WHAT A ‘TIE!’
It was a momentous Test, and not just because it was only the second tied Test in the history of the game. It signalled the renaissance of Australian cricket, which continues to this day; and it set in motion the great India-Australia rivalry, which is now the toast of world cricket.
The game is so vivid in everybody’s mind, even though the television coverage of those days was hazy at best. Australia were yet to recover from the loss of a great line of cricketers such as Great Chappell, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Skipper Allan Border was experienced enough with 75 caps under his belt. But next in line were David Boon and Ray Bright with just eight Tests each to their names. The Indians, in contrast, had a combined experience of over 400 games!
The similarities between the two tied Tests were eerie. Both finished with a ball to spare. The first was the 498th Test of all time. The second took almost the same number of games to unfold —it was Test number 1,052 to be precise. And funnily enough, Bob Simpson featured in both of them: as player in 1960-61 and as coach in 1986-87.
Australia set themselves up with a score of 211/2 on the first day. David Boon led his side’s charge with his third century in four Tests against India. Dean Jones, recalled to the side after three years, was playing only his fourth Test and his first on Indian soil. Given the task to prove himself at No.3, he responded with an unbeaten 56 at stumps.
The second day belonged to him. He batted magnificently in extreme conditions. He was quick on his feet and was never afraid to come down the track to the spinners. Unfortunately, the Australians, in those days, weren’t too updated on ways to preventing dehydration. They consumed a lot of soft drinks, which didn’t quite help in the heat and humidity of Chennai. The longer Jones batted, the more dehydrated he got. By the time he was in his 130s, he was vomiting all over the place. Kapil, Sunny and most of us were genuinely concerned for his welfare. Jones, for his part, showed his appreciation by throwing up even more!
As he received medical attention, Jones had pins and needles all over his body. Nausea and cramps had set in to the extent that he was put on a saline drip and placed in a hospital overnight. But it was all worth it as he went on to make 210 runs – the highest score by an Australian in a Test in India. He put on 178 runs for the fourth wicket with Border, who helped himself to what by then had become a habit – of getting 100s.
Australia declared at 574/7, 37 minutes after the start of the third day, with all levers of the game under their control. We were in trouble at 270/7 on the third evening, needing another 105 to avoid the follow-on.
Kapil Dev then chose to bat as he normally did in situations where India had their back to the wall. His 175 in the 1983 World Cup and then his tremendous counterattacking innings in South Africa in 1992-93 were similar masterpieces. This time around, he struck the fourth century of his career, hitting 21 fours in all in a knock of 119. He eked out important stands with Chetan Sharma and Shivlal Yadav, and took us to 397. Australia, for their part, were not prepared to take their foot off the pedal, and swelled their first innings lead to 347 by close of play on day four.
The final day began with a bold declaration by Border. We needed 348 for an improbable win.
A raucous crowd of 30,000-plus was witness to a great day’s play. We were cautious to start with, and Sunil Gavaskar, playing his 100th consecutive Test, led the charge to haul us to 94/1 by lunch. We were 193/2 by tea, needing a further 155 from thirty possible overs in the final session. Gavaskar made a classy 90. Mohammad Azharuddin (42) and Chandrakant Pandit (39) played their part. The run-rate was mounting, but I hung in with the tail to put things back on the rails.
At one stage, 17 were required and we had four wickets in the kitty. The game was there for the taking. Spinner Ray Bright then stepped up to the plate for Australia, having Chetan Sharma caught at the fence, trapping Kiran More leg before wicket and getting one past the defence of Yadav. I watched this in frustration from the other end. Last man, Maninder Singh, then joined me with four needed from the final over.
I managed a couple from the second ball and a single off the next to level the scores. Maninder now had three balls to come up with that all-important single. But he played back to the second delivery and was adjudged leg before wicket. He had edged the ball on to his pads, and till today, I have sleepless nights whenever I think of the moment the dreaded finger went up. It seemed Vikram Raju, the umpire, had watched a lot Clint Eastwood movies lately. In all my years of playing and watching cricket, I still have to see a finger go up quicker.
Over the years, the disappointment of having not won that Test has been replaced by the overwhelming feeling of being part of a match that has only one precedent in history. Surely, it was a privilege to be part of this game and play one’s role.
One of India’s most successful all-rounders, Ravi Shastri completed the Test ‘double’ of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets during the Tied Test.