New Delhi, December 19
A Monday and Saturday separated by 46 years and a few months. Indian cricket felt humiliated at Lord’s on June 24, 1974 and one couldn’t escape that feeling on December 19, 2020.
It was 42, the lowest Indian total back then against England, and it is 36, the new low that Indian cricket hit on the day against Australia.
On that day, the Indian innings terminated at 9 down with BS Chandrasekhar being “absent hurt”.
On Saturday, it was Mohammed Shami, who had to retire hurt.
That Thursday saw Geoff Arnold get four and Chris Old snap five in an inspired spell of swing bowling on a green top at Lord’s.
This Saturday had Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins give a display of quality seam bowling on a bouncy track.
“I don’t have any recollection of that match. Just that we played badly and dukh bhari baatein yaad karne ka kya faayda (what’s the use of remembering something that hurts so much),” Madan Lal, who was a part of that match, told PTI reluctantly.
One can’t blame him for not wanting a recollection.
But what exactly went wrong on June 24, 1974 during those 17 overs?
There couldn’t be a better and exhaustive reference than Sunil Gavaskar’s seminal autobiographical work “Sunny Days”.
Here are some of the dismissals on that day.
“Arnold started with two huge outswingers followed by an inswinger that hit (Farokh) Engineer on the pads as he played forward…(Ajit) Wadekar was bowled by Old and Vishwanath was out to a beauty which (wicketkeeper Alan) Knott snapped in front of first slip.
“(Brijesh) Patel got one that lifted and brushed his glove on its way to the wicket-keeper.”
Gavaskar, with his brilliant sense of humour, described his conversation with Eknath Solkar, who had hooked an Old bouncer for six.
“At the end of the over, Solkar came down the wicket to ask me to stay and help him save the game. That was not to be as I was leg before to an Arnold break-back,” he wrote.
“By the time I removed my leg guards, Madan (Lal) and Abid (Ali) had joined me in the pavilion. And before you knew it, we were all out for 42. England had won the Test by an innings and 285 runs and with that the series.”
Over the last five decades, there have been multiple theories about the ‘Summer of 42’ but what exactly did Gavaskar think about that debacle?
“Lots of theories have been advanced about our being skittled out for a paltry 42 runs when on the same wicket England made 629 and India 302 runs.
“The simple answer is that Arnold and Old bowled five good balls which got our top five batsmen out. After that there was no resistance from the tail-enders. We were skittled out before lunch and champagne was flowing in the English dressing room to celebrate England’s victory in the series.”
For all those who love anecdotes, that wasn’t the end of India’s miseries as there was more public humiliation in store for the team and especially late skipper Wadekar at the Indian High Commissioner’s residence in heart of London.
Gavaskar, in his book, recalled the incident which added to an already ruined evening where a few players had an altercation with journalists at a previous function with threats from scribes.
“‘We will see that these chaps are brought down. What do they think of themselves?'” Gavasakar quotes the scribes.
“By the time we got into the bus (from the previous function), it was already 6:30 pm, the time we were supposed to be present at the High Commissioner’s party.”
“Our coach got delayed in the traffic and we reached the entrance of the Kensington Gardens around 7 pm. The entrance was too narrow for the big coach to go in and all of us had to get off and rush past a few houses until we came to the High Commissioner’s residence…
“…When Ajit had gone in, we were still in driveway of the house. By the time we reached the porch, Ajit was returning looking crestfallen and grim. When we asked what the matter was, Ajit replied: “He (High Commissioner) has asked us to get out.”
The manager, Lt Col Hemu Adhikari, was literally in tears as he “ordered the boys” to get back as everyone felt insulted and didn’t want to go back. After some persuasion, they did relent.
“The High Commissioner embraced Ajit and apologised for losing his temper…,” recalled the maestro.
The 42 all-out happened in the second Test and India lost the next in Birmingham to lose the series 0-3.
Wadekar was sacked from captaincy and dropped from not only the national team but also the West Zone side.
Unable to take this frontal humiliation from the BCCI, Wadekar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
It was a forgettable Monday in 1974 that no one saw coming. Just like the Saturday, when Kohli was at his wits end to explain what exactly went wrong. PTI