'From Mumbai to Durban: India’s Greatest Tests': India’s roller-coaster matches from 1947-2011

The modern Indian cricket buff loves the thrills and the spills of limited overs cricket, especially the T20 type. The Indian Premier League has created a huge fan following for the ‘game’ but has hardly espoused the traditions of real cricket.

What was encouraging about the recent series in India and Australia was that there were larger crowds at the grounds. Aggressive captaincy, attractive stroke play and exciting finishes have brought youngsters to watching the five-day game and this augurs well for the future of the traditional game.

There is surely a transition taking place.

 From Mumbai to Durban: India’s Greatest Tests: India’s roller-coaster matches from 1947-2011

India's first tour after Independence: Lala Amarnath-led team to Australia 1947-48. Photo courtesy Melbourne Cricket Library

At such a time in the history of game, what would be better than a book chronicling the 28 most electrifying Test matches that India has played? From Mumbai to Durban: India’s Greatest Tests, authored by S Giridhar and VJ Raghunath and published by Juggernaut Books is an ‘eye-witness’ account of India’s roller-coaster matches from 1947 to 2011.

Giridhar and Raghunath, both of whom have played the game at the club level, have earlier authored a book titled, Mid-Wicket Tales: From Trumper to Tendulkar, which was well accepted. Their child-like enthusiasm for the game comes through strikingly in the tales they narrate. The facts and the situations are, however, thoroughly researched. The ‘eye-witness’ account as described above is brought out lucidly through excerpts from the writings of eminent cricket writers — from India and abroad — of the time, first-person accounts of the players themselves and, of course, their own experiences as spectators from a very young age.

The romance of the toss in the 1960s: Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Gary Sobers at Calcutta; January 1967, courtesy Aloke Mitra

The romance of the toss in the 1960s: Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Gary Sobers at Calcutta; January 1967. Photo courtesy Aloke Mitra

The authors have recreated each of the 28 Tests in four sections: 1. 1947 to 1969 (Hope Takes Root) 2. 1970 to 1980 (A Heady Feeling) 3. 1981 to 2000 (Everyone’s Game) and 4. 2001 to 2010 (Rise to the Top). Indian cricket, for better or for worse, has had its fortunes linked with the country’s economic progress and the authors have also succeeded in tracing its growth through various phases in the country’s history.

The narration is so vivid that for the traditional follower of the game, this is a sort of trip down memory lane. For the uninitiated and the new cricket buff, the romance of Test cricket is brought out with all its suspense and it various nuances. The rare and beautiful photographs add to its value. The book is unputdownable and extremely interesting, whichever group one belongs to.

From Mumbai to Durban: India’s Greatest Tests, is replete with interesting anecdotes and asides that will be of interest to cricket buffs. Most of them may, perhaps, also leave readers surprised and astounded.

Amateur days of 1970s: Viswanath and Kirmani at Honnavar Branch with manager Nagaraj. Photo courtesy Sujatha Puranik, from her family album

Amateur days of 1970s: Viswanath and Kirmani at Honnavar Branch with manager Nagaraj. Photo courtesy Sujatha Puranik, from her family album

Here are a few gems:

>> India’s first ever Test victory was postponed because the umpires in an India-West Indies Test match of 1949, at Bombay’s (Mumbai) Brabourne Stadium, called off the match early. Needing 361 to win, India were 355 for 8 and Dattu Phadkar was on strike. However, overcome by the pressure of the situation, umpires Mohoni and Joshi picked up the bails and walked off even as the clock showed two minutes to close of play.

>> When the strong Australian side of 1959, led by the redoubtable Richie Benaud, trounced India in Delhi by an innings, selector Lala Amarnath brought in Jasu Patel along with other changes for the second Test at Green Park, Kanpur. When the Indians were shot out for 152 and the Australians were cruising at 128 for 1, Lala Amarnath, with pipe in his mouth and in his traditional drawl, informed skipper Ramchand, at lunch break that Patel was bowling from the wrong end. Brought from the other end, Patel picked 9 wickets for 69 runs and the Australian were 219 all out. India eventually won the match by 119 runs, with Jasu Patel capturing 14 wickets in the match.

Doyens of radio commentary and press in the years before television. Photo courtesy V Ramnarayan's personal collection

Doyens of radio commentary and press in the years before television. Photo courtesy V Ramnarayan's personal collection

>> In the historic India-West Indies series of 1971, the first day’s play of the first Test at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica was washed out, practically reducing it to a four-day game. India scored 387 in the first innings and shot the West Indies out for 217, with Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan sharing the spoils. When skipper Wadekar went to the hosts’ dressing room to inform them that they would have to follow on, Garry Sobers was dumbfounded. The Indian skipper had to remind him that it was a four-day match and that a lead of only 150 runs was required to enforce the follow on! This had a profound effect on the result of the series that India won, eventually.

>> On the rest day of the Oval Test, in England in 1971, which India won, Dilip Sardesai and BS Chandrasekhar went to the races and bet on a horse named ‘Mildred’. They were thrilled when Mildred won the race. Next day, just before Chandrasekhar ran up to bowl to John Edrich, England’s star batsman, Sardesai shouted, “Bowl him a Mildred”. Chandrasekhar bowled a googly and had the batsman clean bowled!

If one were to find fault — at all — with this ‘labour of love’ by the authors, it would be that the narrative is often interspersed with short, incomplete takes on the tale’s protagonists. Also, the text has a bit of a ‘laboured’ feel because of the need for authentication through quotes and an over reliance on archival material.

All said and done, a beautifully crafted tome, akin to a Sunil Gavaskar inning!

Cricket buff? Take this quiz below to test your TQ (trivia quotient) and mail us a screenshot of your score at weekendsatfirstpost@gmail.com. One lucky winner gets a copy of the book from Juggernaut:

From Mumbai to Durban: India’s Greatest Tests by S Giridhar and VJ Raghunath is available in bookstores and juggernaut.in

Updated Date: Dec 25, 2016 09:09:35 IST