SK Flashback: Ajay Ratra's historic hundred
A short but sweet career was made memorable on May 12th, 2002.
On this day in 2002, Ajay Ratra became the youngest Indian wicket-keeper in Test cricket to crack a hundred. He was 20 years and 150 days old when he walked in at no.8 to slam a career-best 115 against West Indies. He was also just the second Indian keeper to score a Test hundred overseas.
Ratra had made his International debut earlier that year and was playing just his third Test. He had started as an under-19 player in the World Cup winning squad of 2000. The Haryana-born lad made his debut later in 2002 in an ODI game.
His watershed moment, though, came in the fourth Test at Antigua where, Ratra, playing his third Test, did the unthinkable - he slammed a hundred when the chips were down.
How the events unfolded
It was the fourth and final Test of the series and India were batting on a wicket that was flat and good for batting. Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid cracked half-centuries and put on a 155 run stand. Sachin Tendulkar departed for a golden duck but India held together to reach 226/3 at stumps on Day 1 with Dravid still going strong.
Day 2 did not begin well for India as they lost three wickets in quick succession. Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble departed in the space of 11 overs and 22 runs and VVS Laxman had Ajay Ratra, the keeper for company in the middle.
The record partnership
Video credits: 172Allrounder721
Laxman and Ratra put on a dogged and steady partnership that halted the Windies juggernaut. Ratra, who appeared like every other Indian wicket-keeper in his first two Tests - below average with the bat - played more confidently in the company of a 27-year-old Laxman.
Ratra and Laxman put on an unbeaten 205 run stand on Day 2. The keeper not only thwarted anything thrown at him by the Windies bowlers but appeared positive during his stay at the crease.
Laxman slammed his third Test ton while Ratra remained unbeaten on 93 at the end of Day 2 as India made 462/6. Early on Day 3, Ratra notched up his maiden hundred and remained unbeaten on 115 as India declared at 513/9. The Laxman-Ratra partnership was a seventh-wicket record for India against the West Indies.
Laxman was lavish in his praise for Ajay Ratra. He said as quoted in ESPNCricinfo, "I have played with and against Ajay in domestic cricket for the last two years and I knew that he has tremendous talent and at the same time he's very gutsy and very confident. So I had a lot of confidence in his ability to score. It was a very determined and gutsy knock, very positive at the same time because he not only held up an end but played positive cricket and I'm very impressed."
How the match proceeded
The pitch favoured batting as the days went by and West Indies bettered India smashing 629/9 in the remaining days. The game ended in a tame draw with no second innings played. Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs hit centuries for the home side. The Test is also known for Anil Kumble walking on to the bowling pitch with a broken jaw that he sustained when hit by a Mervyn Dillon bouncer.
In Ratra's words
Ratra spoke about his historic hundred in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda,
“We batted on the first day and scored about 200 runs. On the second day, we lost three quick wickets and Kumble had got hit as well, prior to that. I don't know about the rest, but I was a bit scared. I was batting at Number 8 in that game after Kumble. When I went to the wicket, I could still see blood on the pitch. Laxman was at the other end. I began slowly and took my time at the start.
“I suffered a few knocks on the way as well, lost a nail on my finger when I was 99, Andrew Leipus rushed in to help me out and taped it and I carried on and got to that hundred, which was a great moment for me,” he added.
Unfortunately, Ratra played just 6 Tests in his entire career and was dropped after a tour of England. His domestic career lasted longer. He played 99 first-class matches, amassing 4029 runs at 30.29 including eight centuries and a double-hundred. He also figured in 89 List A games, scoring 1381 runs at an average of 22.63.