Celebrating the 40th anniversary of India's 1976 win over WI in Trinidad where BS Bedi's team successfully chased 403
For all those selfie-driven smarties likely to respond to an article commemorating 40 years of India defeating the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1976 as overblown nostalgia, wait. I have a startling comment to make.
The Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad. Pic/Getty Images
This was the moment that India grew up. That's right, grew up. Not Indian cricket, but India. I don't think India grew up when it beat England at The Oval in 1971. The Oval victory was probably more celebrated because our colonial hangover decreed that if it was against England that we beat then it was like beating the world. The Oval victory was also probably more celebrated because it was largely a Bombay-driven achievement (captain, manager, prima donna etc). The Oval victory will also live longer in our memory because when the Indian team returned, there was a motorcade leading the team from the airport into the city; later, they were presented before the Prime Minister herself for the official shabaash. Drama lives longer in our memory.
But if you wipe this sheen, then you recognise that the West Indies team of 1975-76 was stronger than the England (or even the jaded West Indies team) of 1971 – Fredericks, Rowe, Richards, Kallicharran, Lloyd, Murray, Julien, Holding (himself!), Imtiaz Ali, Padmore and Jumadeen. Besides, West Indies had thrashed India in the first Test; India had folded in a territory match in just two and a half days thereafter (I know because commentator Kishore Bhimani still complains he was not paid from the third day onwards because there was no work to be done). With India trailing 0-1, nobody was really giving the side any chance.
WI skipper Clive Lloyd watches a Mohinder Amarnath sweep shot
And so it appeared after both teams had completed their first innings in that third Test at Port of Spain in Trinidad. West Indies scored 359; India made 228. From first glance, India appeared to be heading for another rout. But with the benefit of informed hindsight, one can read between the scorecard to indicate that the West Indies score had largely been built around one man.
Richards (177) accounted for nearly half the West Indies total; five West Indies batsmen scraped an aggregate two runs among themselves; if Richards had been dismissed for none (speculatively speaking), the great West Indies might not even have scraped 200. There is one more compelling detail: all the Indian bowlers (save Bedi and Chandra) bowled an aggregate 47 overs for no wicket; the two spinners bowled 62 and accounted for all ten West Indian wickets. Crazy.
Anshuman Gaekwad, Sunil Gavaskar and GR Vishwanath at Trinidad in 1976
And now comes the big surprise. In the second innings, West Indies scored 271 for six before Lloyd called his batsmen in and attempted an outright victory. And then India went right ahead, chased more than 400 in the fourth innings, surprised all the morning radio-glued listeners when they pulled it off.
Gavaskar 102. Gaekwad 28. Amarnath 85. Vishwanath 112. Brijesh Patel 49. India won with six wickets to spare. Commentator Jasdev Singh, who was on the air at the time, went hoarse about how this was a victory for Ms Gandhi and her Emergency policies. Bloody hell.
What do I remember? That Michael Holding, who had taken six wickets in the first innings, got none in the second. That West Indies bowled 147 overs but could technically take only two wickets (the other two batsmen ran themselves out). That West Indies used seven bowlers - without success.
Ah yes. India went into the last Test at Kingston and finished at 168 for one on the first day. By which time Lloyd's goose appeared to be cooked. West Indies were to tour England and the selectors might have concluded that they needed another leader.
Which is when our man Lloyd threw the ball to Holding, the crowd yelled 'Kill 'im Maikaaal', Holding switched to round the wicket, bowled shorter than he ever had, forgot for the next couple of days that there was something called a stump and the result is that after India's finest inflection point, we lost the Test in four days and Sportsweek ran pictures of India's heroes landing at the airport with bandages and slings.
Two months later, the same Clive Lloyd took this tentative team to England, Viv Richards scored more than 800 runs, West Indies thrashed England and from that point started a period of cricketing supremacy that Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley once described as the longest undisputed supremacy by any team in any sport across any time.
So just remember that India was the last team that ever made the West Indies appear human. And it was probably the first real time that a pan-Indian side planted a germ of an India that would one day evolve into cricket's next big Super Power. It started 40 years ago this very day, never forget.