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Friday, August 10, 2012

Laxman back - Remembering the exploits of Venkat Raghavan

Now the Team for  the Test series against New Zealand has been announced – In the T20 squad – Harbhajan and Yuvraj have been recalled.  In the Test squad -  Pujara comes in place of retired Dravid, while Laxman has been retained.  The squad for the Tests reads :-
Mahendra Singh Dhoni(C), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina.
wonder - why this bird here ??

The NZ Team is known as ‘Black Caps’.  They played their first Test in 1930 against England at Christchurch.    From Jan 1998, they are called ‘black caps’ after its sponsor at the time, Clear Communications, held a competition to choose a name for the team.  In India, NZ are to play 2 Tests and 2 T20s. The 1st Test will be from Aug 23 – 27 at Hyderabad; 2nd one at Bangalore from Aug 31 – 4th Sept. The T20s would be on Sept 8th and 11th – at Visakhapatnam and Chennai respectively. Kiwis do not have any warm-up game in India.

Though talented, NZ have been friendly tourists and it should be a comforting factor for Dhoni led Indians that Kiwis have had only 2 Test wins in Indian soil.  Their record against India reads :
India Vs Newzealand

In India
In New Zealand

Upon reading of the New Zealanders tour, memory goes back to Dec 1976 when they played a Test at Chepauk, at a time when Bishansingh Bedi was the captain.  Glenn Turner was the Captain for the visitors.  It was Test no. 787 – a 6 day match between 26th Nov to 2nd Dec 1976.  It was to be a Six day match as the series was still open.  On the first day, no play was possible due to rain and 29th Nov was the scheduled rest day.  That match is well remembered for the good performance by gentleman and most intelligent - Srinivasan Venkatraghavan.

Indians were off to a bad start as Sunil Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad were out with only 3 on board, both out to big burly Lance Cairns.  From 181/7  India went on to make 298 thanks to a fluent 64 by Venkat who hit 4 boundaries and a six.   Gundappa Vishwanath made 87 like the many good innings he had played at Chepauk and Kirmani made 44.

There was some resistance from Glenn Turner and Mark Burgess but Kiwis were bundled for 140 with Bedi taking 5 for 48; Chandra 3 for 28 & Karsan Ghavri 2 for 32.  India batted on the 5th day scored slowly making 201 for 5 with contributions from Gavaskar, Mohinder and Brijesh Patel.  Richard Hadlee who summitted greater heights later in his career was involved in an unsavoury incident  of throwing the ball at the square-leg umpire after heated argument when an appeal for hit wicket against Gaekwad was turned down. Bedi declared overnight and NZ succumbed without much fight scoring 143 with Bedi taking 4 for 22 and Chandra 3 for 64.

The tall suave, good looking offie, reverred as very shrewd and intelligent cricketer Srinivasaraghavan Venkatraghavan bore striking resemblance to the great legendary writer Sujatha.  Venkat revelled as a player and later as very respected Umpire.  Sadly, he did not get the right breaks and the matches he played were interspersed so much and he played at a time when India had famous spinners – Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna.

Against the Clive Lloyds West Indies at home in 1974-75, he had the ignominy of playing the 1st Test Bangalore taking 4 & 2 [off the 6 that were to fall]; captaining India in the 2nd Test at Delhi which was lost by an innings; Venkat made the scapegoat, dropped, humiliated and made  the 12th man in the very next match at Calcutta.  In that Delhi Test, Viv Richards went on to make an unbeaten 192 helped by a poor umpiring decision, which could have changed the fortunes of that Test and the way Venkat was to be treated.   Again after the disastrous 1979 England tour, he was unceremoniously dropped.  He did make a comeback in 1983 when India toured Windies under Kapildev.   He played 57 Tests and made 748 runs in 76 innings.  He also played 15 one dayers.  He took 156 test wickets with best bowling of 12 for 152 at Delhi against NZ in his debut series.

He was a remarkable close-in fielder which was realized most in 1974 tour of England.  He played English league turning up for Derbyshire.  Venkat captained Tamil Nadu and was known to be a strict disciplinarian, setting personal examples.    He revelled and is respected as a  player, captain, manager, administrator, selector, columnist, expert television commentator, match referee and umpire.  Have heard him speak on a couple of occasion and have admired his language skills too.  

In an illustrious career stretching over 18 playing years, he led India in 5 Tests and more importantly in the Inaugural and the second edition ODI World Cups.  He is known to be a deep thinker and a very passionate lover of the game able to analyse and bring out the nuances of the game to the fore.  Known to be candid and outrightly frank in his views, he was not afraid in putting things in their proper perspective. 

At a time when slow motion TV replays & other technologies were throwing Umpiring blunders in light, his judgment was most respected and he won the admiration of  players, fellow umpires and administrators alike.   Venkat's temper became almost as famous as his playing ability, as he simply expected the same level of commitment and sincerity from players of younger generation.

New Zealanders will remember him not only for that innings at Chepauk but more for the dream performance a decade earlier in 1965 at Delhi enabling an Indian win.  He took eight for 72 to bowl out New Zealand for 262 on the second morning and in the second essay he and Chandra took 4 apiece.

A man with his caliber should have shone much higher, but there are always things in life, where you can find rewards not matching talent.

A picture which I treasure – with Venkat

The Eurasian Blackcap, simply  Blackcap, the bird seen at the start of this post is a common  small bird seen throughout temperate Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa.  Not sure whether this has any connection to the NZ team..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.  


  1. Sadly Venky did not get opportunity - continuously in his peak. sidelined and not utilised properly throughout his playing age, he manfully carried on and it is a tribute to the great player in him - Santosh

  2. Lucky to be seated next to Venkat and luckier that he treated you with a smile - Ojas

  3. I played against Venkat - while his bowling skills were supreme - his scolding lesser mortals made us tremble.. with fear.. Vijayakumar

  4. Nice article. In fact I had the opportunity of meeting him in MCC a few weeks back and we chatted for a few minutes.