A gesture that won hearts but lost the match
The ball from Kapil Dev went past Bob Taylor and was pouched behind the stumps by Syed Kirmani. The bowler and the ’keeper erupted in appeal and umpire Hanumantha Rao raised his finger. The Wankhede Stadium roared. The home team had not scored too many, but had fought back to have the Englishmen on the mat. The partnership between Ian Botham and Taylor, the same combination that had struck again and again on the previous day, had been broken, and England was struggling at 85 for six.
But were they? Taylor believed that he had not touched it, but that mattered little. Standing at slip, Indian captain Gundappa Viswanath — leading the country for just the second time — was convinced that Taylor had not snicked. As a bemused crowd looked on, he persuaded the umpire to change his decision. Taylor continued his innings, much to his own amazement.
He hung on well into the next morning, batting 275 minutes to score an invaluable 43. The incredible spirit of the game demonstrated by Vishwanath had to be lauded, but it perhaps cost India the Test match.
Ian Botham, perched at the peak of his phenomenal powers, blasted his way to a rollicking century. Coming together with the side tottering at 58 for five against some excellent swing bowling by Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri, Botham and Taylor added 171. When Ghavri finally trapped Botham leg before towards the end of the second day, England were just 13 runs short of the Indian total. The following morning, Taylor, John Lever and Graham Stevenson stayed long enough to help the tourists to a 54-run lead.
Botham’s Midas touch
On the first day, India had got off to a flier. Riding on a 15-Test unbeaten streak, four of which they had won, the home team had raced to the first hundred with just one wicket down. Inspired by the presence of the legendary Mushtaq Ali in the stands, Sunil Gavaskar had forsaken his legendary watchfulness, creaming four boundaries and a six on his way to an attractive 49.
England, on the other hand, were a jaded side who had been pummelled 0-3 in the recently- concluded Ashes series. Not too many players had been looking forward to another additional fixture to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Board for Control of Cricket in India. The first morning, with Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in a fluent stand, it seemed a continuation of their tale of woes. It took a superlative performance of one man to turn things around. Botham provided the necessary Midas touch.
The great all-rounder started with a late out-swinger that got rid of Gavaskar, with Taylor latching on to the first of his record seven catches of the innings. Botham went on to take five more to finish with six for 58. India could manage just 242. With the pitch uncharacteristically full of grass, the ball moved around and batsman after batsman ended up edging their way to downfall.
England had also begun their response similarly, Graham Gooch and Geoffrey Boycott both snicking to be taken by Kirmani. Kapil, Ghavri and Roger Binny found the conditions to their liking. But, then came Ian Botham and the pivotal reversal of the decision against Bob Taylor.
As India batted a second time, Botham’s genius continued unabated. With his third ball he trapped makeshift opener Binny leg before for a duck. And then he proceeded to run through the side, picking up the wickets of Viswanath, Gavaskar, Sandeep Patil, Yashpal Sharma among his seven scalps. Bowling unchanged throughout the innings, he captured seven for 48 from 26 overs — a match tally of 13 to go with his 114 runs. At this stage of his career, he was undoubtedly the leading all-rounder of the world, with 1336 runs at 40.48 and 139 wickets at 18.52 from 25 Tests.
With the ball darting around, John Lever picked up the other three wickets. Taylor continued his own tale of triumph by holding three more catches, to finish with a world record 10 dismissals. India could manage only 149 in the second innings, much of it thanks to a resilient unbeaten 45 by Kapil Dev.
Boycott and Gooch rattled off the required runs with little trouble and England won by 10 wickets.
Expecting a normal turning track at Wankhede, England had played two quality spinners. In the end, John Emburey did not bowl at all and Derek Underwood managed just seven overs in all.
The Sportsworld cover of that week carried the picture of the champion all-rounder with the announcement “India Bothamed”. No summary could have been more apt.
Brief Scores: India 242 (Sunil Gavaskar 49, Syed Kirmani 40*; Ian Botham 6 for 58) and 149 (Kapil Dev 45*, Ian Botham 7 for 48) lost to England 296 (Ian Botham 114, Bob Taylor 43; Karsan Ghavri 5 for 52) and 98 for no loss (GA Gooch 49*, G Boycott 43*) by 10 wickets.
(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)
First Published: February 19, 2013, 10:02 am