THE KANPUR CLASSIC
The Kanpur Test of the 1959-60 series holds a very special place in the history of Indian cricket. For, it was here that India beat Australia in a Test for the first time. As someone who played in that historic game, all I can say is that it was one of the greatest moments of my playing career.
The author in his prime
It was a
strong Australian side that arrived in India for a
five-Test series. In Neil Harvey and Norman
O'Neill, they had two of the world's most
outstanding batsmen, and all-rounders like Alan
Davidson and the captain Richie Benaud were in a
class by themselves. In contrast, we had returned
from a disastrous tour of England, where we had
lost 0-5, and morale was low, to say the least. The
visitors won the first Test in Delhi by an innings
and 127 runs, and the pressure was on us as we
travelled to Kanpur for the second Test.
A queer wicket, made of 'clay soil' greeted us at
the Green Park, Kanpur's Test venue. It was the
month of December, and the winter dew made quite a
potent combination with the clay strip, in that it
took a relatively longer time to dry out as the day
progressed. This delay was of course, fantastic
from the bowlers' point of view. Throughout the
Test, whoever was bowling did very well in the
first session. The moisture would evaporate
completely by around noon, and thereafter the
wicket would become easier for batting.
It was the first time a match was being played in
Kanpur on a 'turf' wicket, and it was a given that
the side that would win the toss would elect to bat
on an unknown surface, obviously as the chances of
it getting worse as the game progressed were
greater than those of it improving.
The hero of the Test was Jasu Patel, an off-spinner
from Ahmedabad who cut the ball more than spun it.
In that sense, he was an unorthodox off-spinner.
Lala Amarnath, our Chairman of Selectors and an
acknowledged reader of wickets, picked him for this
game, expecting him to reap rich rewards on the
clay wicket. Lalaji went to the extent of telling
G. S. Ramchand, our skipper, to bring him on from a
certain end. Ram agreed, but the problem was, Jasu
also had had a look at the strip and had made up
his mind to operate from the other end, not the one
from where Lalaji wanted him to bowl.
The author in his prime
thought to be good for Jasu for certainly good
enough for the versatile Davidson, who adapted to
the wicket by bowling a mixture of cutters and
spin. After Ram had won the toss and elected to
bat, he bowled brilliantly to take 5-31. We could
muster only 152. The Aussies began their reply and
after a few overs by Surendranath and Ram himself,
Jasu was brought on from the end from which
Davidson had bowled so well. It was also the end
from which the Chairman and the captain wanted him
to bowl. But Jasu thought otherwise. He could not
make much of an impression, and the openers had
added 71 when we players got together on his behalf
and suggested to Ram that he be tried from the
other end. Ram then realized that Jasu would then
get the opportunity to exploit Davidson's
footmarks, and made him change ends. The rest is
Backed by some excellent catching, Jasu bagged 9-69
in the first innings. Australia led by only 77.
Much to Rma's delight, we fared far better in the
second innings. Nari Contractor top-scored with 74,
and he was out to one of the freakiest catches in
the history of the game. He played a full-blooded
sweep off Davidson, and Harvey, standing close-in,
took evasive action, only for the ball to lodge
between his thighs!
We made 291, and set the Aussies a target of 225.
On that wicket, it was as good as a target of 1000.
Jasu continued from where he had left off in the
second innings. I had not done too bad a job with
the ball myself in the first innings, bowling 15
wicketless overs for 40 runs, and I asked Ram
whether I could bowl in tandem with Jasu. He was
reluctant, but I told him to give me just two overs.
He relented, and I got Harvey out in those 12
balls! Ram let me carry on, and we completed the
win early on the final day. The margin was 119
The Aussies went on to win that series, and they
repeated their performance in 1969-70, which of
course is the last time any Australian team has
beaten India in India. I hope the Indian team of
2004-05 maintains the tradition.