Sandeep Patil. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho.
Sandeep Patil. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho.

On January 26, 1981, as India collapsed yet again under the pressure of a huge Australian total, Sandeep Patil rescued the team by essaying one of the best knocks ever by an Indian batsman Down Under. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the brilliant 174 which came as a turning point in the series.

In the first Test, he had been struck on the head by a Len Pascoe blinder after a fascinating 65. That had been the second body blow after Rodney Hogg had struck him on the throat.

Sandeep Patil was rushed to the hospital and kept under observation in the intensive care unit, and the doctors did not allow him to sleep for ten hours. The next morning, he was discharged and came back to the ground with a throbbing pain in the ear, caused by a perforation from the blow. As India succumbed to a huge defeat, he was sent in to bat at number eight in the second innings. It is strange that captain Sunil Gavaskar asked him to bat at all. The match was already lost and Patil was still in considerable pain, blood oozing from his ears.

The young Bombay batsman, who could not hear a thing with his left ear for a number of days, spent the gap between the first and second Tests by batting at the nets with a helmet. In the interim ODI against New Zealand in the three nation series, he got a 48 against Richard Hadlee and company.

The incredible innings

The second Test at Adelaide started poorly for India. Kim Hughes piled up 213 as Australia amassed 528 by the time they were all out at tea on the second day.

The Indian reply started with grim determination, Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan digging in resolutely. They had put on 77 in more than a couple of hours when, just 6 minutes before close of play, Len Pascoe pitched one on the leg stump, and Gavaskar was bowled off his hip. India ended the second day at 79 for 1 with night-watchman Shivlal Yadav in the company of an impressive Chauhan.

The next morning witnessed an ever-familiar collapse. Yadav was caught in the slips off Bruce Yardley. Rodney Hogg trapped Gundappa Viswanath plumb in front of the wicket. And after struggling for half-an-hour, Dilip Vengsarkar padded up to a straight delivery from Dennis Lillee. Patil walked in with the score on 130 for 4.

A slice of luck graced him early on, as he was dropped at short mid-on off Yardley. Patil responded with a stunning back-foot cover drive off Pascoe and then nonchalantly lofted Yardley over mid-wicket for six, with little more than a flick of the wrists.

After lunch, Chauhan started with three crisp boundaries. And then it was all Patil. A barrage of scintillating strokes flowed through the off side, the peak of them a square drive off Pascoe. One of these drives off Rodney Hogg brought up his fifty in just 57 balls.

Chauhan, getting as close to a century as he would ever come in his career, succumbed to the second new ball, trying to late-cut Lillee. He was already in his eighties when Patil had arrived at the crease. Now, as he walked back for 97, Patil was into his eighties. And this had been one of the more enterprising knocks of the Indian opener, giving an indication of the frantic pace of Patil’s innings.

Yashpal Sharma joined Patil and proceeded to bat in his customary gutsy manner. Patil enjoyed another slice of luck when a leading edge off Yardley just eluded the cover fielder. But, the drives continued to flow, and one through the covers off Pascoe got him his hundred off just 125 balls.

It had been a tremendous counterattacking effort, and Patil continued in the same vein. An audacious drive back over Lillee’s head underlined the mood he was in. By the end of the day, India was safely perched at 371 for 5 with Patil having raced to 150.


He did not last long the next morning. After a few more sterling strokes through the covers, Rodney Hogg brought one back to trap him leg before for 174. He left with the score at 399 for eight, having hit 22 fours and a six in 240 balls. Patil returned to a standing ovation, having essayed one of the best ever knocks Down Under by an Indian batsman, and having changed the course of the series.

What followed?

Some restrictive bowling by Dilip Doshi prevented the Australians from getting the quick runs for declaration. When the innings was finally closed, India was left 75 overs to bat out. They managed to do that, but only just. Yashpal Sharma batted 157 balls for 13, Syed Kirmani faced 81 balls to score 14, and finally Karsan Ghavri and Shivlal Yadav bravely saw off the last half an hour. The match ended in a draw.

India squared the series at Melbourne, and Patil ended as the best batsman on all counts. He scored 311 runs at 62.20, at a strike rate of 77.94 — the best by far in all respects, demonstrating the ease with which he had played Lillee, Pascoe and Hogg on Australian wickets while most of his teammates had struggled throughout the tour.

Brief scores:

Australia 528 (Graeme Wood 125, Kim Hughes 213, Allan Border 57; Dilip Doshi 3 for 146, Shivlal Yadav 4 for 143) and 221 for 7 decl. (Greg Chappell 52, Kim Hughes 53; Dilip Doshi 3 for 49) drew with India 419 (Chetan Chauhan 97, Sandeep Patil 174, Yashpal Sharma 47; Dennis Lillee 4 for 80) and 135 for 8 (Len Pascoe 3 for 32).

Man of the Match: Kim Hughes.

(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)