Madhav Gothoskar. Photo Courtesy — Maharashtracha Gaurav’s YouTube channel
October 30, 1983, Delhi. For the only time two umpires walked out to officiate in a Test match on their common birthday. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the second day in the Test match between India and West Indies which saw umpires MV Gothoskar and Dara Dotiwala celebrate their special day by going through a tough five-and-a-half hours on the field.
The day after
Feroz Shah Kotla, October 30, 1983. The previous day had seen Sunil Gavaskar bring the long shelved hook back into his array of strokes and race to his 29th hundred off just 94 balls. Granted, the pitch was pancake flat, but often such mundane issues of the wicket did not quite bother the West Indian pace attack. But, on that Delhi day their artillery was muffled by the slow wicket, and the fireworks were generated by the bat of the Little Master.
Obviously he had been irked. Malcolm Marshall had got him for a duck in the first innings at Kanpur and had knocked the bat out of his hand in the second before dismissing him for 7. The man known to douse the fiery flames of speed with ice-cold temperament and technique had suddenly decided to meet fire with fire. There had been a touch of desperation in the innings, but it had come off. When he was bowled by Larry Gomes, his score read 121 off 128 balls with 15 boundaries and 2 sixes.
At the other end, Dilip Vengsarkar had played arguably the better innings, a superb exhibition of controlled aggression. Remembered more for shaking Gavaskar by the hand and mouthing, “Bloody it’s your 29th”, his stroke making had been near flawless. At the end of the day he had walked back for an unbeaten 114. The score read 299 for 3.
The special day
Plenty of events etched the following day’s play. Marshall and Michael Holding charged in with the new ball in the morning. Vengsarkar continued to play them with poise and aplomb, piercing the field with elegant cuts and drives. Ravi Shastri, promoted in the order to hold fort ahead of an ill Mohinder Amarnath, survived through a combination of tenacity and luck. There was later a brief collapse and a plucky innings by Roger Binny. And in between Kapil Dev swung Larry Gomes out of the ground. Towards the end of the day, West Indies batted and Gordon Greenidge was removed by an off-break from Kirti Azad just before stumps.
However, the day was unique in the history of the game not due to the deeds of the players. On this 30th day of October, 1983, at the two ends stood two birthday boys — umpires Madhav Gothoskar and Dara Dotiwalla. Gothoskar had been born in 1929. Dotiwala four years later in 1933.
Two umpires, standing together on a day of a Test match, both celebrating their birthdays, has taken place only on that one occasion. Perhaps the two had wished each other as they walked into the middle. Perhaps they had enjoyed slices of cake together. However, it was not a very happy time to be an umpire.
Right from the outset of the series, the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd had launched a scathing attack on the standard of umpiring. He voiced his views loud and clear in the columns he wrote for the Indian dailies. The big man’s opinion about the Indian officials was less than flattering. The criticism was biting and often unfair. The agenda was apparent. Lloyd was not going to give any quarter. He was perhaps overcompensating for the rather shoddy decisions West Indians remembered from past visits to the land. The umpires quivered under the attack.
The officials became apprehensive, edgy, often scared stiff of making mistakes. Did this play a role in the way events transpired that day? Perhaps.
The West Indian fast men had bowled 70 minutes without success. Vengsakar had proceeded to 159, looking set for a double-hundred. Holding’s ball was short, rising. The Bombay batsman played inside the line, the cherry climbed and struck him on his shoulder, before flying to Viv Richards at second slip. The bowler appealed, wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon did not and Dotiwala raised his finger. The face of Vengsarkar as he walked back told an eloquent story. In magnificent form, he had wanted to go on and score the double hundred that remained elusive in his career. Later, in an interview given to Sportsworld at the end of the series, he openly declared that he had been caught off his shoulder. On that day, his expression said it all. The crowd was not too pleased.
Shastri followed soon, leg-before to Winston Davis — the finger raised by Dotiwala again — and this brought Mohinder Amarnath to the crease. The hero of the West Indies tour the previous winter and then the success story of the World Cup that summer, he was in terrible nick. In the first Test, he had bagged a pair. Here he got off the mark with a single, and that would be his only run in the 6 innings he would play in the series.
Wayne Daniel charged in and produced another lifter. It touched something on its way to Dujon and the West Indians went up. Years later, umpire Gothoskar was to write his autobiography titled, The Burning Finger. And now, the same finger pointed upwards. In all probability, Amarnath was given out in all fairness. But, the batsman looked unhappy. It could have been the string of low scores that bothered him. But, the crowd was less than amused.
In this day and age of cricket databases and fanfare, perhaps the spectators would have been aware of how auspicious the day was for the umpires. However, the Kotla crowd had no idea, and it is debatable whether the knowledge would have made them a wee bit more considerate. Vengsarkar’s dismissal had already led to chants of “Dotiwala haai haai.” Now the stadium resounded with “Gothoskar haai haai” and “Umpire haai haai”.
The rest of the day passed without any controversial decision, but the chants continued all through. It was especially sad for Gothoskar, a much respected umpire, who was standing in his penultimate Test match. The following Test at Calcutta would be his last.
It was certainly not a memorable birthday for the two men.
India scored 464 and Kapil, aided by his spinners, had the visiting batsmen in a spot of bother. Shortly after lunch on the third day, a brilliant innings of Richards came to an end for a 70-ball 67. Kapil trapped him leg-before — a decision that generated another violent stroke of the pen from Lloyd. West Indies slumped to 173 for 5. However, captain Lloyd himself batted 5 hours and 20 minutes for 103 and played around the tail. In the end, Kapil’s 6 for 77 enabled India to take an 80-run lead.
Gavaskar fell to Holding early after 3 quick boundaries, but India were buoyed by another fine innings by Vengsarkar. But, when he fell for 65 early on the final day, it seemed likely that West Indies would clinch a win. Marshall picked up Amarnath and Kapil for ducks, making it 3 wickets in 11 balls. With 4 hours and 20 minutes to go, India found themselves at 166 for 8. Amidst all this chaos, Azad was run out.
However, Binny once again batted with calm assurance for nearly two hours, and Madan Lal held one end up. The pair added 52 runs. The final target was 314 in just over 3 hours. The match ended in a draw.
As mentioned, Gothoskar stood in just one more match, once again sullied by constant criticism by Lloyd. Dotiwala continued to stand in Test matches till 1987, his last Test being another India-West Indies encounter at Delhi which saw yet another supreme hundred by Vengsarkar. Dotiwala was the man who stood at square-leg as his colleague Vikram Raju declared Maninder Singh leg-before wicket to ensure the second Tied Test in history.
India 464 (Sunil Gavaskar 121, Dilip Vengsarkar 159, Ravi Shastri 49, Roger Binny 52; Michael Holding 4 for 107) and 233 (Dilip Vengsarkar 63) drew with West Indies 384 (Viv Richards 67, Clive Lloyd 103, Gus Logie 63; Kapil Dev 6 for 77) and 120 for 2 (Gordon Greenidge 72*).
Man of the Match: Dilip Vengsarkar.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)