England had already won the 1976-77 Test series in the third Test at Chennai, but our victory in the fourth Test at Bangalore revitalised us. There was the feeling of confidence and we seemed more assured of ourselves and our abilities.
The fifth Test in Mumbai ended in a draw. It could have produced a three-way result on the last day.
The Test match had some anxious and distinct moments. The first was the sudden death of President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The question was whether the match would be played at all. This was very diplomatically settled as the Bombay Cricket Association had sold tickets for all the five days and we had nearly 60,000 people each day of the match.
An incident involving Gavaskar and me is worth mentioning here. Sunil had just bought a brand new Premier Padmini. The proud owner enticed me to take a ride with him rather than take the bus. So we bade farewell to our teammates, who in fact were only going to the nearby Taj Mahal Hotel. Comfortably seated in the new gleaming vehicle, Sunil tried valiantly to start the engine. Signs of failure were written all over his face. By then a crowd gathered around us and to our utter disbelief became violent. They wanted a piece of the great Gavaskar and in doing so, became a mob. Sunil decided he had had enough and showed true bravado. He somehow got out of the car and stood on the bonnet, with people touching him all over.
In Marathi he told them to injure him so that he will not be able to play the match. For me, the comfort and safety of the car was the best option. Gavaskar on the other hand, stood firm and solid on the bonnet of his new car challenging the mob to hit him like he did to countless fast bowlers around the globe. Well, sanity did prevail and no one was prepared to throw the first stone. We managed to subdue the crowd finally and also got them to push the car for us to start it.
The next day Gavaskar scored a scintillating century. This innings was the platform for us to get past the 300 runs. In the match, he also happened to open the bowling and was warned for running on the wicket as well as for excessive bouncers. England played their innings very cautiously. Mike Brearley batted eternally for his 91. Although England had a good start, the turn and spin in the wicket got us a small lead in the first innings.
The highlight for me was the bowling of Prasanna. He bowled with such guile and skill that I could field just an arm’s length away from the batsmen at forward short leg. Prasanna was also my room partner. He was very upset with Tolchard as he countered his spin by either padding the ball or kicking it by dancing down the wicket. The canny Pras decided he had to get the better of him and he along with Kirmani, our wicketkeeper, made a plan.
On a certain ball in the middle of the over, he would bowl a wide down the legside, when he saw Tolchard leave his crease. I naturally became a part of it, because a swing of Tolchard’s bat could be dangerous for me. Somehow, Prasanna managed to keep Tolchard quiet for the first three balls. Pras then had this feeling that in the next delivery Tolchard would try and come out of his crease to play his customary football.
The plan was hatched with a wink and a smile. Tolchard rushed out like a cat on a hot tin roof and Prasanna bowled a fast wide delivery well down the legside. Kirmani went way down the leg to complete a satisfying stumping. Tolchard stood helpless in the middle of the wicket. He must have felt like a child who was taught a good lesson. Prasanna was so thrilled with his victory, that he ran a lap around the mid-field and was exhausted to bowl the next delivery. Prasanna was a thinking bowler and this incident brought it out so wonderfully. Later, Kirmani and I were the beneficiaries of a nice meal courtesy the spin master.