WT20: Ex-footballer Chuni Goswami's message to India - be strong

Goswami, the former Indian footballer, who also played first-class cricket for Bengal and East Zone, reckons that MS Dhoni's men will triumph today in his hometown, if they are mentally stronger than arch-rivals Pakistan

Kolkata: India's football legend Chuni Goswami wants the MS Dhoni-led Indian cricket team to seek inspiration from the Central and East Zone combined team that upset the mighty West Indies at the Nehru Stadium, Indore in December 1966."

Chuni Goswami
Chuni Goswami

Goswami should know exactly what it took for that Hanumant Singh-led side to pull off a stunning innings and 44-run victory against a dominant West Indies team. After all Goswami, with his right-arm pace, took 5-47 and 3-50 in the three-day encounter.

"(Garfield) Sobers rested for that game, but besides Lloyd, they also had many big names like Bryan Davis, Charles Griffith, Rohan Kanhai, Seymour Nurse, Deryck Murray and Wesley Hall among others. But we were not overawed by reputation.

"Cricket may involve technique and skill, but the mental aspect of the game is above all. We were mentally strong and decided not to go by their big names and instead play to our strength," Goswami told mid-day here yesterday, going on to give a brief summary of the game that saw him register his best first-innings figures and top it with his maiden first-class five-wicket haul in an innings.

India skipper MS Dhoni (left) and teammate Suresh Raina take a breather during a training session on the eve of their match against Pakistan at Kolkata's Eden Gardens yesterday. Pic/AFP
India skipper MS Dhoni (left) and teammate Suresh Raina take a breather during a training session on the eve of their match against Pakistan at Kolkata's Eden Gardens yesterday. Pic/AFP

"Subrata Guha (4-64) and myself ensured they folded up for 136 in the first innings. Then, Ramesh Saxena (49) and Hanumant (52) helped us reach 283 for 9 declared. Guha (7-49) and myself then dismissed them for just 103. Mind you, we were the only Indian team to have beaten the mighty West Indies during that period.

They were unbeatable at the time. But we were able to do it only because of our strong minds," added Goswami, who played 46 first-class matches for Bengal for a decade between 1962 and 1972, scoring 1592 runs and taking 47 wickets. He was also scaling new heights in football simultaneously, which explains his modest cricket numbers.

Goswami also led Bengal for two seasons, and recalled the Ranji final of 1968-69 against another mighty outfit of that time, Bombay. He scored 96 and 84 against the Ajit Wadekar-led side as Bengal drew (Bombay won on first innings lead) at the Brabourne Stadium in February 1969.

"That was a big team too… big names like Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ashok Mankad, Vijay Bhosle, Eknath Solkar, Ramakant Desai among others. Here too, it was all about mental strength.

"So, I believe if Dhoni's men can be strong-headed at Eden, victory will be theirs," said the 78-year-old, who went on to make a huge name for himself in football.

Football calling
Goswami earned 50-plus caps for India and led the team to gold in the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, besides a silver in the 1964 Asia Cup in Tel Aviv, Israel. "Cricket was a pleasure, but football was my passion… my true calling. But I enjoyed my cricket too… both batting and bowling in equal measure."

Coming back to today's high-octane Indo-Pak clash, Goswami explained just why he felt the scales are tilted in the hosts' favour.

"I know Pakistan have a better record at Eden Gardens, but that was when the Pakistanis had some very good batsmen in Javed Miandad, Imran Khan and then Inzamam-ul-Haq. In the last few years, Pakistan's strengths have tilted a bit towards bowling and there is not as much to show in the batting department. Conversely, India have a better balanced team with some very good batsmen in Rohit (Sharma) and (Virat) Kohli as well as some good young bowlers like (Jasprit) Bumrah. I'm looking forward to a good game tomorrow. I'm too old to go to the Eden now, but I'll catch the match on my television," Goswami signed off.

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