Clayton Murzello: When Class of '86 topped for India

Remembering Kapil Dev’s history-making Indian cricket team in the week of the Lord’s Test victory’s 30th anniversary

The summer of 1986 is 30 years old — an English summer extremely significant in the annals of Indian cricket. For, the year witnessed India’s first ever Test victory at Lord’s and never (nor since) had India beaten England 2-0 in an away Test series.

Wicketkeeper Kiran More, slip fielder Ravi Shastri and close-in fielder Chandrakant Pandit appeal as England captain Mike Gatting and bowler Maninder Singh watch last man Graham Dilley (not in picture) getting run out, to give India a series win at Leeds on June 23, 1986. Pic/Graham Morris
Wicketkeeper Kiran More, slip fielder Ravi Shastri and close-in fielder Chandrakant Pandit appeal as England captain Mike Gatting and bowler Maninder Singh watch last man Graham Dilley (not in picture) getting run out, to give India a series win at Leeds on June 23, 1986. Pic/Graham Morris

If Raj Singh Dungarpur, the manager of that team, were living, nothing less than a wholesome celebration at his beloved Cricket Club of India would have been arranged for the 30th anniversary.

Raj Singh would often marvel at that Kapil Dev-led team whose batting arsenal stretched to No 8. That’s where the skipper batted in the first innings of the 1986 Lord’s Test which was highlighted by his bowling performance (match analysis of 5 for 119), the batting of Dilip Vengsarkar (126* & 33), who became the first overseas player to score three consecutive centuries at Lord’s, and Chetan Sharma’s fifer in England’s first innings.

Vengsarkar rates the 1986 ton as the best among his three at Lord’s because it set up India’s first Test win at the fabled venue.

Chetan Sharma, who had to cope with the aftershocks of letting Javed Miandad hit his famous last-ball six in April of that year at Sharjah, earned a mention on the Lord’s honours board. But the man-of-the-match award went to Kapil Dev for his five wickets in the Test, which included a riveting spell on the fourth morning that sent back Tim Robinson, Graham Gooch and David Gower.

Kapil Dev’s big-hitting off Eddie Hemmings that avoided the follow-on at the same venue four years later has got legendary status, but those who followed the 1986 Lord’s Test will remember his 10-ball 23 (4x4, 1x6) which sealed England’s fate on June 10. Henry Blofeld reported in ‘Sportsweek’ that a “brilliant cover drive was followed by a square cut and then a sweep for four and then a six. Lord’s has hardly seen a better finish to a Test match.”

Not many England captains get sacked after a Test match loss to India, but it happened to Gower after that five-wicket defeat. Gower had led England to a rare series win in India in the winter of 1984-85 but the Lord’s Test loss extended England’s losing streak, which included five defeats to West Indies in the Caribbean that year.

English cricket was in the depths of despair and less than a fortnight later, football fans there had to deal with the Diego Maradona Hand of God-caused exit from the football World Cup in Mexico. That heart-breaking loss coincided with the rest day of the second Test at Leeds, where India won by 279 runs. This time, centurion Vengsarkar did not miss out on the man-of-the-match award. His second century of the series was another exhibition of flawless batting. Vengsarkar later revealed that he played the entire England series with extra determination — to prove to his detractors what he is capable of after being dropped from the one-day side for the first two games of the Australasia Cup in Sharjah.

The Leeds Test saw S Madan Lal making a comeback (due to an injury to Chetan Sharma) and he did his bit by claiming the wickets of Wilfred Slack, Chris Smith and Bill Athey in England’s first innings.

“I was playing for Ashton Club in the Lancashire League. One evening, while a few English friends and I were heading to an Indian restaurant, I saw the Indian team bus on the road and stopped to say hello to them. A few days later, I got a call asking me to be part of the team,” Madan Lal told me yesterday.

After the Test, the all-rounder joined the champagne-laced celebrations and left immediately to resume duty at Ashton while Chetan Sharma got fit for the third and final Test at Edgbaston. Madan Lal did not play Test cricket again.

The team management summoned Madan Lal despite having young pacer Manoj Prabhakar in the reserves. However, former Rajasthan Ranji Trophy pacer Pradeep Sunderam claims he was the first stand-by for the tour and was in England playing for Dulwich in the Surrey championships but the team management said they couldn’t find him in England. In November 1985, Sunderam claimed 10 wickets in an innings for Rajasthan in a Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha.

The Edgbaston Test was drawn with both teams standing a chance to win it on the final day. In his book ‘Cricket My Style’, Kapil Dev revealed that an America-based Indian businessman, Shankar Ramani offered to present the team $10,000 if they whitewashed England, but when India’s victory chances receded, Ramani graciously offered half the amount.

Indeed, 1986 was an English summer to remember for India.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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