway”.
# Lala Amarnath was not only first Test centurion of India, he was also, by a good distance, the first Test centurion in his family. He beat his sons, Mohinder and Surinder, who scored Test centuries several years later. Even though three centurions in a family is a unique record and the Amarnaths hold it, the bigger and better record is, of course, one centurion for three different families and is held by the redoubtable Mohd Azharuddin whose 22 Test Centuries reportedly spanned three different women with whom he has been linked/married to.
# India has played many tumultuous series, but none more contentious than the 1982 Test series in Pakistan, which was marred by several debatable umpiring decisions. The series saw a very first in Test history: A batsman being given out LBW to a throw from the deep-midwicket after he had completed taking a single. The umpire, Khizer Hayat, later was quoted as saying, “He was plumb. I went by the book.” It emerged later that the book he referred to may have been the Mad Magazine.
# The 1986 Tied Test between India and Australia in Madras had an interesting side story. The Indian captain Kapil Dev realised he had picked two wicket-keepers in the team only after the toss had been done and team sheets exchanged. However, during the match,Kapil Dev astutely used one wicket-keeper (Kiran More) from the Pavilion end and the other WK (Chandrakant Pandit from M J Gopalan Gate end. “This tactic confused the Aussies so much that one of their players had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment,” Mike Coward of The Age later wrote. (Pakistan also tried a similar trick much later in one of its Test series by picking the two Akmal brothers both as wicket-keepers. However, the whole plan backfired on Pakistan as it not have two set of WK gloves around.)
# The 1988 India vs West Indies Test match at Madras, now well-known in the annals of cricket as the Hirwani Test, is said to have been played on the most monstrous ‘turner’ ever. To give a sense of what the pitch was like, here is what the late Tony Cozier, writing for Jamaican Gleaner, said: “The West Indies were prepared for a turning wicket. But what they weren’t ready for a wicket that spun even before a ball was bowled. When the two captains went out for the toss, Ravi Shastri (who was leading India) did not even have to flip the coin. He just put the coin on the pitch, and it began to whirl viciously. Vivian Richards immediately understood what lay in store and smartly changed his plans for the Test, which was to immediately cut hotel booking from 5 days to 4″.
# In the famous Lahore Test of 2006 in which Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag put on record 410 runs for the opening wicket, the Pakistanis, it was learnt, tried to separate the two including by having the silly-point fielder utter ‘triple talaq’. Sehwag reportedly smilingly shot back: “It won’t work. We are Hindus”.
(Originally published in Crank’s Corner)