Recalling the 1980 Chennai Test: Gavaskar and Kapil Dev star in a memorable win over Pakistan
It was the fifth Test of the series and India were already ahead by one Test to nil. It was a must-win match for Pakistan and a great opportunity was presented to them, as Asif Iqbal won an important toss on a placid Chennai track. However, this advantage was soon neutralized by Kapil Dev.
Even on a decent track, Kapil generated a fair amount of pace and swing. In a decisive spell, he bowled some beautiful out-swingers to dismiss Sadiq Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas. Pakistan was in trouble at 80 for 3.
Majid Khan and Javed Miandad arrested the damage a bit with some great running between the wickets. But, it was one too many for Majid, when he was run out. Then, Miandad edged Kapil to slip to make it India’s day. Pakistan finished the first day on 254 for 7.
Pakistan did not add much on the second day morning (272 all out). But, their bowlers gave it their everything. Imran got his 100th Test victim on that day. In general, it was a lot of grafting from Indian batsmen. However, the “Little Master”, Sunil Gavaskar, held one end with absolutely amazing determination.
His batting was a prime example of how in Test matches, a defensive, grinding knock can eventually turn match-winning, how a solid defensive shot or leaving the ball outside off can be very good shot against good deliveries.
Sunny would bat for 10 hours in that innings to score a masterful 166. Mudassar Nazar, who was on the field for those 2 days, later mentioned about Sunny:
Once he had the initiative, he never relaxed his grip. The best example was the Madras test, wherein he batted on and on till we were down on our knees. This is one of the reasons why I would have him in my team first even if I was offered players like Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar.
If Gavaskar’s innings was a grind, Kapil’s was in the other sphere. He came on the wicket to accompany Sunny, with India being 279 for 6. They were just seven runs ahead and the game seemed to be evenly poised. But first, with Gavaskar and then with Roger Binny (42 off 45 balls), Kapil snatched away the initiative.
Pakistan bowlers were also tired by then by the Chennai heat and dreary resistance of Gavaskar. Kapil and Binny took full advantage of this and added 80 runs in just over an hour. The match had decisively swayed to India’s favor by then.
Kapil was eventually out for 84 (from just 98 balls) and India’s lead swelled to 158. He was not very happy with the LBW decision he received, but if he was expecting some sympathy at the dressing room for missing a century and a pat on the back for playing so well, a rude jolt was waiting for him.
Sunny Gavaskar bawled him out for refusing a single when they were batting together, just before Sunny had gotten out!
Unhappy at his captain’s outburst, angry Kapil delivered a series-deciding spell. Pakistan was reduced to 58 for 5 in no time, with Kapil taking four wickets. Many Pakistan batsmen went for attacking shots, causing their downfall as well.
There were pockets of resistance from Pakistan second innings. Miandad scored a fine 50 and Wasim Raja a belligerent 57. But, their total of 233 was not good enough. Kapil Dev finished a memorable match by taking 7 for 57. India got the 76 runs in quick time without losing any wicket.
India took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and, thereby ensuring their only second Test series victory over Pakistan. They would have to wait for another 24 years for the next one.
At the end of the match, while the press was waiting for comments from the captain on a memorable series victory, Gavaskar dropped a bomb. He announced that he was withdrawing himself from the forthcoming West Indies tour. India had been playing continuous cricket for six months and players were needed to fly for the Caribbean tour immediately after the current series.
Gavaskar had met the BCCI president to request him to reschedule the departure by a week. He was afraid that he and the team would be in no mental state to immediately travel for such a tough tour. But, the BCCI president was in no mood no listen and said:
If you are not ready to play, 5000 other cricketers are ready for your spot.
This prompted Sunny to announce his withdrawal. The board took prompt decision to remove him from captaincy. They appointed Gundappa Viswanath as the captain for the last Test of the series and the BCCI centenary Test against England. There was a discussion to drop Sunny as well and get some young blood ready for the West Indies tour.
But, fearing the public backlash after a monumental 166 and series win over Pakistan, better sense prevailed. It was decided that Sunny would continue in the team. As the events unfolded in later years, this would not be the last time when Sunny and the Board would be on a collision path.
Bibliography: SMG, a Biography of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar by Devendra Prabhudesai