October 22, 1983. In a blazing day’s cricket at the Green Park Stadium, Kanpur, Malcolm Marshall clasped at the hearts of the Indian batsmen in a cold grip of fear. Before that, he also flayed their bowlers all over the park. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at perhaps one of the best days in the career of the supreme fast bowler.
It was perhaps the one day in a glorious career when Malcolm Marshall’s talents were showcased in the brightest blaze of brilliance.
The West Indians who arrived in India in late 1983 were a focused unit, still smarting from the unexpected reversal in the Prudential Cup final. Their purpose was simple — to show the pretenders on cricket’s official throne who the real winners were. It was ill-luck for the Indians to host this group of simmering talent, raw pace and explosive batsmenin the season that immediately followed their memorable triumph at Lord’s.
The first blood was drawn with a crushing win in the first One Day International at Srinagar. But, it was not just the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) that Clive Lloyd’s men wanted to win. They wanted to rout India in all forms of cricket.
The Test series started at Kanpur, with a tinge of grass left on the wicket — an act either brave or foolhardy depending on the point of view. However as the West Indies batted, the track proved to be sluggish and low. Indians pegged them back with vital wickets. Kapil Dev struck first with his swing and cut, removing Desmond Haynes cheaply and then getting a dangerous Viv Richards snick to Syed Kirmani. The two left arm spinners, Ravi Shastri and Raghuram Bhatt tied the middle order down. By the middle of the first afternoon the score was an alarming 157 for five when the stylish Jeff Dujon joined the strangely subdued Gordon Greenidge at the wicket. The rest of the day was a tale of recovery and ended with the visitors on 255 for five. Greenidge had scored his hundred but after the first day the honours were even.
Then dawned the Saturday, the day that set the tone of the series and established Malcolm Marshall as a permanent legend in India.The ones lucky enough to see him that day, especially in late afternoon, never forgot the fear he generated. But, even before he had the ball in his hand, he had already made his mark on the game.
Till that day, Marshall had not really been hailed as a batsman of ability. Yes, the Indians who had kept a close eye on his first unhappy tour to the country in 1978-79 did know that he could bat. He had hammered the West Zone bowling for 59 in just his third First-Class game. He also had four centuries, three for Hampshire and one for the Young West Indians against Zimbabwe. But in Test cricket, he averaged just 10.00. Even with the ball, he had taken a five-for only once in his 17 Test matches, averaging in the high 20s for his 55 wickets.
This day changed it all.
Marshall walked in after Roger Binny castled Dujon for 81 with the score at 309 for six. And immediately, he got into his groove, driving, steering and pulling with élan. With Greenidge steady as a rock at the other end, Marshall went from strength to strength, not hesitating to loft the spinners into the outfield.
Greenidge fell six short of his double hundred, falling to the innocuous military medium of Mohinder Amarnath. The two had added 130, and West Indies had recovered from the initial hiccups to pile up a commanding score.
Marshall got in a few more lusty blows with the support of the tail before hitting one back to Kapil Dev to bring an end to the innings. He walked back for 92 exciting runs, and it would remain his highest Test score. The West Indians had amassed 454.
There was just 63 minutes for the Indians to bat on the second day as Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad walked out in late afternoon. And Marshall ran in with the new ball.
The second ball came searing through, hit the supposedly sluggish deck generating incredible speed, moved away and kissed the edge of Gavaskar’s bat on the way to Dujon. The great opener had lasted two balls.
The next man was Mohinder Amarnath, the much lauded hero, the brave-heart of the 1982-83 tour to West Indies, the Man of the Match of the World Cup final. Soon he got a ball fast and scorching and coming in to him, too quick for him to get his bat in position. It struck him in front of the stumps and up went the finger. Not for the last time in the series, the score was zero for two.
Dilip Vengsarkar had the most unenviable position in the batting world of the 1980s. Marshall hated his guts. It all stemmed from that first tour of India in 1978-79, when the fast man thought he had been done in by some unfair appealing orchestrated by the Bombay batsman. Hence, whenever Vengsakar batted, he increased his pace, shortened his length, and bowled at, rather than to, him.
Later Marshall dedicated a chapter of his autobiography to the feud between the two of them. He called it Vengsarkar Vengeance. It starts: “Dilip Vengsarkar is one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket and proof of his quality came in 1986 when he became the first overseas player to score three Test centuries at Lord’s: not even Bradman could match that. Yet, while I readily acknowledge his fine achievement, I could not bring myself to get very enthusiastic about it. He is the one cricketer I have ever disliked and the only one I have felt consistently hostile towards. It all stems from my Test debut at Bangalore in 1978 when his constant appealing in my short innings, I believe was responsible for me being given out unfairly. It was the day I cried my way back to the pavilion and the day I was humiliated in public. I will never forget the taunts and the disgrace and, possibly unfairly also, I saw Vengsarkar as the main culprit. I vowed revenge …”
The last time the two had met in a Test match had been in St. John’s, Antigua. After Vengsarkar had struck the ball around brilliantly, Marshall had got him caught off the hook for a 103 ball 94. In the second group match between the two teams in the World Cup, Vengsakrar had stroked his way to 32 before a ball from Marshall had struck his jaw and ended the tournament for him.
Now Marshall charged in and spit fire with his deliveries. The elegant middle-order maestro got behind the line with composure and then steered one past point for four.
But soon, Gaekwad was facing the furious pace. The battle was minor and short. The ball perhaps singed the bat as it went off the edge to Dujon yet again. It was nine for three.
Sandeep Patil joined his schoolmate Vengsarkar in the middle. By then every moment at the wicket was a tale of peril. The other end was not a safe haven either, with Michael Holding sending down his own brand of frightening pace laced with guile.
Meanwhile, Vengsarkar seemed to be doing all the scoring, batting with admirable reassurance, having got 14 of the 19 runs scored. And then Marshall sprinted in again off his curving run. The ball pitched on the leg and middle, cut away with blistering venom and hit off. The batsman stood there in a daze, unable to believe his eyes. It was 19 for four.
By the end of the day, Winston Davis had sent back Ravi Shastri. India ended the day on 34 for five. Marshall’s figures read 8-5-9-4. In that one impactful day, he had decided the course of the series and immortalised himself in the psyche of the Indian cricket fan.
The Indian innings was stretched on the third day mainly through a ninth wicket association of 117 between Madan Lal and Roger Binny. But a total of 207 meant following on, and Lloyd had no hesitation in asking the hosts to bat again. Marshall, who had ended with four for 19 from 15 overs, marked his run up to charge in again.
In the second innings, the Indians gasped at a glimpse of the unthinkable. Another Marshall delivery zoomed through the air hit the deck that was supposed to be slow and low, and bounced like a tennis ball. It struck the great Gavaskar on his arm, and the bat flew from his hand. No one had ever seen such a sight. The shocked Indian opener was handed the willow and he resumed his stance. He could score only seven before being caught fending another nasty Marshall delivery.
Only Vengsarkar with 63 and Shastri with a stubborn 46 not out offered some resistance. Indians were all out for 164 shortly after lunch on the fourth day.
West Indies won the six Test series 3-0 and the ODIs 5-0. Marshall ended with 33 wickets at 18.81. He also managed 244 runs at 34.85, with another crucial half-century in the fifth Test at Calcutta.
West Indies 454 (Gordon Greenidge 194, Jeff Dujon 81, Malcolm Marshall 92; Kapil Dev 4 for 99) beat India 207 (Madan Lal 63; Malcolm Marshall 4 for 19) and 164 (Dilip Vengsarkar 63, Ravi Shastri 46*; Malcolm Marshall 4 for 47) by an innings and 83 runs.
(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://twiter.com/senantix)