Is the game of cricket. In America, we have so much stats about each and every game, but in the 70’s and 80’s in India, only one game was followed with intense interest and that was Cricket. There was so much statistics about the game that it was mind-boggling. Of course, if you were in England or other western country, this fact does not seem as stunning.
I and my brother (the bigger one – Arun) would follow the stats closely. We kept especially track of players from Karnataka – G. Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Syed Kirmani, B. S. Chandrashekar and Earapelli Prasanna. And Sunil Gavaskar and Bishen Bedi and Kapil Dev later on.
Vishwanath and Gavaskar were close on heels of each other in terms of overall runs scored and number of centuries till one point. Then Gavaskar took over and distanced the lead. Vishwanath retired with around 6000+ runs but as the record books don’t say much about the quality of these runs. Each run was a delight to watch. His Square-cuts were among the best and exquisite. Gavaskar’s sweep and on-drive dancing down the pitch were comparable. Vish saved almost as many games for India with each of his centuries. I remember the 1974 series against West Indies against. It was one of the best cricket series India played against the Windies.
The Windies won the first two tests at Bangalore and Delhi handily. Gordon Greenedge was awesome at Bangalore with nearly two hundreds. It was great to hear the roar of the crowd when Chandra was stepping to bowl at his home ground. At Delhi, Viv Richards was spectacular with a huge 190+. However, everthing changed at Madras and Calcutta. Gundappa Vishwanath showed class at Madras with a match winning 97 not out and at Calcutta had a marvellous 137.
Prasanna did his magic at Madras winning the game for India. The spinner trio of Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan were deadly in both the matches. The last test at Bombay was a batter’s pitch and Clive Lloyd’s team just give a chance to the Indians. On note at Bombay was the emergence of Brijesh Patel with a solid 90plus not out which wowed a woman to run onto the field and kiss him – believe she married him later on. Clive Lloyd himself hit a near 250 in the Windies first innings total of over 600 (not sure). India followed on but saved grace avoiding an Innings defeat. Michael Holder, Michael Holding, Lawrence Gibbs all shone for the Windies. At a match many years later at Kanpur, it was Vishwanath and Kapil Dev shining and new comer Marshall for the Windies when he tore through the Indian first innings. The headlines screamed ‘Marshall Law at Kanpur’. Read about the Spinner quartet here.
Cricket was exciting; it was so much fun playing or watching. No wonder if you ask any Indian or other national who has played cricket, isn’t baseball nearly the same. The pat answer you get is – nowhere close.