Tomorrow, Saturday February 23, Indian cricket can look back and smile at a memorable victory one that saw the champagne cork pop in the dressing room and the fizzy bubbly match the spirits of celebrating players.
While cricket lovers struggle to comprehend how Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Test men have inexplicably endured two whitewashes over 2011 and 2012 abroad, it is with a twinge of nostalgic pleasure that one can reminisce about India’s 3-0 whitewash of England achieved at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on February 23, 1993.
Sachin Tendulkar was still in his teens and his childhood friend Vinod Kambli emerged as India’s new Test star. Kambli cracked a double century against England in the third Test at Wankhede Stadium where Mohammed Azharuddin’s team batted only once after responding to England’s first innings score of 347. Graeme Hick ensured his maiden Test hundred was a big one -- 178 (390 minutes, 20x4, 1x6).
Hick’s domination in a last-wicket stand of 68 with Phil Tufnell is best illustrated by the fact that the maverick left-spinner scored just two in 83 minutes.Kambli then joined Navjot Singh Sidhu when opener Manoj Prabhakar nicked off-spinner Hick to wicketkeeper Richard Blakey with the score reading 109. “When I walked in to bat I got a big cheer from a half-empty stadium but when I reached my double century the next day, the stadium was full,” Kambli recalled.
He enjoyed huge slices of luck. Philip Defreitas dropped him at long off, the over after Sidhu was dismissed by Tufnell and the left-hander also recalled England skipper Graham Gooch dropping him.
Piloo Reporter, umpiring in his last Test, reckoned Kambli was also lucky to escape a run-out chance. “I was forever telling myself to stay on the wicket and that helped me. I took fresh guard after 50,” said Kambli, who finished with 163 at the end of the third day.
Day Three was exhilarating for the crowd. The sight of Kambli and Tendulkar batting together was heavenly, but, according to Reporter, Tendulkar was just unable to pierce the field in his 194-run association with Kambli. “Sachin was booed a bit because the public thought he was slow.
He was just unable to pierce the field. He expressed his helplessness to me in Marathi and when the crowd frustration seemed to get to him, I told him to just play his natural game without bothering about what was being yelled from the stands,” said Reporter.
Tendulkar was trapped leg before by Tufnell for 78. “Mr Reporter gave him out and till today Sachin believes he was not out,” said Kambli. Reporter doesn’t believe he erred in judgement: “Sachin was caught in two minds and was trapped by Tufnell.” Tendulkar missed out on his first Wankhede Test hundred (he has only one after all these years) but he was the best man Kambli could have at the other end en route to his first Test double century. Many pundits believed that Tendulkar’s mid-pitch chats with Kambli helped the southpaw pile on the agony for England. Many spectators turned Kambli fans by the time the first ball was bowled on Day Four.
One of the banners read: Tham re, tham re, there is still Amre (wait, wait there is still Amre). The third Mumbai player – like Tendulkar and Kambli coached by Ramakant Achrekar – joined the party and scored a 57 with nine hits to the fence. His 101-stand with Kambli was invaluable. “The double hundred just came with the flow. My intention was to stay at the wicket. After every 50 runs I took fresh guard. I just played my natural game. I couldn’t believe I scored a double ton. The joy it gave me was unmatched. I watch that innings almost every day on my phone. I became famous because of that double ton. It was my finest hour. My debut (Calcutta Test) was a great moment too but it is different when you score runs and your team wins,” said Kambli, who remembered how a member of the England support staff yelled out instructions on how to bowl to him from the boundary line. “Gooch tried everything. They then resorted to negative bowling - way outside my off stump. I was surprised to see Mike Gatting hold on to that catch off Chris Lewis. I was gutted. I was not satisfied with a double century. I wanted more,” he said.
Lewis was delighted to get his man… finally. Mike Atherton, who figured in that Test wrote in Opening Up: “Vinod Kambli, a cocky left-hander from Bombay, was another to travel the well-worn centurions’ path against us in his home-town. We had seen him earlier in the tour and although he had got runs, he had looked vulnerable outside off stump. Chris Lewis had been dismissive. ‘I reckon I can get this guy out any time I want to,’ he had said. As Kambli passed his double century and India neared 600, I mentioned to Lewis that now might be quite a good time. I got a withering look.”
India is not used to whitewashing opponents. The celebrations matched the achievement after India bowled their old enemy out for 229 for an innings and 15-run win. “I remember champagne flowing in the dressing room. I also remember enjoying the attention while riding my new Kinetic Honda to Worli, where I lived. People on the streets recognised me and they still remember that double century,” said Kambli.
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