Back in 1975, when India locked horns with the West Indies, led by Clive Lloyd, in the first ever Test match at the Wankhede Stadium, the All India Radio (AIR) commentary team comprised Tony Cozier from West Indies, Dicky Rutnagur and Suresh Saraiya, with Vijay Merchant being the expert commentator.
Commentator Suresh Saraiya (right) with statistician Sudhir Vaidya
(left) and scorer Yashwant Chad at the Wankhede Stadium earlier in
the week. Pic/Atul Kamble
Thirty-seven years down the line, when the refurbished Wankhede staged its first Test match (co-incidentally it's also an India-West Indies game), Saraiya is still going strong at the AIR box. Accompanying him were official statistician Sudhir Vaidya and scorer Yashwant Chad busy performing their duties tirelessly.
Merchant left for heavenly abode in 1987 while Cozier, residing in the West Indies, couldn't make it this time, and Rutnagur is no longer an active media man. He currently lives in England. Saraiya (75) shared some memories of the good old days with Sunday MiD DAY, beginning with Day One of the first ever Test at this venue... "Before the match, the pitch was said to be under-prepared and came under fire from critics.
But curator Polly Umrigar aired his views on AIR before the match and assured it would turn out to be a good wicket. And it did. The wicket lasted for more than five days (it was for the first time in Mumbai that a Test match was extended to six days as the series was locked 2-2). India lost the Test and subsequently the series 2-3."
Saraiya then pointed out how Windies captain Clive Lloyd's innings of 242, that has been praised over the years, was not flawless. "Lloyd was dropped thrice -- once by Bishan Bedi off his own bowling while he was on eight. Then Bhagwat Chandrasekhar spilled one after he had crossed 100... and I cannot recall the third, but I'm sure there were three."
Speaking of the new Wankhede, Saraiya was not happy with the smaller box. "Earlier, the box was huge. Four commentators could sit in one row and there were several rows for scorers, statisticians, expert commentators and technical staff. But the new one is cramped," he said.