November reign in Mumbai

Updated: 05 November, 2020 07:47 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

India's first-ever Test series win over Australia was achieved this week 41 years ago in Mumbai, where Sunil Gavaskar's team conquered Kim Hughes's second-stringers in a 2-0 triumph.

Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg (centre) in action during the sixth Test against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 4, 1979. Pic/Getty Images
Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg (centre) in action during the sixth Test against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 4, 1979. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloHere's some trivia as we get our teeth into the build-up to the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy: Australia were the second team India played against (in 1947-48) after their 'Test debut' against England in 1932. Yet, the Australians were the last among England, West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand to be beaten by India in a Test series.

That happened this week 41 years ago at the Wankhede Stadium, where Sunil Gavaskar's team completed their 2-0 series win over a Kim Hughes-led Australian side.

As an 11-year-old, I watched on television, openers Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan frustrating the Australian bowlers until Chauhan had his furniture disturbed by toiling left-arm pacer Geoff Dymock. They put on 192.

Gavaskar followed, but unlike Chauhan (73), he didn't miss his century which in MAK Pataudi's comments in Sportsworld magazine, was achieved through some "powerful drives and faultless concentration." It was the India captain's fourth century in four Tests at the Wankhede and the crowd were treated to yet another wave of his broad willow.

Test century No. 22 put him on par with Englishmen Walter Hammond and Colin Cowdrey in the century-makers list, only below Sir Garfield Sobers (26) and Sir Donald Bradman (29).

Statistician Sudhir Vaidya pointed to the fact that Gavaskar's fifth century against Australia pushed him ahead of Bradman, Neil Harvey and Bob Simpson, all of whom had four tons in India-Australia Tests. He ended up with three more!

India came into this sixth Test at Mumbai with only a victory in the third Test at Kanpur.

India had a chance to win the fifth Test in Kolkata (thanks to a sporting declaration by Hughes) but ended up with 200-4, chasing 247 for victory at the Eden Gardens.

MV Narasimha Rao, who stayed unbeaten on 20 with Yashpal Sharma (85) in Kolkata, found himself out of the XI in Mumbai, where Mohinder Amarnath was recalled. Amarnath walked in on Day Two wearing his father Lala's solar hat, but lasted just seven balls before falling on his stumps while trying to deal with a Rodney Hogg bouncer. Amarnath didn't play a Test thereafter for three years.

Apart from the openers, India's batting heroes were Syed Kirmani and Karsan Ghavri, who put on 127 for the eighth wicket. Kirmani became the first Indian nightwatchman to score a Test century and although it was a knock that went into history, the innings which cut Australia deep was Ghavri's 86 off 99 balls, including three sixes. I asked him on Wednesday about what got him to blast away and he revealed that he was not in the playing XI declared on match eve. "I was told I was not playing but Polly Umrigar urged Sunil to include me and he did. When I went out to bat I wanted to justify the faith shown in me. I was lucky. I got a faint edge to wicketkeeper Kevin Wright off Dymock but I was given not out even though the entire Australian team went up in appeal. Hughes got his spinners to bowl at me and I decided to attack them," said Ghavri. He wasn't disappointed to miss out on a hundred: "A century was never on my mind. I was just happy to come up with a performance which would guarantee me a place for the next Test India played."

India's 458-8 declared killed Australian hopes while spinners Dilip Doshi and Shivlal Yadav, who made their debuts in the first and second Tests of the series respectively, and Kapil Dev's 4-39 in the second innings helped bowl out the opposition for less than 200 on both occasions for a rare innings victory over Australia on November 7. The Test ended inside four days and according to Haresh Munwani, the late Sportsworld correspondent, the Australians were in such a hurry to return to their hotel, that they left behind Graham Yallop, Jim Higgs, Peter Sleep and Allan Border. The quartet had to hop into a cab to reach their hotel.

The Australians felt they were done in by the umpiring and the schedule. Allan Border in Beyond Ten Thousand revealed that the leg before dismissals count before the Mumbai Test stood at "Australia 20, India 8." Plus, there was the gruesome schedule. The Melbourne Herald's Rod Nicholson felt the nine-week tour comprising six Tests and five zonal games was an "unrealistic programme."

The 1979-80 home season for India consisted of 13 Tests — six each against Australia and Pakistan in addition to the 1980 Jubilee Test against England.

Pakistan were tipped to beat India after the 1978-79 triumph on their home soil and India captain Gavaskar reckoned Asif Iqbal's team would "smash us to pulp."

Meanwhile, Hughes said, "I cannot see India beating Pakistan. All you have is Kapil Dev and if he breaks down, what do you have?"

The blond Western Australian would have wondered what he was talking about by the time he visited Mumbai again — during the Jubilee Test en route to Pakistan — by which point Asif's Test career was over after the series loss in India.

India now have the chance of bagging a hat-trick of Border-Gavaskar Trophy triumphs. If achieved, it will be more than just trivia — it will be unprecedented and historic.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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First Published: 05 November, 2020 06:48 IST

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