As India gear to take on New Zealand in their 500th Test, S Chuzzlewit looks at the other landmark Tests on the way to this milestone.
When one looks back on the 1st, 50th, 100th Tests of India and so forth till the 500th, one cannot help but notice some patterns that define Indian cricket.
India lost these landmark Tests till the 200th, before benefitting from a docile wicket in Lahore in 1982 to draw their 250th Test. From 300th onwards, they have won all the landmark Tests except the latest — the 450th, which ended in a draw.
Apart from the change of fortunes and direction of Indian cricket starting from the late 1980s, one can also discover some curiosities in these Tests. The four spinners propelled by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s captaincy ending second best against some not-so-brilliant English spinners on a turner. Rahul Dravid’s side winning in West Indies and MS Dhoni’s team settling for a draw. The home dominance in the 1990s and the 2000s, and so forth.
Here are the summaries of the landmark Tests.
1. The nation played their first Test way back in 1932, when they made the world sit up and take notice by dismissing three top-order English batsmen within the first 20 minutes. Ultimately, however, the experience of the English side won through. CK Nayudu led India in that Test.
50. The 50th Test match was played against Australia in Chennai in 1955-56, and first Richie Benaud and then Ray Lindwall ran through the side to hand them an innings defeat. Polly Umrigar led the side in that Test.
100. Pataudi led India in their 100th Test in 1967. It was at Edgbaston, on a turning track. India played all four of the spin quartet, Bishan Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, but they were outdone by the far less heralded English spinners Ray Illingworth, Robin Hobbs and Brian Close. They lost by 132 runs.
150. BS Bedi led the 150th Test, in Calcutta against Tony Greig’s Englishmen in the infamous Vaseline series 68 of 1976-77. First John Lever and then Derek Underwood skittled them out. India lost again, this time by 200 runs.
200. A flat track at Lahore helped India escape without a defeat for the first time in landmark Tests in the 200th Test. It was the first in the series of 1982 that they lost 0-3. But although Zaheer Abbas scored a double-hundred, Mohinder Amarnath responded with 109 scored over a day and the match ended with a draw. Sunil Gavaskar led in that Test.
250. Then came the first victory in such Tests. In their 250th Test, India rode debutant Narendra Hirwani’s amazing 16-wicket haul on a minefield of a wicket at Madras to beat the mighty West Indians in early 1988. Five spinners were fielded and Ravi Shastri led them.
300. In 1996 India played their 300th Test. Javagal Srinath’s extraordinary spell on the final afternoon routed the South Africans for 105 as they chased 170 to win in Ahmedabad. Sachin Tendulkar was the victorious captain in that landmark Test.
350.The 350th Test came a mere five-and-a-half years later. Sourav Ganguly led India while Tendulkar hit 176 and Zimbabwe were beaten by an innings at Nagpur.
400. The 400th was played in Kingston, in 2006. The opposition attack was ordinary, but the wicket was treacherous and captain Dravid led from the front, scoring 81 and 68, while Harbhajan Singh took 5 for 12 in the first innings and Anil Kumble 6 for 78 in the second. The match was won by 49 runs.
450. The 450th Test was again in the West Indies, this time in Bridgetown in 2011. VVS Laxman scored two 80s and Ishant Sharma took 10 wickets but West Indies managed to avoid defeat by finishing at 202 for 7 in the final innings, Darren Bravo and Carlton Baugh being the thorn in the Indian flesh.
India go into the 500th Test against New Zealand under the young Virat Kohli.
(S Chuzzlewit is a chronicler who sees the world of cricket through a sometimes light-hearted and often brutal lens)
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