No, things did not go the way Krishnamachari Srikkanth expected them to © Getty Images (representational photo)
No, things did not go the way Krishnamachari Srikkanth expected them to © Getty Images (representational photo)

1984. The Indian team was playing in Pakistan. And suddenly Krishnamachari Srikkanth received an SOS from a ‘selector’ to join the action. Arunabha Sengupta writes about the call and the subsequent predicament.

The Indian side in Pakistan was well stocked with opening batsmen.

Of course, there was Sunil Gavaskar. There was Anshuman Gaekwad, who was doing the duty in Tests and doing it rather well. He was also being used sometimes as an opener in the ODIs.

And then there were Ghulam Parkar and Surinder Khanna. That was an era before we had limited-overs specialists, but the last two named were being rotated as opening batsmen in the shorter format. Besides, Ravi Shastri also came out to face the new ball in one of the ODIs.

Hence, there was not really room for any more. So, when Krishnamachari Srikkanth answered the phone in his Madras residence and heard ‘Test selector Hanumant Singh’ asking him to join the side immediately, there was a bit of intrigue mingled with his elation.

Yet, call for national duty had to be answered promptly. Srikkanth boarded the flight to Bombay and rushed to the BCCI office. You see, trips to Pakistan involved a lot of administrative hassles, including clearance papers and visas. Srikkanth walked into the premises of the Board and asked for the ways to proceed with required paperwork.

The result was a couple of baffled looks, some hasty phone calls and then the embarrassing moment when the bad news was delivered. The phone call had been a prank, played no doubt by some heartless practical joker. There had been no summons.

Srikkanth was shocked, and then slowly made his way back to Madras in a crestfallen manner. He had taken the plane from his home town to Bombay, and that surely was an elaborate form of being taken for a ride.

The Indians in Pakistan continued to play without Srikkanth. Gavaskar and Gaekwad opened the innings in the first and second Tests. And then the second ODI was held at the Jinnah Stadium, Sialkot.

With Gavaskar sitting out, it was Mohinder Amarnath who captained India in that outing. Gaekwad and Parkar opened the innings. Following that Dilip Vengsarkar struck an unbeaten 94 and Sandeep Patil chipped in with 59, adding 143 entertaining runs. India finished their 40-over innings at 210 for 3.

But Pakistan’s innings did not take off. It was the 31st October, 1984, and news reached across the border that the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by two of her own bodyguards. That was the end of the tour, with a Test and an ODI yet uncontested.

So, after all, Srikkanth did not miss that much.