Just when India’s renowned spin quartet were in the twilight of their careers, Shivlal Yadav walked in to take over the mantle. Understandably, there was a mountain of expectations placed on his able shoulders. When he took field in international cricket for the first time on September 19, 1979, against Australia, he scripted a performance that convinced many, who touted him to be an apt replacement, that he indeed was the right man for the job. His debut Test figures read seven for 81, and it appeared as though he was set for a long haul at the top.
Although that Test ended in a draw, Yadav collected six for 100 in the next game at Kanpur and played his part in helping India to a 153-run victory. He picked 24 wickets by the end of that series and bowled the maximum number of overs after Dilip Doshi, despite missing the first Test at Chennai. As Yadav progressed, off-spinner Srinivas Venkataraghavan was soon out of favour with the selectors. He was out of the side for almost three years thereafter and made a comeback in 1983 for the tour of West Indies.
It was his ability of Yadav to bowl long spells that stood him in good stead. His stamina and ability to flight the ball more often than not worked in his favour, albeit not generating enough turn off the pitch. In 1984, during a Test against Pakistan at Faisalabad, he bowled 75 overs in a single innings on what was possibly the flattest track in the country back then. Vinoo Mankad (in 1951 and 1953) and Rajesh Chauhan (in 1997) are the only other Indian bowlers to have sent down more overs than Yadav in one innings of a Test.
Fifteen months later, he bowled one of the best spells of his career. In the third and final Test at Sydney, in front of 67,000 spectators, Yadav spun his web around the Australian batting line-up, picking five for 99 off 62.3 overs. He bowled a total of 95.3 overs during that Test, collecting eight wickets in the process and taking India to the brink of victory. An insipid knock of 17 from Greg Ritchie — that lasted for 166 minutes and 157 balls — saved the day for Australia. He was the highest wicket-taker in that series, ahead of other prominent names like Kapil Dev, Craig McDermott and Bruce Reid.
Yadav had failed to capitalise on the shipshape start to his career, and, like Venkataraghavan, returned for the 1983 series against West Indies. He did enough to keep his place in the side thereafter, at least for Tests, and occasionally came up with positively boisterous performances. His outings against Australia are particularly noteworthy.
Below are Yadav’s performances in Tests against different countries:
When Australia toured India in 1986, Yadav wasn’t at his peak. Nevertheless, he managed to get under their skin one last time, picking four wickets during the first Test at Chennai, including that of Dean Jones’s. It was during this game that Jones essayed one of his best knocks ever, fighting his way to a double-century despite torturous conditions. Even Steve Waugh found Yadav unplayable during one of the games, but the former’s health wasn’t at its best owing to stomach cramps.
Perhaps for Yadav, one of his best memories (if you can call it that) of playing against Australia would be the 1981 Melbourne Test. His body was bruised and battered by Lenny Pascoe’s fierce spell, but Sunil Gavaskar ensured that Yadav made his way back onto the field. “Rodney Marsh was shouting from behind that he was going to keep coming down. I didn't understand what he meant. Lenny started hitting me on the top first. He started with my helmet, then shoulder, forearm, ribs, thigh, and then the yorker on the toe. Then I understood what Rodney meant," said Yadav in an interview to ESPNcricinfo. It was during this Test that Kapil Dev bowled India to one of the most famous victories ever.
Yadav made his One-Day International (ODI) debut just one year prior to calling it quits from all forms of cricket in 1987. He played seven ODIs and 35 Tests and never featured in a World Cup fixture. After his playing days, he became a key member of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) as an administrator and served as its secretary until recently. He’s now one of the vice-presidents of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)
First Published: January 26, 2013, 12:21 pm