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Thursday, July 1, 2021

the monies behind World Test Championship .. .. Test Cricket beckons !!

India is to take on New Zealand in World Test Championship Finals – and Indian Women’s Team is going to play a Test after a gap of nearly 7 years .. .. Test Cricket has changed a lot.  In the midst of T20s and ODIs – still Tests have not lost their charm – one of the reasons is they are producing more results now, rather than dreary draws that used to be the order in late 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Any reference to Test No. 752 will flood memories of that  classy knock of Gundappa Viswanath -  great bowling of Andy Roberts and the defeat (100 runs at that) suffered by Clive Lloyd against Pataudi led Indians in 1975.  Those days Pongal tests were great festivities and tension would build up couple of days before the match – India opening with Eknath Solkar and FArokh Engineer – lost both and were 24/2; Gaekwad went cheaply, so did MAK Pataudi; (41/4); Ashok Mankad hooked Roberts -  at 76/6 Mankad and Madanlal too gone, Vishy had only the tail – whether it was Andy Roberts 20.5-5-64-7 or the fluent 97 n.o. of Vishy that was brilliant will be an endless debate.  Roberts was to take another 57/5 in the second innings too.  In the second essay, a flurry of adventurous shots by Engineer gave India an encouraging start, but by the end of the second day they were 85 for four and once more everything rested on Viswanath to steer India clear of the rocks. This time he received assistance from Gaekwad, who played with remarkable coolness and looked destined to make a century when he was run out for 80. With Viswanath, Gaekwad added 93 for the sixth wicket and with Ghavri, 68 for the eighth. 

An year later, when India toured WI and won that historic chase at Port of Spain – there was blood bath at Sabina Park, Jamaica  -  the Fourth Test at Kingston – Test no. 776 on 21 – 25th April 1976.  The score card would read  India 306/6 decl !! ; WI 391 all out.  India 97 all out and West Indies making the 13 runs required without losing a wicket.  Statistics will never reveal the real story.  The first day, shortened by bad light, belonged to India. They scored 178 for one, a position that must have encouraged them.  Gavaskar and Gaekwad put on 136, lasting almost until tea.  Gaekwad came through the day with 60, needing great courage to survive, for he took several blows on the body and on the arms, an innings of raw courage with balls directed at body, blood being cheered and no protective gears, no helmets !  Gaekwad scoring 81* was forced to retire bleeding in his ears.  At 273 Brijesh Patel retired hit on the mouth.  At 306 Venkatraghavan got out.  Bedi wished to protect himself and Chandrasekhar from injuries and hence declared at 306/6.  that was the test when one player after other had to be escorted to hospital with bleeding injuries.   

One cannot say whether Anshuman Gaekwad's scoring range was limited but his raw courage against pace was unlimited, a  precious commodity in Indian cricket.


Anshuman Gaekwad in middle and R Dilip Vengsarkar

The India women's team will be donning a Test jersey for the first time in nearly seven years, when they take on England at the Bristol County Ground later this week. Apart from being India's first Test appearance since November 2014, it is also the first non-Ashes Women's Test in more than six years.  The Mithali Raj-led team on Wednesday will be returning to Test cricket after a break of 2401 days. It is the third-longest gap between two Tests for India Women, with two of the top three intervals coming in the last 15 years. India toured England in 2014 for a one-off Test and hosted South Africa for a Test the same year. Those are the only matches for India Women in Test cricket in the past 14 years, by far the fewest they have played in any decade.

When the Pakistan cricket team landed in India in September 1983 for a three-Test series it was clear that interest would be lukewarm. India had just won the World Cup on 25th June 1983 .. .. the  rain-affected first Test at Bangalore was drawn and the teams moved to Jalandhar for the second Test. The Burlton Park was the 55th ground to stage a Test match and the 13th Test venue in India. Kapil Dev won the toss, put Pakistan in to bat and took minimum time to strike by trapping Mohsin leg before with the first ball of the match. That brought together two debutants in Qasim Omar and the other opening batsman Shoaib Mohammad. Both however did not last long with Kapil dismissing Shoaib and Roger Binny getting rid of Omar both through catches by Syed Kirmani.

Wasim Raja dazzled making his highest Test score of 125, compiled off 207 balls studded with 17 fours and two sixes, took Pakistan to  337. By stumps Hafeez dismissed Sunil Gavaskar (5) and Mohinder Amarnath (7) and India were rather shakily placed at 37 for two at close. Pakistan were in a position of considerable advantage but two events then had a profound effect on the match. It rained on the third day ruling out play. But the following day, the rest day, was sunny. The authorities made a request to the captains to continue the match on the rest day but quite inexplicably Zaheer refused. Pakistan were in a position to dictate terms and Zaheer turning down the offer to make up for lost time only strengthened the impression that a draw was all he was looking for.  

Anshuman Gaekwad was in his twilight zone – the bespectacled 31-year-old opener from Baroda had won back a hard fought place only midway through the previous season after 3-1/2 years in the wilderness and missing out on 37 Tests.  There was no question of a result and the match had the word draw written all over it and Gaekwad just kept going even as wickets fell at the other end. Sandip Patil and Ravi Shastri both of whom got 26 helped Gaekwad in partnerships of 58 and 78 for the fourth and fifth wickets. There was no sense of urgency and the Indians scored only 154 runs from 85 overs on the fourth day for the loss of two wickets. At close of play India were 201 for four with Gaekwad on 121 his highest Test score. On the final morning Binny (54) and Gaekwad gave the innings some momentum with a sixth wicket partnership of 121. Anshuman passed Chandu Borde’s 177 not out – the highest by an Indian against Pakistan compiled at Madras in January 1961. Gaekwad with unrelenting determination and unwavering concentration did not falter and duly got to 200 in the company of the No 9 batsman Madan Lal. It  was the slowest double century in all first class cricket. The previous slowest was notched up by another Indian the Nawab of Pataudi who had batted 622 minutes for scoring exactly 200 for South Zone against West Zone in the Duleep Trophy final at Bombay in 1967-68.  Gaekwad had taken 652 minutes (and 426 balls) to reach the landmark. Eventually Gaekwad was eighth out at 353 after scoring 201. In all he batted 671 minutes and faced 436 balls and hit 17 fours. It was the seventh longest innings in Test history.

Now a days, such draws do not happen – and at times, matches fold in 3 or 4th day – first half too.  The winners of the India vs New Zealand World Test Championship (WTC) final will take home USD 1.6 million (INR 11.70 Crores), as well as the Test Championship Mace, while the losing team will get USD 800,000, the ICC has announced. In case there is a stalemate, or weather prevents a winner from being identified despite the reserve day, the two teams will split the total prize money of USD 2.4 million (INR 17.5 cr apprxo).

It will be the first time the sport will have official world champions in the format. "It (the WTC) has come to symbolise the best team in Test cricket, and with the Test championship now being used as the vehicle to identify the best team in Test cricket, the mace is on offer," Geoff Allardice, the ICC chief executive, said in an interaction with members of the media. In a statement, the ICC explained that the Test mace, which was earlier awarded every year to the teams topping the Test team rankings, will be given to the WTC winners from now on. In case of a draw or a tie, India and New Zealand will share possession of the mace during the time they remain champions.

Australia, who finished third on the points table, England, who were fourth, and Pakistan, the fifth-placed side, will receive USD 450,000, USD 350,000 and USD 200,000 respectively, while the remaining teams that were a part of the competition - West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - will get USD 100,000 each.

The final between India and New Zealand will be played in Southampton, and will be played from June 18 to 22, with June 23 slotted as a reserve day, to be used only if any time lost during regulation play on each day is not made up on the same day. It will comprise a maximum of 330 minutes or 83 overs plus the actual last hour.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th June 2021. 

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