How often have we seen batting collapses happen in the fourth innings of a Test match? India today are the number one side in Test and have a reputation of putting the opposition into defense right from the word go. But, did you know where it all started from? How India turned its defense into an unparalleled offense?
“Gentlemen, I gave you 400 runs to bowl at and you failed to bowl out the opposition. How many runs must I give you in the future to make sure you get the wickets?” fumed the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd as Indians made the mighty West Indian attack look only mediocre, this day in 1976. The Indians had come off the New Zealand tour being a victim of poor umpiring decisions and having lost the first Test of the series, were eager to make a statement.
Despite Sir Vivian Richards’ big hundred, the Indian spin duo of captain Bedi and Chandrashekhar bundled up the Windies for 359 in the first innings. Indian first innings on the other hand, never attained any momentum as the batsmen failed to capitalize on their starts, lending the hosts a lead of 131 runs. With more than 2 full days left, the West Indies went into the second innings as firm favorites and watchfully played away the threat of the Indian spinners. Owing to a Alvin Kallicharan hundred, the West Indies declared their innings at 271 leaving India a target of 404 with a day and a half left.
Understandably, Indians were written off then and there but a miracle was supposed to happen. India had never chased more than 256 ever before and let alone winning, India had rarely managed to save a test match from such a situation. Sunny Gavaskar, years after his match-winning innings revealed that he was determined to save the game but never really thought of going for a win.The openers Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad laid a decent foundation negating the new ball. The former then got into his groves and began to play his shots knitting a century run stand with M Amarnath, almost a silent partner at the other end. Amarnath held one end up tightly and allowed Gundappa Vishwanath the freedom to launch his imperious best. The duo amassed nearly a hundred-and-seventy runs as they countered the fearless West Indian bowling, the wear and tear of the pitch and the fatigue of longing in the entire day. The ability with which they scored off Michael Holding and Bernard Jullien provided a completely different dimension to Indian cricket.
If the Indian fearlessness and superiority is to be traced back, it’d surely find its roots in this runchase. Gavaskar and Vishwanath’s display of exquisite drives, late cuts and powerful punches had already resulted in frustration starting to show up on Clive Lloyd’s men. Unfortunately only when Indians could sense victory for the first time, Vishwanath was run out. The resolute Amarnath however, was still hanging around and sticking it back to the West Indian bowlers. With 67 runs needed off the final hour of play, Brijesh Patel’s brisk 49 helped India’s cause. Amarnath was run-out courtesy a direct-hit from Lloyd for 85 ending the 440 minute torture for the Windies.
Patel went on to pull Jullien for a boundary and the Indian supporters, both in the stadium and back home, ecstatically celebrated the win. No other side had ever managed to do what the Indians did. It wouldn’t be untrue if this moment is referred to as the watershed moment for international Test cricket.
The series also went on to stage a ‘Bloodbath’ at Jamaica, but that story remains to be told for later…..