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Saturday, March 5, 2011


Chepauk, 11th January 1975

Why am I uncharacteristically speaking of a cricket ground?

I am sure that what I am writing fits the bill. There is a bit of history, a lot of our sporting heritage, and be assured, I shall throw in a hypothesis, as usual unconnected with the subject on hand.

In this religious faith sometimes called cricket, this hallowed turf, off Royyapet, was like Tirupati; to us ‘Madrasees’. Those days we made biennial pilgrimages, always during the auspicious harvest festival, at the Winter Solstice. Sun at the end of its southern path gave this muggy hot city its most benign weather.

It was the New Year of 1975 and I was a fourteen year old, a recent convert to this religion: A National Panasonic Radio and a brand new Murphy pocket transistors were my sacred means of worship.

Yet our gods had a fair march against the Giants, literally, those who came from across seven seas and rubbed their noses in the fragrant pollen-filled soil off Cubbon Park and the lateritic clay off Marine Drive.

But as it is always the case with this religion: failures belonged to the past, easily forgotten, and it was made easier as they belonged to the previous year, with our resounding win which came as the new-year dawned on India, curiously in the city of Rising Sun – Calcutta.
My pantheon was headed by a pair of diminutive gods: we always fought to decide who was shorter of the two.But the dilemma that day was whether one should make the trip as one of the gods was injured, was it his little finger?

Yet we won in Calcuttaaah!?!.
“Our boys have sorted them out”, was our battle cry
Andy Roberts and Vanburn Holder, we shall see them through
Bernard Julien, may be quick but wayward too
Lance Gibbs and his spin? Nay … not a worry
But the batsmen?
Who is that new boy who opened with Roy? Greenidge or Greenhorn?
Vivian, what an effeminate name, Richards
Then there was this Captain Clive,
and the Trinidadian Kallicharan, Ha there is a guy.
The keeper, Murray and whoever fills the eleventh slot?

But our team was set.
Yet we didn’t have our opener and the best bat. The god had injured his little finger.

Soooh, whhaaattt?

As usual our every trip to Madras began with a short detour to Tirupati, God, Didn’t we pray?

The toss was won by India before we reached the terrace.It was a grand view: stump to stump. And for me,it was the first time I ever saw a complete slip cordon. We called it the ‘Umbrella’ with an exclamation.

Roberts, the name always uttered with a tinge of subconscious dread was bowling to Farooq Engineer. We were tutored by our coach in the intricacies of what he called a ‘Bumper’; of course he only bowled at 40 and that’s his fastest.
We had to wait for those dreaded deliveries which never came while Julien removed our openers in a jiffy. We were 30 for 2. Then began the true procession induced by Roberts; and we were down 6 for some 75. Karsan Ghavri kept company with the Indomitable ‘God’ who was playing at the other end for sometime while he added a 25 to his 19. And …… Roberts removed Ghavri too.

Viswanath, Gundappa Rangappa Viswanath was at 44 when he ran out of batsmen. He had Prasanna, Bedi and Chandra to keep him company.

He added 53 individual runs while the other three and the extras added a 20.
India was all-out for 190 and the god was unbeaten at 97.
It was the best innings - test or otherwise – I ever watched. There were many other gods and more runs, Sunny, Kapil and Sachin who scored and built great innings on this turf.

But Vishy’s is a standalone.
It was pleasure watching in those days when breeze blew uninterrupted through the Casuarina stands. Later in 90’s it had become a concrete cauldron, stifling with forty thousand spectators and 40˚c on ground.

But the new stadium design has promise.

Can’t wait to watch a test match there!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post is very informative and interesting.all the points are very useful. Simple but very effective writing. Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

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