An excerpt from former BCCI secretary J Y Lele's autobiography that dwells on the controversial India vs NZ Ahmedabad Test where coach Kapil Dev forced skipper Sachin Tendulkar to reverse his follow-on decision...
THE subject of match-fixing was riding very high at that time (1999-2000). It was a Test match in Ahmedabad against New Zealand. India had put on a mammoth total of 583 runs in the first innings, against which the visitors could post only 308. Everyone expected India to impose a follow-on.
Game's greats: India coach Kapil Dev talks to skipper Sachin Tendulkar
during a training session prior to their tour game in Brisbane in 1999.
Sachin Tendulkar, captain of the Indian team, went to the opposition captain, (Stephen) Fleming, and told him that they had to bat again. He told the umpires that India was imposing a follow-on and told them to show a few balls to our opening bowlers for selection.
From there, he walked to the dressing room and instructed (Javagal) Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad to select the new ball. They nodded, and as they spoke, Kapil Dev, the Indian coach who was some distance away, shouted to Sachin, "Captain, no follow-on! Our bowlers are tired. We will bat."
Chandu Borde, then chairman of the selection committee and I, exclaimed, "What?" Why, why not impose a follow-on? Sachin, as he is a gentleman par excellence (in fact, sometimes more than required), tamely obeyed. After all, the coach of the stature of Kapil was ordering him!
(Sachin): "Haan, theek hai, paaji. Lekin maine to unako bol diya hai ke hum follow-on de rahe hai (Okay, but I have already told them that we are imposing a follow-on)." (Kapil): "To phir se jake bol do, woh maan jaayenge (So what? Tell them we are changing the decision. They will agree)."
It was ridiculous! No opening bowler had ever said they were tired. Where was the question of objection by the opponents? In fact, they would be happy that they were being saved from the disgrace of a follow-on! So, New Zealand captain Fleming gladly agreed and the match proceeded. It ended in a draw.
If the decision of not imposing a follow-on at that stage was a great shock for persons like Chandu Borde, why talk about me? What about the reaction of crores of Indian cricket fans? It created a huge wave of shock in the country. Naturally, the rumours of match-fixing and betting reached a peak! It took some time for us to recover from that shock.
It was a sheer bad and extra-cautious decision on the part of the Indian captain/coach to ensure that their side does not lose the match under any circumstances. A local cricket lover hosted a party for the Indian team at his farm-house that night.
Many BCCI officials, former players, cricket pundits and some top personalities from Ahmedabad were present. I understand that while investigating the matter for match-fixing/betting, CBI questioned Kapil on this point. Sachin was also called as a witness and I am told that he deposed that it was a team decision.
All said and done, I believe that it was strange and unusual, but a bad decision in retrospect, and it had nothing to do with match-fixing or betting. However, the decision remained one of the most controversial, as not very surprisingly, it generated rumours about the credibility of some individuals.
Excerpted with permission from I was There - Memoirs of a Cricket Administrator by J Y Lele published by The Marine Sports. Price Rs 295.00