Never thanda Down Under

As the Indian cricket team left for its Australia tour yesterday, here are some funny anecdotes concerning past trips to Oz

Duck 'n' pluck
After India's tour game against Victoria on the 1947-48 tour, the Indian team led by Lala Amarnath, attended a function hosted by the Victoria Cricket Association in Melbourne. It was announced there, that some Indian players would be presented with souvenirs for their performance in the match. The Indians were sure that the skipper, who scored an unbeaten double century in the game, would be called up on stage to receive his prize.

Lala Amarnath

To their surprise, Vinoo Mankad, Khandu Rangnekar and Vijay Hazare were given souvenirs, which were toy ducks for their zeroes in the game. The honours were done by Victorian captain, Lindsay Hassett, who went on to lead Australia after Don Bradman quit the international scene in 1948. In his book, My Story, Hazare wrote, "Fortunately, the toy duck did not carry any ill omen for me in the later matches and I still have it in my possession." As India vs Australia history tells us, Hazare scored two hundreds in the Adelaide Test of that series. 

Now, where?
Cricket writer G K Menon remembers his friend Khandu Rangnekar telling him about an incident, which took place in the Adelaide Test of the 1947-48 series when Sir Don Bradman scored a double century. "Khandu used to tell me how Vinoo Mankad wanted him to go back from his deep mid-on position when Bradman was driving balls to the boundary through that area," recalled Menon. "Ultimately, Rangnekar reached the boundary ropes with regularity. And when Bradman hit a six, Rangnekar asked Mankad, 'Now where do you want me to stand, Vinoobhai?'"

Field day
While waxing eloquent on the batting skills of Dilip Sardesai, former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi also spoke about Sardesai's "abilities" as a fielder and his presence of mind. All this while delivering the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture in 2010.

Said Bedi before the audience at the C K Nayudu Hall at the Cricket Club of India (CCI). "During the Adelaide Test (of the 1967-68 series), Ian Redpath and Paul Sheahan were going for the sixth run when Dilip was still chasing the ball.  He then dived and pushed the ball to the boundary. The umpire couldn't give six; he said four." Bedi's audience was in splits at the lesson on how to save energy and runs in one push.

To die?
Anshuman Gaekwad, who arrived as replacement for the injured Surender Amarnath on the 1977-78 tour of Australia, was flabbergasted when he heard an Australian official at the Melbourne Cricket Ground asking him, "Have you come here to die?" Though speed demon Jeff Thomson was Australia's pace spearhead in that series, there was no way the gutsy Gaekwad was going to get bogged down by big names, so he let out an emphatic "no" in response. When he was asked again, his captain Bishan Singh Bedi came to the rescue and informed his bespectacled batsman that all the official was asking was whether, "he had come here today," in Aussie accent. He had thought today was 'to die'.

Fast one
Kim Hughes may have thought he could handle the guile of Bishan Singh Bedi when he hit the India captain to the member's stand at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for a six during the 1977-78 series. Two balls later, he drove Bedi for a four. When Hughes tried to play the cut shot, he saw his furniture rattled by a faster one from Bedi. In Golden Boy, a book on Hughes written by Christian Ryan, the author quotes Craig Serjeant, a member of that Australian team as saying, "Didn't know Bish bowled a quicker ball. No one in Australia had seen it and it wasn't discussed in team meetings." Ryan also quotes Steve Waugh, who was watching the Test as a 12-year-old. "A victory for brains over brawn," said Waugh.

Wife warning
A member of the Indian team on one of the tours to Australia invited touring journalists to his room one morning.

The writers believed there was some important announcement (of course, there was no 'breaking news' the constant in-your-face refrain on TV nowadays). They duly gathered in the team member's room only to be informed that his wife was coming over from India to join him on the morrow. "So, what can we do for you?" asked a journalist. "A lot," he replied. "Please do not make any mention of my female friends here." The journos agreed, but went laughing back to their rooms.

Blowers bite
This one's from Khalid Ansari's tour diary from India's 1980-81 series in Australia (Sportsweek February 8, 1981): "British commentator and correspondent Henry 'Blowfly' Blofeld (also nicknamed 'Blowers') came dangerously close to having to eat his hat, as India saved the Adelaide Test by the proverbial skin of the teeth. Blofeld had predicted in his column in 'The Australian' on the third day of the Adelaide Test that there was no way the match played as it was on a beautiful batting strip, could produce a result. Blofeld, who brought his bowler hat to the ground on the last day, waited with plate, salt and pepper, fork and knife in front of him as the Indian batsmen played out the last few agonising moments."

Sunny ways
Sunil Gavaskar, who captained India on the 1980-81 tour of Australia, was at his wry best after his team lost the opening Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground held the week after Christmas. After Greg Chappell's Australians helped themselves to an innings victory, Gavaskar was quoted as saying, "We gave away our wickets like Christmas presents... trouble is, we Indians don't celebrate Christmas!"

Walkout wise
Sunil Gavaskar made the 1980-81 Melbourne Test 'famous' for his walkout when umpire Rex Whitehead wrongly adjudged him leg before wicket (lbw) off Dennis Lillee.

Gavaskar took his opening partner Chetan Chauhan with him as soon as he heard one of the Australians let out an expletive. The assistant manager Wing Commander Shahid Durrani ensured Chauhan resumed his innings with new batsman Dilip Vengsarkar.

To his credit, Gavaskar led his team superbly, as expert Richie Benaud pointed out, to a splendid win, which squared the series 1-1. The infamous walkout among other action in that Test was shown to viewers when rain stopped play during the early stages of the India vs Australia Brisbane Test in 2003. Some of his fellow commentators including Ian Chappell got Gavaskar to watch the footage with them in match referee Mike Procter's room and took the mickey out of the little Indian. "Now, now, here is where you lost it, Sunny," they pointed out amidst laughter in the room as the television camera showed the dismissal. Gavaskar then revealed the genesis of the walkout; It was wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani who said in a team meeting that the team should walkout if yet another decision didn't go in their favour.

That's how 'walkout' was in Gavaskar's mind before he actually did it.

Dilip Sardesai

Tee hee!
T E Srinivasan, who died last year from a brain tumour, was believed to have had a good sense of humour. When he arrived in Australia for the 1980-81 series, he apparently told one of the members of the press, "Tell Dennis (Lillee) that T E has arrived." It must be stressed that T E insisted that there was no truth to this yarn. Anyway, when India faced up to Lillee for the first time on tour -- in the B & H World Series Cup triangular game at Melbourne, the scoreboard showed: T E Srinivasan c G Chappell b D Lillee 6.

Lillee put
Sandeep Patil probably surprised himself when he got the Man of the Match award in his first international game Down Under. Patil scored 64 before being dropped thrice by Dennis Lillee while fielding on the fine leg boundary. Only a day before the tie, Patil admitted to feeling overawed at the sight of Lillee at practice. He got out
 -- bowled by Greg Chappell at 1:26 pm.
A little under two hours earlier, he wanted to, as he wrote in his autobiography, Sandy Storm, run away when Lillee started his run-up.

Lost lungi
On India's 1980-81 tour of Australia, Team India members, according to Sandeep Patil, used to keep leaving things behind at the various hotels they stayed in and manager Wing Commander Durrani as well as skipper Sunil Gavaskar, kept receiving parcels from the previous venues. It also incurred costs for the manager. Finally, fed up with the team members' carelessness, they introduced a stiff $50 fine for anybody who left behind their stuff. During a team meeting on the tour, a sealed plastic bag was received. The contents happened to be a lungi.

Since Shivlal Yadav was seen wearing the same lungi, he was made to pay the fine. Till today, says Patil, Yadav denies the lungi belonged to him. Incidentally, Yadav, who is called lungi by his former teammates, is manager of the current team in Australia.

Aluminum ahoy
In Kapil Dev's first autobiography, By God's Decree written in collaboration with Vinay Verma, the great Indian all-rounder's conversation with an official at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport in 1980 went like this:
Official: Any curry in your kit bag?
Kapil: No
Official: Any articles of wood?
Kapil: No, sir. I only use aluminum bats.

Kapil's sense of humour must be appreciated; for being timely too. Only the previous season, Dennis Lillee had got into trouble with his aluminum bat, which he walked out with, in the Perth Test against England. Opposition skipper Mike Brearley objected to it being used and Lillee flung the bat on to the outfield when the umpires found Brearley's objection valid.

Nappy snappy
Baby-faced Parthiv Patel on his third overseas international tour, didn't shy away from sledging Steve Waugh during the Australian icon's last Test innings -- at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2004.

Wrote Waugh in his autobiography Out of My Comfort Zone: "Parthiv Patel chirped at me with a sly, 'Let's finish it off with a slog sweep.'

The quip was music to my ears. Firstly, it engaged me into a chat, which I never minded, and secondly, it had come from a young pup. The art of good banter is to come back quickly and with something that hits the mark. Quite calmly I swung around and said to his face, 'Listen, mate, how about showing a bit of respect? When I played my first Test, you were still running around in nappies.'"

India vs Australia Test match schedule
Monday December 26 to Friday December 30
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne 
Tuesday, January 3 to Saturday, January 7
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney 
Friday, January 13 to Tuesday, January 17
WACA, Perth 
Tuesday, January 24 to Saturday, January 28
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide 

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