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HISTORY

THE TRIUMPH OF 1971

India's tour of the West Indies in early 1971 was a watershed. Ajit Wadekar's touring side did what no Indian team had done before; beat the West Indies in a Test match and subsequently, Test series. India won the second Test played at Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the other four Tests were drawn.

The Indian team arrived in Trinidad after an impressive display in the first Test of the series at Kingston, Jamaica. Dilip Sardesai had rescued them from a perilous 75-5 with a splendid double hundred. Crucial contributions by Eknath Solkar and Erapalli Prasanna helped India reach a score of 387. The spin trio of Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghvan then bowled superbly to dismiss the West Indies for 217. Wadekar then asked the West Indies to follow-on. Rain had washed out the entire first day and thus made the game a four-day affair, and the corresponding rules stated that a lead of 150 or more was adequate to enable the side batting first to impose the follow-on. Although the West Indies batted well in the second innings and drew the match comfortably, they were a wary lot on the eve of the second Test. West Indian skipper Garry Sobers and his senior teammates like the batting maestro Rohan Kanhai had an enormous task on hand, having to inspire their colleagues to contend with the Indian spinners and a hungry cordon of close-in fielders who did not seem to miss anything.

The West Indian batsmen failed to click against the Indian spinners on the first day of the second Test. They were bowled out for a paltry 214. India's reply was commenced by Ashok Mankad and his fellow 'Mumbaiite', a diminutive opening batsman who had accumulated 'tons' of runs at the University level and Ranji Trophy. His name was Sunil Gavaskar. He had missed the first Test due to a finger injury, and was awarded his Test cap on the morning of the second Test.

Mankad and Gavaskar gave India a good start with a stand of 68. Gavaskar's eventual dismissal when his individual score was 65 delighted his skipper Ajit Wadekar. At that stage, no Indian batsman who had scored a century on Test debut had scored another Test hundred. Wadekar quite obviously didn't want his young opener to succumb to the jinx. Little did he know that the opener would go on to establish a world record for the highest number of Test centuries!

Dilip Sardesai, clearly in the form of his life, scored 112, his second three-figure knock of the series. Solkar scored a fighting 55 and India reached 352. Off-spinner Jack Noreiga took nine Indian wickets, a creditable performance by all means, but not one that particularly worried the Indians. In fact, Noreiga owed his presence in the West Indian team to the benevolence of his opponents! The Indian think-tank, comprising skipper Ajit Wadekar, vice-captain S. Venkataraghvan and senior pros Sardesai and M.L. Jaisimha had concluded at one of their initial meetings that they ought to ensure that off-spinner Lance Gibbs, a quality bowler who went on to become the first spinner to take 300 Test wickets, wasn't picked for the Tests. They knew that he could be a handful at Port of Spain, where two Tests (the second and fifth) were scheduled to be played.

Accordingly, India adopted a bizarre but effective strategy in the three-day game that preceded the first Test. The batsmen scored runs, but took particular care to get out to Noreiga. The bagful of wickets that Noreiga got as a result left the West Indian selectors with no option but to pick him for the Test matches! While Noreiga was a good bowler, he wasn't in the same class as Gibbs.

The West Indies knew that they were up against it when they began their second innings 138 runs in arrears. Their mood didn't improve when they beheld the support the Indians were getting from the Port of Spain spectators, many of whom were of Indian origin. Opener Roy Fredericks got into a groove, as did middle-order bat Charlie Davis. At 169-3, Sobers was entitled to believe that his team had saved the game. Enter Salim Durani.

Wadekar tossed the ball to the charismatic all-rounder, a great favourite with the crowds for his belligerent batting. Several cricket-lovers had all but forgotten that he was also a competent left-arm spinner. In fact, his bowling had played a decisive role in India's first-ever series win against England in 1961-62. But that was a decade ago. What would he do now?

Durani's answer to this question could not have been more emphatic. He had Clive Lloyd caught by Wadekar at mid-wicket, and he proceeded to bowl Sobers with a beauty of a delivery. Two formidable batsmen had fallen off consecutive deliveries, and the Indian players sensed that they had a real chance to make history.

The West Indian innings eventually ended at 261, which left the Indians with only 124 to win. Gavaskar and Mankad gave them another sound start. Mankad's dismissal at 74 triggered off a hiccup, as Durani and Sardesai followed him to the pavilion in quick succession. Wadekar responded to the mini-collapse by promoting Abid Ali, a handy player in tense situations. Abid Ali and Gavaskar then put together the match-winning stand. Gavaskar remained unbeaten with 67 to make it a Test baptism to cherish. 
 

 
 
 
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RANK TEAM POINTS
1 AustraliaAustralia 118
2 IndiaIndia 112
3 cricketPakistan 111
4 EnglandEngland 108
5 AustraliaNew Zealand 98
6 SouthSouth Africa 92
7 sri LankaSri Lanka 85
8 West IndiesWest Indies 65
9 BangladeshBangladesh 57
10 ZimbabweZimbabwe 48
RANK TEAM POINTS
1 AustraliaAustralia 123
2 new ZealandNew Zealand 113
3 ZimbabweIndia 110
4 South AfricaSouth Africa 110
5 EnglandEngland 106
6 sri LankaSri Lanka 102
7 BangladeshBangladesh 98
8 countryWest Indies 94
9 cricket Pakistan 87
10 AfghanistanAfghanistan 49
RANK TEAM POINTS
1 New ZealandNew Zealand 132
2 IndiaIndia 128
3 west IndiesWest Indies 122
4 AfricaSouth Africa 119
5 EnglandEngland 116
6 AustraliaAustralia 110
7 Pakistan Pakistan 104
8 sri LankaSri Lanka 96
9 AfghanistanAfghanistan 78
10 BangladeshBangladesh 74

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