Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Vishy called back Bob Tailor to bat again

Remembering a gentleman crickter

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

It was the Golden Jubilee year of India’s entry into the test cricket. Mumbai’s Wanakhade stadium was to host the Golden Jubilee test match between India and England. Unlike today, those days, the BCCI never bothered about the players who were sober and silent. Cricketers like Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble could not have made to the top slot in those days as there was no media scrutiny and there was more politics inside the board- room.

One great cricketer, who grew up as a parallel to Sunil Gavaskar, who battling was an art to be watched and enjoyed, who remained a gentleman through his career was Gundappa Vishwanath. He hailed from Karnataka and is brother in law of Sunil Gavaskar. Vishy as he is affectionately called by his colleagues, was made the captain of the Golden Jubilee test in 1982 against England.

The English team had some of the greats like Bob Tailer, Bob Wilis, Ian Botham, John Lever while Indians had Sunil Gavaskar, G.R.Vishwanath, Kapil Dev and Madan Lal. The English batted well with might while the Indian faltered to the pace battery of England. England finally won the match. Everybody knew that one incident changed the outcome of the match. It was Bob Tailor, the English wicket keeper batsman, who was given out by the umpire, caught behind. Tailor got angry and went towards the Pavilion in great anger. Vishy saw him going, saw for some time, ran towards the boundary and asked Bob Tailor that he was not out and he should play. Bob came back, restarted his innings and scored a hundred that became the cause of their victory.

But it was not that Vishwnath was too naïve. The man is still respected for his simplicity and seriousness. When the Indian cricket team was touring Australia one year later under Sunil Gavaskar’s captaincy, the incident of Melbourne is a crude reminder of how bad umpiring can affect the relationship between the two teams. Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan opened to bat. Gavaskar did not have a good series that time. India was already legging behind in the series. When Gavaskar became to concentrate, the umpire gave him out LBW. Gavaskar was so annoyed with this, that he asked his colleague Chetan Chauhan to leave the crease. Fortunately, Indian manager Durrani persuaded both of them not to force it, otherwise the match would have been awarded to Australia. India was tracing the first Innings total of Australia. When the hope to save the test was lost, it was Vishwanath, whose bat did the talking. He scored a wonderful 114, a classic to watch even today, and India scored some reasonable total. And the rest is history. How, Kapil Dev who was injured and taking painkillers was forced to bowl and the Australian for the first time saw the ferocity of Indian bowling attack and were out for 82. India won the match.

It is not that sledging is not a part of the game. Great players like Kapil Dev rarely showed their anger in immature way as we see today’s player. While aggression is good yet it has to be with great maturity. If a number of youngsters are unable to perform and keep themselves fit, they must understand how a medium fast bowler like Kapil Dev could stay on playing nearly 130 test matches. It was determination and control.

And players like Bishan Singh Bedi, the legendary spinner of the past, were outspoken. Once Bedi exposed that fast bowler John Lever used to rub Vaseline to shine the bowl. Bedi made this charge and was expelled from the county.

Point is that sledging is one thing and racial comment the other. The cricketers should not only talk with bat but also learn some of their history. It is rather unfortunate that when Virendra Sehwag broke record of the first wicket partnership of over 400 odd runs so far held by Pankaj Roy, he showed total ignorance of who the man was? It is not shocking as commercialization, advertisement and media has glamorized every player and made them ‘great’. Some time even the undeserving get these epithets resulting in false sense of greatness and underperformance by these players. It is time to remember these great performers and our players should learn something from history for their own benefit and for the benefit of the game. Don't erase from memories those moments of history which are honestly our achievements even if one is defeated. Vishy, Kapil, Bedi, Chandra remained some of the greatest players known for thier unique qualities and service to the nation. It is not that they did not know things and how to retailiate. Let us save the game of the cricket and not blame 'poor' umpiring for our 'poor' performance.

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