Priceless Draws – Oval 79 and Sydney 21

There is an eternal charm in test cricket. Even after almost 50 years of ODI Cricket and a decade of T-20, the Test Cricket still remains a delight and not just for purists.

Yes, Test Cricket seems boring to the ordinary eye. It looks like windows update most of the times, never seems to end. As Bill Bryson quotes, you travel from one end of Australia to the other end and observe that the scoreboard has barely moved. And yet, the non moving scoreboard produces one of most thrilling days in cricket as it happened in the final session of play today Australia Vs India (11-01-2021), Test Match No 2402. 

Between The Oval Test of 1979 and today there have been 1548 Test Matches. But I don’t remember another draw as special as this. In the 1979 test match, no one thought India would get even close to 438 runs which was the winning target except Gavaskar who must have had different ideas. He probably played the most attractive innings of his career. We were in high school and I still remember listening to the commentary late in the evening, when Gavaskar after making sure that we were unlikely to lose the match, started attacking the English bowling. We remember commenting he was hitting the cricket ball as if he was playing a rubber ball at his backyard.  When he got out, the match was still in India’s grasp but they lost their way a bit. Kapil Dev, still new to cricket was promoted ahead of Viswanath was out without scoring, a questionable decision  (the asking rate was not high). After a flurry of wickets, India shut shop and played for a draw. The other thing on everyone’s mind was will Gavaskar get to his 5000 runs in Test Cricket which would have been second fastest in terms of test matches played after the greatest of them all, Sir. Donald Bradman. Oval was Gavaskar’s 50th Test. He did not get there and it took him two more tests.

Gavaskar-batting-in-1979

I passed by the house where we listened to the commentary in the morning on my way to the temple, not aware that the day September of 1979 will be replayed in the mind few hours later. I have written about the famous pocket Transistor Radio from which we listened to the epic innings of S M Gavaskar in my earlier blogs. JK, our neighbour and I listened with rapt attention, shouting, cursing (when Kapil got out) and praying (to salvage a draw) siting on a parapet wall near the well in our backyard. 

What makes today’s effort from India as special as the 1979 if not more, is the adverse conditions. Kohli, arguably the best batsman in world cricket today across all formats, is on paternity leave. Three of our best bowlers Shami, Ishant Sharma and Yadav were not playing. Two of the top batsman were carrying injuries. One played for three and half hours not being able to run between the wickets (Vihari). Pant who played an electrifying innings had an injury and did not keep for India in the second Innings. So the conditions, to me, looked more formidable today than 1979.

But these are the performances around which legends are built and folklores are narrated for decades. Till Pant and Pujara were at crease, we hoped India would make a dash at the end to win the match. Once they got out, even a draw looked remote especially against a relentless Aussie attack. Ashwin also had stiff back. Vihari whose Test career looked uncertain at the start of his innings and Ashwin who has not played a great innings in Test Match outside India played out an entire session without getting out. When Mohan Ram walked into office in the morning I told him, “it looks like India would draw the test match. They probably would have pushed for a win if Pant had not got out.” He could not believe it. We watched the match on his phone for the next twenty overs till the match was declared a draw and players shook hands. The batting performances of Pujara, Pant, Vihari and Ashwin will forever be etched in collective memories of Indian cricket fans. And Rahane has turned out to be an outstanding leader of men. What a match!

Things have changed in the 41 years since the oval test was played. The first one was played in England five and hours behind our time and this one in Australia five and half hours ahead. We just had a running commentary for the first and today we had live streaming, live telecast, live commentary on Apps that run on phones. Already there must be hundreds of videos uploaded on today’s match on the Web. During the first match I was trying graduate out of high school. Now I am looking at retirement. One thing that has not changed, of course, is the love for cricket and Test Cricket itself, which produces these amazing moments in sports in the gentlest of the games.

 

4 thoughts on “Priceless Draws – Oval 79 and Sydney 21

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  1. Very well written Ramesh. Just amazing how your remember all the details so well. I did not know the match was a draw today till I read your blog. You have instantly published the blog. Great.

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  2. Very well written Ramesh. Just amazing how your remember all the details so well. I did not know the match was a draw today till I read your blog. You have instantly published the blog. Great.

    Like

  3. இந்த டிரா இவ்வளவு இனித்திருக்காது ஆஸ்திரேலிய புலவர்கள் தங்கள் திருவாயை மூடிக்கொண்டு இருந்திருந்தால் 😁

    இன்றைய இரண்டாம் ஓவரிலயே ரஹானே அவுட் ஆன பின் தோற்பதற்கு தான் அதிக வாய்ப்பு என நினைத்தேன்,ரிஷப் பண்ட் அபார ஆட்டத்தால் நமது டீமுற்கு உயிர் கொடுத்தான்,எனக்கு தான் டிவியில் பார்ப்பதற்கு சற்று தயக்கமா இருந்தது ஏன்னா நம்ம ராசி அப்படி 😁

    டிம் பெய்ன் பிரிஸ்பேன் வா பார்த்து கொள்கிறேன் என்றதற்கு அஸ்வின் நீ அடுத்த டூர் இந்தியா வரும் டூர் தாண்டி உனக்கு கடைசி டூர் என பதலடி கொடுத்து மசாலா தூவினான் ,இடையிடையே தமிழில் இருவரும் பேசியது வேறு அமர்க்களம்.

    1979 ல் நாம் ஜெயித்திற்க வேண்டிய ஆட்டம் டிரா ஆனதால் சற்று வருத்தமா இருந்தது,நாம் தோத்திருக்க வேண்டிய ஆட்டத்தை டிரா செய்ததால் இது இனிக்கிறது

    சூட்டோடு சூடா அருமையான ஒரு ப்ளாக் கொடுத்ததற்கு சபாஷ ரமேஷ் 👏👏👏

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