Sunil Gavaskar (left) scored 102 while Gundappa Viswanath made 112 as India chased down a record total of 406 against the West Indies    Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar (left) scored 102 while Gundappa Viswanath made 112 as India chased down a record total of 406 against the West Indies Getty Images

On April 12, 1976, India chased down a record 406 for 4 in the fourth innings to pull off a sensational victory. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a run-chase that changed the world of cricket forever.

Both teams had been fuming when the series began. The West Indians, for their 1-5 humiliation at the hands of the Australians Down Under; the Indians, for the atrocious umpiring dished out to them in New Zealand which had caused even the very quiet Bhagwat Chandrasekhar to lose his composure.

The West Indians had won the first Test at Kensington Oval by an innings with the aid of the spin of David Holford. The second Test at Queen s Park Oval was drawn, though the Indians were quite close to a victory, and would probably have won it, had the first day s play not been washed out. Sunil Gavaskar scored a spectacular 156, following his 124 and 220 in his previous at this venue in 1971. He would eventually finish with 793 runs from 5 Tests 99.12 and 4 hundreds at Queen s Park Oval.

The third Test was scheduled at Bourda, but due to the heavy downpour, it had to be shifted to Queen s Park Oval. The Indians were obviously happy to return to their favourite West Indian ground the only one where they had won a Test till date. The pitch looked like it would offer some turn, which made both sides to go in with three spinners.

India s spin troika comprised Bishan Bedi, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Chandra, while West Indies, in the absence of Holford, decided to go in with off-spinner Albert Padmore, leg-spinner Imtiaz Ali, and left-arm spinner Raphick Jumadeen. In terms of experience and calibre, the two line-ups were simply not comparable: Jumadeen was playing his fifth Test, and both Imtiaz Ali and Jumadeen were making their Test debut. Clive Lloyd had possibly missed out on a trick by leaving out Andy Roberts, his most experienced fast bowler.

West Indies first innings: Richards confronts Indian spinners

Lloyd won the toss and did what all sensible captains would have done on a track that promised turn. The West Indian openers put up 45, but there was a mini-collapse when Chandra took 3 wickets to reduce West Indies to 52 for 3. This brought Viv Richards and Lloyd together.

The duo added 124 runs in quick time, Lloyd dominating the partnership with a lightning 68 with 9 fours and a six. By now, Richards had completed his evolution from a master of quick cameos to a big-innings player. He had a reprieve when Syed Kirmani dropped him on 72. He did not look back from there, adding 51 with Deryck Murray and 107 more with Bernard Julien.

Once Richards fell to Bedi for 177 (his third century in 3 Tests) with 23 fours and 2 sixes, West Indies collapsed from 334 for 5 to 359 on the second morning. Chandra had taken 6 for 120, while Bedi took 4 for 73.

Indian first innings: Holding wrecks Indians

After 5 consecutive fifties (and 3 consecutive hundreds), Gavaskar finally failed at Port-of-Spain: he scored only 26, resulting in a lot of angry murmurs from people who had lost their bets on him scoring a fourth consecutive hundred at the ground.

However, though eight Indians went into double figures, none of them made it to fifty, and Michael Holding (who, to quote Gavaskar, “always seemed to relish bowling after lunch”) kept on taking wickets, finishing with 6 for 65. India finished with 228, 131 runs behind, midway through the third day. Did West Indies miss Roberts, given how successful Holding turned out to be? We will never know.

West Indies second innings: Kallicharran comes good

Just like their first innings, the West Indian second innings, too, saw 3 quick wickets. Alvin Kallicharran, though, batted sensibly, and reached a brilliant hundred with 8 fours. Though the Indian spinners could not bowl out West Indies, they restricted them to 2.59 runs an over (thereby delaying the declaration), and picked up all 6 wickets to fall (therefore making it 16 out of 16).

Lloyd declared as soon as Kallicharran reached his hundred with the score on 271 for 6. He had probably thought 403 was a target formidable enough for his rookie spinners to defend. It was, after all, a world record target, the pitch was already providing some turn, and he had three spinners each one different from the other.

The chase begins

A target of 403 looked far away considering the fact that India had never chased more than 256. Saving the Test was the only option available to them so it seemed. The presence of Gavaskar, Anshuman Gaekwad, Mohinder Amarnath, Gundappa Viswanath, Brijesh Patel, Eknath Solkar, Madan Lal and Kirmani meant that they had a long batting line-up, with Bedi and Chandra the only real bunnies.

With some grit and determination they might be able to salvage a draw and keep the series alive. Gavaskar wrote later: “I was confident that we could save the game because the wicket was still good; but the thought of winning never entered my mind.”

Ironically, it was Gavaskar who began the onslaught. He looked in regal touch from the very first ball, and took the attack to Holding and Julien. Surprisingly, Lloyd delayed the advent of spin, and came on first-change himself, after the initial spells from his main fast bowlers.

Gaekwad, to his credit, hung around, providing excellent support to his senior partner, and 50 was up pretty soon. Then Jumadeen struck: Gaekwad fell for 28, caught by Kallicharran, and India were 69 for 1.

Amarnath walked out to the crease. He was in decent form, and was finally given a run in the first-down slot. Amarnath s calm, reassured presence encouraged Gavaskar to go for his strokes; the great man went all-out at the attack, and how! The West Indians had seen the dogged defence of Gavaskar, but this was the Little Master at his aggressive best. Lord Realtor s A Lovely Day of Cricket began in a chant all over the stadium, as Gavaskar cover-drove Julien for four and, in a more brilliant stroke, on-drove Holding to the fence.

Mohinder, solid in his impeccable defence, provided Gavaskar with all the support he needed. While Gavaskar blasted the inexperienced spin trio, Amarnath displayed a more cautious and studious approach, providing the perfect sangat to the great man s onslaught.

India finished the day at 134 for 1, still requiring 269 in 6 hours on the final day. Gavaskar remained not out on 86 with 12 fours, and Amarnath hung in with a grim 14.

The Fifth Day

Gavaskar looked a completely different batsman on the final day. He tried his level-best, but could not find the timing of the previous day. The spinners who had been treated with disdain now began to dominate him. He was fortunate to reach his hundred trying to sweep Padmore, only to find the lob behind Roy Fredericks as he scampered for a couple of runs.

Soon afterwards, while attempting to drive Jumadeen, Gavaskar missed the line, and was stumped by Murray. Though he had not edged it, he was given out caught behind. However, it did not matter, since he was out stumped anyway. He had scored 102 in 245 minutes with 13 fours, and India were 177 for 2, still requiring 236.

Viswanath joined Mohinder, and just like Gavaskar, looked at complete ease from the very beginning. He batted fluently against the spinner, driving and cutting with panache. Amaranth, on the other hand, was the epitome of patience, and after surviving a caught-and-bowled chance off Imtiaz Ali, seemed completely immovable from the crease. India went to lunch at 197 for 2.

The spinners did not have an impact, but Lloyd decided to pursue with them, not opting to take the second new ball, delaying the decision by 29 overs. When he eventually took the cherry at 223 for 2, Viswanath was already well-set, and responded by square-cutting Holding to the point boundary with uncharacteristic power.

The new ball also meant that runs came at a rapid rate (37 runs were added in the first 8 overs), and slowly, very slowly, the possibility of a win crept into the hearts of the Indians. Mohinder seemed content to rotate the strike, while Viswanath attacked with supreme authority. Lloyd even tried the Chinamen of Fredericks, but it did not reap fruits. Viswanath reached his first overseas hundred with an exquisite cover-drive just after tea, and India looked well on track for a miraculous victory.

It was then that a false chord was struck and the batsmen were stranded midway while attempting a single. Viswanath was run out for 112 from 220 minutes with 15 fours, and India were 336 for 3, still requiring 67. India reached the final hour with 65 to score from the mandatory overs.

Brijesh s aggressive batting was exactly what was required in the situation. Now, with the Test getting out of hand, Lloyd finally went on defensive, spreading his fielders to the fence. But the runs still kept coming. Amarnath opened up now, and began to match Brijesh stroke to stroke. In the panic, there were byes, leg-byes, and mis-hits as well, and India seemed to be closing down on an incredible victory.

A section of the gallery, presumably originating from Uttar Pradesh, began to chant devotional Indian songs. The Indians cruised along. With only 11 runs left, a fatigued Amarnath was run out as Lloyd threw the stumps down with a direct hit from cover after scoring 86 runs in 440 minutes. Though the two Little Masters had scored hundreds, and Brijesh had given the final touch, Amarnath s role was of no less significance. Not only he was at the crease for over 7 hours, he ensured that the strike was rotated throughout his tenure. In a way he turned out to be the fulcrum of the Indian run-chase.

Then, with 7 overs in hand, Brijesh finally pulled Jumadeen for four to bring up the required runs. The crowd, especially from the Indian-dominated Northern Hills, rushed down to congratulate their heroes. The group included Phil Thomson who had been there when Don Bradman s side had scored 404 for three nearly 28 years back, and now was an eye-witness of the chase that had broken that record.

To quote Gavaskar, “the champagne really flowed”. He also added that “this was undoubtedly India s greatest Test victory”.

KN Prabhu, watching the final day with CLR James for company, wrote: “India scored a victory over West Indies with few parallels”.

Mihir Bose wrote, “in many ways that was an even more satisfying victory than the one in 1971”.

The aftermath

Lloyd was furious at the impotence of his spinners. He slammed them in the dressing-room that evening with the words “Gentlemen, I gave you 400 runs to bowl at and you failed to bowl out the opposition. How many runs must I give you in future to make sure you get the wickets?”

The wounds of the 1-5 defeat had still not healed when the Queen s Park Oval defeat came. When West Indies fielded their team in the fourth Test at Sabina Park, Wayne Daniel and Vanburn Holder were there to accompany Holding and Julien. The Indians were battered with bouncers and even beamers from the foursome, and Bedi had to declare both innings closed, at 306 for 6 and at 97 for 5. West Indies romped to victory by 10 wickets.

The decision was taken. West Indies would field four fast bowlers. Roberts was back. Joel Garner and Colin Croft came along, then the greatest of them Malcolm Marshall. By the time they had quit, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and Ian Bishop had arrived on the scene. Test cricket would never be the same. Batsmen would be tormented, bruised, hospitalised and decimated. Most importantly, the helmet would have to be invented. Everything changed. Just because of that one run-chase.

Brief Scores:

West Indies 359 (Viv Richards 177, Clive Lloyd 68, Bernard Julien 47; Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 6 for 120, Bishan Bedi 4 for 73) and 271 for 6 decl. (Alvin Kallicharran 103*) lost to India 228 (Madan Lal 42, Gundappa Viswanath 41; Michael Holding 6 for 65) and 406 for 4 (Sunil Gavaskar 102, Gundappa Viswanath 112, Mohinder Amarnath 85, Brijesh Patel 49*) by 6 wickets.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components cricket and literature though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)