India will take on New Zealand in the first Test at Green Park in Kanpur on Thursday. It will be the first of three Tests as the series will also visit Kolkata and Indore.
As part of the ongoing celebrations ahead of India’s 500th Test match, a number of prominent – some legendary – Indian Test cricketers shared their memories. Here are a few of them:
CD Gopinath on his favourite Test match: Victory over MCC (England) in Madras in February 1952
It was Vinoo Mankad’s Test. He took eight wickets in the first innings and four in the second. Equally crucial was Ghulam Ahmed’s four wickets in the second innings. In the second innings, Vinoo moved me about three to four feet before bowling to Brian Statham and the very next ball the catch came straight to me. Also, the century Polly Umrigar made in the only innings we batted in – we had a 93-run stand together.
My only disappointment is that when I went out to bat, the captain (Vijay Hazare) asked me to score quickly as we were looking for a declaration. I hit seven or eight fours in my 35, but after I got out we continued to bat. I felt a bit let down.
Bishan Singh Bedi on India’s three series wins in a row between 1971 and 1973 and Tiger Pataudi’s captaincy
The Port of Spain win of 1971 was an outstanding achievement and India’s first overseas series win in 1968 in New Zealand was a moment to cherish, but winning three series in a row in 1971-72 – against West Indies, against England in England – and against England in India (1972-73), that was special.
That period signalled the emergence of Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, the close-in catchers Syed Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar. My biggest thrill was to observe and absorb the varied skills of Chandra (BS Chandrasekhar), Pras (Erapalli Prasanna) and Venkat (S Venkataraghavan). They were all highly qualified (engineers all!) and exceptionally intelligent purveyors of the art of spin. I was lucky to be a cog in the wheel, a part of that spin quartet nurtured by Tiger Pataudi.
We were all very fortunate to play under a great, great leader, Tiger. His influence on Indian cricket was wide-ranging. He was perhaps 50 years ahead of his time. The way he located a spirit of ‘Indianness’ in our dressing room was amazing. He was the first Indian captain who told us in the team meeting, “Look guys, we aren’t playing for Delhi or Bombay or Madras or Bengal or Punjab, we’re playing for India.” That spirit is Tiger Pataudi’s legacy. We weren’t intimidated. He said, “We’re going to go for a win.” Never mind if you lose in the process. That was a change in mindset.
Harbhajan Singh’s favourite Test win: Victory over South Africa in Kolkata in February 2010
The best thing about the game was that it was a proper Test match – it went till the last session on the fifth day, and kept everyone involved before the result was decided with nine mandatory balls to go.
It was an important win for us as it helped us retain the No. 1 ranking. A lot of critics had written us off after our loss in Nagpur where Dale Steyn was unplayable and Jacques Kallis batted well. We showed that we can play good cricket and beat a team that was projected as ‘unbeatable’.
There was a lot of tension as Hashim Amla and Morne Morkel had a last-wicket stand of 76 minutes. There were a few chances here and there, but we gave our heart out. At one stage, we had almost everyone surrounding the bat.
It was a great phase in Indian cricket, and it was building up from 2001. By 2010, we had become a brilliant team. Except for Anil (Kumble) bhai and Sourav Ganguly, all the seniors were playing. It was in 2001 that we decided we want to become the No. 1 team. We were glad we achieved the goal, and mind you we were not playing on home pitches that were turning from the first ball.
Kapil Dev on his favourite Indian Test batsman
It keeps on changing. When I was in school, the school captain looked the best. Who knew how good Muhammad Ali or John McEnroe or Diego Maradona were? You had to see them first.
My favourite early on was (Gundappa) Viswanath – what a batsman! But the more I played with Sunil Gavaskar, the more I realised how good he was. He was technically very sound, especially against genuine pace bowling. Those days, so many young kids wanted to be like Gavaskar.
Then these young boys in the last 15-20 years. Rahul (Dravid). Sachin (Tendulkar). No point talking about Sachin. It’s like mentioning Don Bradman. Sachin is an obvious choice. Then Virender Sehwag turned it around; he changed Indian cricket. We were subdued, and he came out like a flash. He was unbelievable. Sehwag, one has to say, was a genius. Uncomplicated. Now there is Virat Kohli. But Sehwag opened the door for Indian cricket.
Anil Kumble on his Perfect Ten
You plot and plan dismissals, you visualise what you think is going to happen like you always do, but no, I didn’t have a sixth sense or something like that. I was well prepared, of course, but I would be less than honest if I said I knew what was coming. When we were bowled out, our lead was upwards of 400 (419) and we were confident of getting the job done.
For a while, no wickets were forthcoming, and then Sachin came to me and said, ‘Give me your cap and sweater, let’s see if things change’. And guess what, a wicket (Afridi) fell immediately. And then it sort of became a ritual every time there was a little partnership – Sachin picking up my cap and sweater from me and handing it over to the umpire. And it seemed to work every single time!