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Saturday, July 22, 2023

India at Port of Spain - a bet on Sunil Gavasar !!

 India in West Indies -  a few decades ago, every team feared physical battering and bruising in a tour to West Indies and at least couple of Cricketers would end their career after such a tour.  Not any longer.


At close of play on day 2 – the score card reads :  West Indies 86 for 1 (Brathwaite 37*, Jadeja 1-12) trail India 438 (Kohli 121, Rohit 80, Jadeja 61, Ashwin 56, Warrican 3-89) by 352 runs.  Virat Kohli made his first away Test century in almost five years, and Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin helped themselves to half-centuries, as India piled up 438 in Port-of-Spain. In reply, West Indies started slowly but solidly, with captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul responsible for the hosts' first half-century partnership in the series. Jadeja struck 20 minutes before stumps to have Chanderpaul carving a catching to Ashwin. Brathwaite and debutant Kirk McKenzie, who is playing only his tenth first-class game, then safely negotiated a tricky passage of play, with West Indies still 352 runs behind.


McKenzie, sounds a New Zealand name to me and reminds me of a South African Cricketer !! 

4 decades ago, India had a tough tour to West Indies just before World Cup 1983  under the Captaincy of mercurial Kapil Dev.  After a crushing loss in the first test at Kingston, when Indians were suddenly blown away first by Andy Roberts and then by Viv Richards, the 2nd test was different. 

At Port of Spain, forced to bat first, on a  pitch that had  moisture which made batting difficult, India recovered from a worrying first-innings total to earn a commendable draw. To do so, they needed to bat ten hours, twenty minutes in their second innings, in which they recorded their highest-ever total in a Test in the West Indies against a formidable bowling line up of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner.


At Port of Spain, which had been happy hunting ground of Sunil Gavaskar in his debut series and later, India 175 & 469/7 drew with West Indies 394 !! -  have read a story of a WI fan who placed a bet that Sunil Gavaskar would make more runs than the other openers !!  -  Gavaskar was out for 1 in the first over, yet he won the bet !!  Gavaskar made 1, Anshuman Gaikwad was out for a duck, then in an astonishing start, Balwinder Sandhu removed both openers Greenidge and Haynes without scoring.   Richards was caught behind down the leg side off Kapil Dev for 1. Never in Test history had West Indies lost their first three wickets so cheaply and they might not have recovered had wicket-keeper Kirmani not missed a straightforward catch from Gomes off Venkataraghavan when 21 and a barely acceptable one down the leg side from Lloyd off Sandhu when 10. 

In the 2nd innings, with a massive margin behind, Mohinder Amarnath led the way for India with a flawless 117, his fourth century in eight Tests since his triumphant return in the previous series in Pakistan. Amarnath, often battered and bruised during his defiant five and threequarter hours at the wicket, eventually fell lbw to a gentle off-break from Richards, whereupon the quick loss of Yashpal and Shastri raised West Indian hopes. But Kapil Dev, batting with characteristic abandon, scotched any thoughts of an Indian collapse making an explosive 100 with three 6s and thirteen 4s.

              Neil Douglas McKenzie  Popular, mildly eccentric and unassuming, was a stalwart in South Africa's middle-order for four years in the early 2000s, despite a less-than-promising start as an opening batsman in Sri Lanka in 2000. He made his maiden Test and ODI centuries against New Zealand and Sri Lanka respectively during the summer of 2000-01 and was able to take advantage of the confusion over the roles of Daryll Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes to establish himself as a more-or-less permanent fixture in both teams. On the tour of Bangladesh he was involved in a world record opening stand of 415 with his captain Graeme Smith, both making double hundreds.  

At Port of Spain, West Indies’ Kirk McKenzie made his debut and was batting at close of play on day 2.  A couple of years back in U19 WC  - the  Kiwi Under 19 side was at the centre of a heartwarming moment of sportsmanship during its World Cup quarterfinal.  West Indies’ Kirk McKenzie was on 99 when he was struck with a severe cramp that didn’t subside, forcing him to be stretchered from the field agonisingly short of a century. He later limped back to the crease to complete his innings but was effectively playing on one leg as the cramp continued to hinder him.  

Kiwi quick Kristian Clarke promptly bowled on a length at the stumps and the footwork-less McKenzie was helpless to defend, bowled through the gate on 99. “Goodness that’s cruel. Just the second batsman to be dismissed for 99 in a World Cup” the commentator said. Adding insult to injury was that the cramp returned as McKenzie attempted to walk from the field.    At that moment  Kiwis gathered around him and carried him off the ground while those in both changerooms gave him a standing ovation.  

For those interested in statistics, Sunil Gavaskar made his debut at Port of Spain in 1971 scoring 65 & 67* ; then made 124 & 220; in 1975 series he made 156; 26& 102 & in 1983 made 1 & 32.  Overall he made 793 runs in 5 tests at  Bradmanesque average of 99.12.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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