Sandeep Patil’s maiden Test hundred will be etched in hearts of Indian fans forever. Yes, it was very much Patil-like innings, attractive and full of strokes, but what made it more special was the background.

In the first Test of India’s 1980-81 tour, Patil had to retire hurt after an entertaining 65. He had been struck on his helmet-less head by a Len Pascoe ball. In fact, that was the second body blow he took, after Rodney Hogg had struck him on the throat.

Patil’s injury was serious enough to make him be rushed to the hospital, where he was kept under observation in the intensive care unit. He wasn’t allowed to sleep for ten hours. A brave-hearted man, he came back to the ground next morning and later even batted at number eight in the second innings. He was in considerable pain as blood oozed out from his ears.  India lost the Test and Patil, couldn’t hear with his left year for a few days.

Next Test was at Adelaide and a defeat here would mean India losing the series. India invited Australia to bat, and the hosts responded by putting up 528 on the board. India were reduced to 130 for four, when Patil walked out to bat, this time donning a helmet. It was still not going to be easy against the pace trio of Dennis Lillee, Hogg and Pascoe.

Patil and opener Chetan Chauhan added 108, when the latter fell for three short of a century. Patil’s knock contained a barrage of entertaining strokes. His off-side play in particular was thrilling. He drove with precision and one of those drives off Hogg, helped him get past his fifty off just 57 balls.

After Chauhan, Patil was joined by Yashpal Sharma, as the duo went on to add 147 the sixth wicket. Patil drove Pascoe through the covers to bring up his maiden Test hundred, and it came off just 125 balls. That wasn’t enough for India and the 24-year old continued with the flood of drives as he raced past 150, and India were 371 for five at stumps on day three.

On the following day, he didn’t last long. A Hogg delivery came in sharply and Patil was trapped in the front, but not before essaying an incredible 174 off just 220 balls, having hit 22 fours and one six. India were bowled out for 419.

Tight bowling from Dilip Doshi and resilient batting from Yashpal and wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani in the second innings, helped India save the Test. In the controversy marred third Test in Melbourne, where Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar almost walked-off the field, Kapil Dev bowled a dream spell on the final day to help India level the series 1-1.