That night in New Delhi!
New BCCI president Sourav Ganguly will wear a broad smile if excitement levels of the November 22-26 India v Bangladesh D/N Test come close to those of the floodlit 1983 India v Pakistan game
Kapil Dev & Co's World Cup triumph made 1983 a watershed year in Indian cricket. There was another occasion that fell into the 'memorable' category of that year – the first day-night international cricket match played in India - on September 21 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
Thirty-six years on, Kolkata is set to host India's first day-night Test at the Eden Gardens. Interestingly, like Sourav Ganguly now, there was a former India captain then as part of the organisational force – Bishan Singh Bedi – a key organising committee member for the match in aid of the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
India and Pakistan were in different groups of the World Cup but Pakistan were the first side to clash with India after their June 25 triumph at Lord's. With Imran Khan unavailable due to a shin injury, Pakistan were led by Zaheer Abbas, whose side Kapil Dev put in on September 21. Openers Mudassar Nazar and Mohsin Khan got off to a decent start in the 60 overs-a-side game but umpire Piloo Reporter remembered one or two light towers ceasing to function during the first part of the match; the delay leading to a 50-overs affair.
"Mudassar was ready to bat on when the lights went out, something which amused his partner Mohsin, who said he was happy to stand at the other end and watch Mudassar score all the runs. The atmosphere was terrific. In my estimation, there were 70,000 spectators at the match and there would have been 5000 more had seats not been reserved for security. PM Indira Gandhi was not present, but president Zail Singh came and was introduced to both teams and the officials," recalled Reporter.
There was a good amount of build-up to the unofficial international and spectators, who witnessed a trial match between Sunil Gavaskar's Bombay versus Kapil Dev's Rest of India two weeks prior to the India v Pakistan duel, went home happy. Not all players found playing on a track and field athletics ground comfortable, but veteran Ashok Mankad did.
'Kaka' celebrated his appointment as manager of the Indian team for the second half of the Pakistan series with a fluent 84 off 108 balls in Bombay's total of 200 all out.
Mohinder Amarnath, according to reports, played an even better innings, piercing the gaps elegantly for his match-winning century. Little did he know then he would have to endure a horror run with Test scores of 4, 7, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0 and 0 against the visiting Pakistan and West Indies. Ironically, this was the year in which he scored 1077 runs.
Back to the excitement at the Nehru Stadium. Kirti Azad claimed all three Pakistani wickets to fall with his off-spin but he hadn't finished for the evening. Chasing 198 for victory, the Indians just couldn't match the efforts of the opposition batsmen. Openers Gavaskar and K Srikkanth were both run out. Reporter recalled Srikkanth departing through a direct, underarm throw from Kenyan-born Qasim Omar. The Pakistanis couldn't believe it when Reporter's finger went up and he could hear Iqbal Qasim saying, "I've never seen such a good decision in India."
The otherwise big-hitting Sandeep Patil just couldn't get going. Patil (12 runs), according to cricket writer Ayaz Memon in his Sportsweek report, "mercifully departed, caught at short fine leg off Mohammed Nazir, top edging a sweep. He had plodded for 20 overs for his 'dirty dozen.' "
Balvinder Singh Sandhu, who had opened the bowling with Kapil earlier in the day, lapped up the excitement. The ground was buzzing, but there was also a fair share of tension since the visitors were in prime position to beat the hosts by a hefty margin. The seventh wicket fell when the score had reached 101. But then, there were the two Delhi boys left – S Madan Lal and Azad, who had not only bowled well, but fielded tigerishly as well. Azad could hit them high, wide and handsome, but this was an international attack comprising left-arm quick Azeem Hafeez (two fingers missing on his right hand), ODI hat-trick man Jalaluddin and Mudassar, known as the man with the golden arm.
"We were gone! The asking rate was too high to win the game, but Maddipa [Madan Lal's nickname] had that belief. It was he who told Kirti that this was the time to display his big-hitting skills and Kirti did just that. The first of his four sixes was hit out of the ground and all that happened because Maddipa provoked him in a challenging way. That was Kirti's best performance for India," said Sandhu of his 1983 World Cup teammate. The 86-run partnership in 57 minutes between Madan Lal and Azad pulled the chestnuts out of the fire but Pakistan hoped for a miracle when captain Zaheer Abbas snarled Madan Lal and Ravi Shastri. Azad (71) was not going anywhere till he hit the winning runs – to third man for his sixth four of the innings – with Sandhu unbeaten on nought at the other end.
Umpire Reporter gushed over Madan Lal's imperious 35 and as for Azad's display, he described it as nothing short of savagery. "Kirti's sixes landed in the crowd and there was a 10-yard gap between the boundary line and the stands," the genial retired umpire told me. He had the best seat in the house, just like he did in two other day-night fixtures in Delhi where centurion Kepler Wessels turned on the party lights for Australia in 1984 followed by his match-winning 90 for South Africa in the 1991 ODI.
In Runs 'n Ruins, Gavaskar devoted a chapter to Azad's heroics. He ended 'Kirti's Bright Night' by writing about how the Indian team returned to champagne-filled celebrations at the hotel and how some teammates still had enough energy to move their feet at the hotel disco.
Hopefully, the November 22-26 day-night Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata ends up as memorable as India's one-wicket win way back then.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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