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Partners in plunder: What cricketers say between the runs

It was a maniac Monday for the touring Australian team on the fourth day of March as Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara buried their opponents under a Himalaya of runs to establish India’s superiority in the second cricket Test at Uppal, Hyderabad.


Tendulkar and Kambli have been involved in several high-scoring partnerships since their school days. File Photo

By putting on 370 runs, they placed themselves higher than Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in the list of highest second-wicket partnerships for India. The Mumbai pair had amassed 344 in an unbroken stand against the West Indies at Kolkata in 1979.

Record-breaking sporting feats tickle those who are slaves of nostalgia and anecdotes. So we decided to cater to this category.

Here’s what we have for you….


Cheteshwar Pujara

‘Lax, keep your pads on’ 
In a chapter called ‘The Greatest Comeback Since Lazarus’ in John Wright’s Indian Summers, the former India coach wrote about how VVS Laxman’s bad back nearly kept him out of the playing XI in the epic Kolkata Test against Australia in 2001 when Sourav Ganguly’s Indians won despite being asked to follow-on by Australia’s Steve Waugh.

 


Murali Vijay’s 370-run second-wicket partnership demoralised the Aussies in the recent Hyderabad Test

Wright revealed how Laxman entered the dressing room after making an impression amidst the team’s first innings ruins and was soon told to keep his pads on and be ready to bat at No 3 instead of his No 6 position where he had scored 59 out of a feeble 171.

When Wright said, ‘Lax, keep your pads on. How’d you like to bat three?’ the batting stylist just ‘smiled.’ The time came for Laxman to go in at one-drop and for Dravid to enter at his demoted position of No 6.


Vijay Hazare with Polly Umrigar in the 1970s. Pic/MiD DAY Archives

Laxman has been quoted as saying that they refused to look at the end result and personal landmarks while chipping away at Australia’s victory ambitions. ‘One more over, buddy; one more over, mate’ is what was said to each other. Their enduring partnership helped India to the biggest miracle win of all time. Those who believe that the above mentioned chapter head in Wright’s book was a bit over the top may want to think again.

‘Wake me up before you go go’
Dravid and Laxman’s 376-run partnership for the fifth wicket cannot be erased from memory just like Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli’s 664-run stand for Shardashram in a Harris Shield match in 1988. In Vinod Kambli — The Lost Hero, journalist Kunal Purandare revealed that the two young turks didn’t speak to each other between overs, but sang Wham’s mega hit ‘Wake me up before you go go.’


VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid return to the pavilion after their game-changing partnership at the Eden Gardens in 2001

That the Tendulkar-Kambli combine has similarities to Brit pop duo George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley is another matter. Kambli told SUNDAY MiD DAY that there was another inter-school partnership which he can never forget: “We were playing at Cross Maidan and the bowler from the opposite camp ran in to bowl. Suddenly, a kite came in the way and I stopped the bowler.

I then took the kite and set it in flight with a surprised Sachin at the other end. I then resumed batting. We put on a significant partnership, but at the team meeting (we called it demonstration) that evening, our coach Achrekar Sir referred to point No 3 in his notes which said ‘Vinod — flying kite. Without much of a chance to explain why I did that, I felt the strength of Sir’s hands on my face. Sachin couldn’t stop laughing. He enjoyed that slap which I got! The opposition didn’t have an answer to our partnership. They didn’t turn up the next day.”


Dean Jones and Allan Border were pillars of the ’80s Australian batting line-up

‘Don’t worry?’
In his book The Cricket War, Australian historian Gideon Haigh records the time as 11.48 pm on January 24, 1978 when West Indies’ tailenders Joel Garner and Wayne Daniels were faced with a situation where they needed five runs off the last two balls to win at VFL Park in Melbourne. The two batsmen met mid-pitch to discuss strategy. In the documentary, Rookies, Rebels & Renaissance released by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Garner admitted being highly pessimistic: “With Wayne batting, I said, ‘no maan… I have not seen you hit a six in any class of cricket’ To Garner’s amazement, his fellow Barbadian tells him, ‘don’t worry’. Before Garner shot back “don’t worry??” Daniels headed to his crease armed with a SS Jumbo bat which Viv Richards made famous and stood up to Aussie pacer Mick Malone. The Western Australian had just received instructions from his captain Ian Chappell to ‘jam it down the leg side.’ Malone just did that and Daniel swirled his bat to see the ball zooming to the boundary. Game won. Daniel’s penultimate ball exploits had a role to play in Greg Chappell’s 1981 decision to order younger brother Trevor to bowl under-arm to deny New Zealander Brian McKechnie from hitting an ODI-winning six off the last ball. 

 


Joel Garner pictured at the Brabourne Stadium during the 1995 World Masters tournament in Mumbai

‘I’ll shove this bat…’
Dean Jones’ double hundred against India in the Tied Test at Chennai in 1986 is talked about in glowing terms even after a quarter of a century. Jones, playing only his third Test, reached 180 and couldn’t continue due to dehydration. He walked up to his captain Allan Border and expressed his desire to abandon his innings. Tough-as-teak Border wouldn’t have any of it. He told Jones, a proud Victorian: “okay then, let’s get a tough Queenslander in.” Border was referring to Greg Ritchie, his fellow Queenslander who was next in line to bat. Border provided some idea of Jones’ response in the Rookies, Rebels & Renaissance DVD: “Can’t mention the words he said, but ‘off’ was one of them.” Jones apparently also told his captain that he would shove his County-brand bat somewhere in his battle-hardened body. Jones went on to score 210 and contributed in Test cricket’s second tied match. Before that, he lost seven kilos in one day under the Chennai sun.

When the genius woke up
Some stories cannot have names. There was one captain who feared losing early wickets on winning the toss in a Test match against Australia at home because his key batsman had a bottle of booze and a friend for company during the entire night and wee hours of the morning of the big game. He refused to ‘wake up’ even after the team carried him to the dressing room (no 24x7 news channels in those days, thankfully for him). The batsman eventually found the energy to walk into bat at the fall of the second wicket under the unrelenting sun. He just about managed to keep the spirited bowlers at bay in the first hour but somehow stroked his way out of trouble and ended the day less than 20 runs shy of a century. What’s more, the skipper and ‘offender’ put on a century partnership after several ‘all ok now’ enquiries. He got his hundred the following day in full soberness. Unable to comprehend how it happened, the captain rightfully put it down to his man being a sheer genius.

Runs & rivalry
Yajurvindra Singh, who played for India in the late 1970s, remembers playing for a state team which had two players vying for a spot in the India team. “Both would try and outdo each other and when a tricky bowler came along, you could make out one was trying to get the other man at the other end via a quick single. In the bargain, the team gained through their fruitful partnership so the rivalry didn’t hurt anyone. Though cricket is a team game, you don’t have to be a genius to notice how relieved one partner is when the other is dismissed,” said Yajurvindra.

Do not disturb!
Indian batting stalwarts Polly Umrigar and Vijay Hazare helped themselves to centuries in the Mumbai Test of the 1952-53 series against Pakistan. Burly Umrigar got to his hundred first and showed some signs of being thrilled. He also asked for a glass of water as soon as he completed his hundred. All this disturbed the concentration of his senior colleague Hazare at the other end. The Baroda man walked up to Umrigar and said, ‘you’ve got your hundred. Now let me get mine.” Umrigar was bowled by ace pacer Fazal Mahmood for 102 while Hazare stayed unbeaten with 146 before India won by 10 wickets at the Brabourne Stadium. It was a lesson that stood Umrigar in good stead for the remainder of his Test career which ended a decade later.   

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