Debashish Mohanty's forgotten 10-wicket haul: When Dravid and Laxman were at the other end
February 1999 will always hold a special place in the history of Indian cricket, for this was when Anil Kumble became the first Indian bowler – and the second ever after England’s Jim Laker did it for the first time, in 1956 – to pick up all 10 wickets in an innings, against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. What made the achievement even more special was that it came against a batting line-up that had the likes of Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ijaz Ahmed and Mohammad Yousuf
Cut scenes 2 years later. It was January 2001. East Zone was taking on South Zone in a Duleep Trophy encounter at the Bir Bikram College Stadium in Agartala.
Many tipped this one to be an easy contest for South Zone considering they had four international cricketers in their ranks – Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. East Zone had just 2 – opener Shiv Sunder Das and Orissa medium pacer Debashish Mohanty.
Favourites? Mohanty doesn’t care
On a green top, Dravid won the toss and elected to bat, hoping that his batsmen would negotiate the early overs and pile on the runs later. But he and everyone else were in for a rude shock. Mohanty first removed the opening pair of Sridharan Sriram and Nand Kishore and then picked up the prized wicket of Dravid, to leave South Zone precariously placed at 22 for 3.
Mohanty still regards that scalp to be the most important one of the lot.
"Rahul Dravid was an important wicket, and I got him early, pushing a defensive shot at a natural outswinger that moved just enough to take the edge through to the keeper," Mohanty said.
He picked up Vijay Bharadwaj with yet another away going ball. Thilak Naidu soon followed with just 5 runs to his name, and South Zone was reeling at 37 for 5.
‘VVS – The most special wicket’
It was up to VVS Laxman to rescue the innings, but even he succumbed to Mohanty after scoring a 54-ball 20. Mohanty rates this one as the most significant one.
"Then came VVS Laxman -- I bowled one that angled in through the air onto a middle and leg line, hit the deck and seamed away towards off stump. Laxman tried to drive, played inside the line, and was bowled.
“For me, Laxman's wicket was the most special -- he is always a challenge to bowl to. I thought him out here, the ball was angling in so he went for the on-drive, the ball beat him in the air and off the deck, it is a special ball for any pace bowler, and it is always a delight when you get a good batsman with that ball.”
The lower order tried to put up a fight, but couldn’t escape Mohanty's incisive spells. When the right-arm seam bowler removed Venkatesh Prasad for a duck, the carnage was complete. Mohanty had become the sixth Indian bowler to pick up all 10 wickets in an innings. His figures read 19-5-46-10.
Mohanty later said that he tried to keep things simple and use whatever help he was getting from the track.
“There was some movement in the air early on. I was surprised when South Zone decided to bat after winning the toss, I told myself to concentrate on line and length.
To recover from being bowled out for 113 in the first innings was always going to be a tough task, but the South Zone bowling attack led by Srinath – who picked up a six-wicket haul – put on a spirited effort, bowling out East Zone for 124.
Mohanty’s exploits with the ball continued in the second innings as he picked up 4 more to take his tally to 14 for the match. Set a target of 167 in the fourth innings, East Zone stumbled their way to a four-wicket win. They were awarded 8 points for the victory.
There is a connection to this game and the MS Dhoni biopic as well. For those who have seen the movie, the scene where Sushant Singh Rajput and his friends drive all night from Ranchi to Kolkata, it was done to make sure he joined the rest of his East Zone teammates, who were on their way to Agartala to compete in this game.
Dhoni missed the flight and Deep Dasgupta played ahead of him.
Given below is a list of Indians who have picked up 10 wickets in an innings:
|SP Gupte||10 for 78||Bombay XI v Pakistan Services & Bahawalpur XI||Bombay||1954/55|
|PM Chattterjee||10 for 20||Bengal v Assam||Jorhat||1956/57|
|P Sundaram||10 for 78||Rajasthan v Vidharbha||Jodhpur||1985/86|
|Anil Kumble||10 for 74||India v Pakistan||Delhi||1998/99|
|Debashish Mohanty||10 for 46||East Zone v South Zone||Agartala||2000/01|
International career and the 1999 World Cup logo
Mohanty represented India between 1997 and 2001, but soon went out of favour with the national selectors following the rise of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. He was a part of the 1999 World Cup squad. His bowling action was so unique that it was used for the official graphical logo of the tournament.
He has represented India in 45 ODIs and 2 Tests. While he couldn’t do much in the longer format of the game, his ODI exploits were decent: 57 wickets in 45 matches at an average of 29.15 and an economy rate of 4.99.
He had a pretty successful domestic career, picking up 417 wickets in 117 first-class matches and 160 in 129 List A matches, before retiring from all forms of the game in December 2010.