Mumbai Diary: Sunday shorts

The Indian team which won the Sydney Test against Australia on January 12, 1978. Sitting (L to R): Polly Umrigar (manager), Ashok Mankad, GR Vishwanath, BS Bedi (captain), Sunil Gavaskar, EAS Prasanna, S Venkatraghavan, BS Chandrasekhar. Standing (L to R): Madan Lal, Chetan Chauhan, Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Bharat Reddy, Karsan Ghavri, Anshuman Gaekwad, Syed Kirmani and Brijesh Patel.

The Indian cricket team
Pic courtesy: Australian Cricket magazine

Remember the heroes!
The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) has been a good venue for India over the years where individual performances are concerned. Ask Sachin Tendulkar who scored three tons (1991-92, 2003-04, 2007-08) in five Test visits to the eastern suburbs venue. VVS Laxman did even better there — three hundreds in four Tests (1999-2000, 2003-04, 2007-08). However, the team which boasted of the best batting line-up in the world could not witness a Test victory at the iconic ground.

Yesterday’s drawn game in the fourth and final India vs Australia Test was the first draw at the SCG since 2003-04 when Sourav Ganguly’s men had Steve Waugh’s men on the back foot. Waugh had a grand farewell to cricket, but it would have been fairytale-like had his team won the Test and with it the series.

The honours of India’s sole SCG Test win go to Bishan Singh Bedi’s 1977-78 tourists who beat a second-string (the top players were part of Kerry Packer’s cricket circus) Australian team by an innings and two runs. Australia were bowled out for 131 on the first day itself and India needed to bat only once for their famed spin attack of Bedi, Chandra and Prasanna to wreak havoc again. India posted 396 without a centurion and the top scorer was little Gundappa Vishwanath, who scored 79.

Mumbai man Karsan Ghavri was the other batting hero with a hard fought 64. For the record, the Aussie pace attack comprised a certain Jeff Thomson (4-83). His biographer David Frith wrote in Thommo: “While he operated, India could never relax. When he rested, it looked more like a club match.”

Things could have headed the hosts’ way had they also held on to their catches. The win, achieved on January 12, 1978 opened up a perfect finale in Adelaide where both teams went in with two wins apiece. Australia under recalled 41-year-old captain Bobby Simpson clinched the decider and India lost a memorable series.

A kiss on the Eiffel
As France observes a national day of mourning for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, reports stated that the lights were put off at the Eiffel Tower plunging it into darkness as part of the mourning. It took this reporter back to the time, when one visited France’s most iconic symbol on a trip to Europe.

A kiss on  the Eiffel
French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower on January 8 in Paris as the capital is placed under the highest alert status. Pic/AFP 

It was a late October evening in Paris. Lights twinkled on the Eiffel and there was a long queue for the lift to the first two, though I may not correctly remember the floors of the Eiffel. One then climbed up, as an icy wind simply scythed through the body. One of the most outstanding memories of that visit was looking at a couple sharing a kiss on one of the floors of the Eiffel. Not very surprising, given that Paris is stereotyped as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Yet, even as one was passing by the couple in the midst of a passionate smooch, one looked again and they were two women! Some Indian tourists looked like they might keel over and fall from the Eiffel altogether at the same sex couple displaying affection so openly in a public place. Yet, that was so Europe and so very, very French really.  

Meanwhile, below the Eiffel, hordes of tourists milled around at the base, and a lot of men were hawking typical tourist trivia, like small sculptures of the Eiffel tower and keychains of the building with tourists haggling madly with them. The French police would run in and chase these hawkers (they said they were illegal) and they would run away fast, only to be back in some time (it reminded one of the cat and mouse games our vendors and the BMC play from time to time).

Yet, it is the kiss that sticks most in the mind, when one rewinds to the Eiffel. Forever France. Forever Freedom. 

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