Ian Chappell    Getty Images
Ian Chappell Getty Images

While typically considered a hard-nosed man with scant regard for authorities, Ian Chappell held cricket and its spirit in very high esteem. Thus, when wicketkeeper Ray Jordon did something not cricket on December 21, 1969, Chappelli did not show any mercy. Abhishek Mukherjee recalls an oft-forgotten incident.

The 1969-70 win was Australia s last on Indian soil for 35 years, but that was not all that there was to it. The series was played amidst turmoil, and things often turned ugly in the Tests at Bombay, Calcutta, and Bangalore. Australia won the Test 3-1.

The series started amidst controversy when Vijay Merchant had a word with Subrata Guha on the morning of the first Test, left him out, and included Srinivas Venkataraghavan. When Venkat was given out wrongly, commentator Devraj Puri made his discontentment heard on All India Radio. This led to a riot in the stadium. Objects were thrown on the ground, chairs were set fire to, and John Gleeson was hit by a bottle. Armed police escorted the tourists for the remainder of the tour.

There were thousands protesting against the inclusion of Doug Walters in the side at Calcutta for they believed that he had fought against Vietnam with the Australian forces. They were misled, but the protests happened anyway. Later, on the fourth day, there was some violence in front of the ticket counter, resulting in six deaths. Once again stones were pelted.

When Australia reached Bangalore, they were already 2-1 up in the series with the Madras Test to play. However, South Zone was always a difficult proposition. Before I narrate the incident, let me provide a quick recap of what happened.

South Zone declared on 239 for 9 in the second morning. Then captain Bill Lawry played the kind of innings that he was famous for: he hit 9 fours and 5 sixes, scored 120, and yet the tourists collapsed for 195 against one of the most lethal spin attacks in history: EAS Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, VV Kumar, and Venkat.

The inning was not without event. There was outrage when Lawry refused to take strike till a certain lady in a brightly coloured sari took a stroll in front of the sightscreen. Lawry ended up getting accused of disrespecting Indian women. More stone-throwing followed.

South Zone then set Australia exactly 200, in 170 minutes. The tourists struggled against Prasanna, who finished with figures of 14-10-11-6. They eventually saved the match despite being reduced to 53 for 8. They did not lose another wicket. The match was cut short by four minutes after another incident of stone-pelting. The police had to resort to lathi-charge. Obviously, Lawry was there till the end.

The incident in question took place on the second morning when India were batting. Prasanna had hung around defiantly, helping Venkat rescue India from 175 for 7.

Connolly was bowling to Prasanna. Ray Jordon (Brian Taber was rested) was standing up to the stumps for him. Ian Chappell had a full view of what happened: the ball passed Prasanna s bat; it also passed the stumps; and then, the off-stump was knocked forward, defying quite a few laws of physics.

Jordon had obviously knocked the stump. Prasanna, realising what had happened, refused to leave. Then Jordon sledged him, and Prasanna, perhaps too polite to stay back, made his way towards the pavilion.

The match took its course, but Chappell did not forget the incident. Australia were humiliated 0-4 in South Africa on the same extended tour. After losing at Cape Town and Durban, Lawry mulled over the selection of Jordon. Taber had, after all, got 11, 15, 6, and 0, and Australia definitely needed to boost their batting.

So Lawry had a discussion with Chappell, his deputy. This was the same Chappell whose side would get labelled Ugly Australians ; who would get banned for three weeks, turn up for the hearing with a beer and a cigar, and get slapped another six-week ban; whose animosity with Ian Botham had reached such levels that they went for each other s throats as recently as this decade; and who swore at Kerry Packer, at that point his employer.

No, Chappell was not known for his demeanour. However, despite not being the politest of men, he respected cricket and its laws too much to accept anyone showing disregard towards the sport at least in those early days of his Test career.

But this was a different Ian Chappell, the kind not very known to fans: You are the captain and you can pick whatever team you like, but if you are going to pick Ray Jordon in the Australian cricket team, please don t consider me for selection. I m not available.

Jordon never played a Test. His domestic career, for Victoria, got over a season later.

Brief scores:

South Zone 239 for 9 decl. (Abid Ali 40, Kenia Jayantilal 41, Srinivas Venkataraghavan 42*; Laurie Mayne 4 for 67) and 155 for 6 decl. drew with Australians 195 (Bill Lawry 120; Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 4 for 55) and 90 for 8 (EAS Prasanna 6 for 11).