Sultanpur,13 June-2014(PTI): Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Varun Gandhi, who was on his first visit…
Chennai: The year was 1952 and history was made at Chepauk. It was a pivotal moment for Indian cricket when the host outplayed England by an innings and eight runs for its first ever Test victory.
Given the significance of the occasion, how did the Indians celebrate?
“We were not so demonstrative those days. We just shook hands, had a shower in the dressing room, and went back to the hotel within an hour,” said C.D. Gopinath.
He should know. For, the 86-year-old is the only surviving member of that team.
In a chat with The Hindu on Thursday, Gopinath said, “Some have asked me whether we had champagne or not? Neither the players nor the Board those days could afford a bottle of champagne. Actually, we did what we had to at that level. We scored runs, picked wickets and held catches. We did not jump in the air or roll on the ground to celebrate.”
Gopinath has a prized possession — the ball that was used in the decisive England second innings. “I held the catch at long-off to dismiss Brian Statham off Vinoo Mankad. The Test was soon over. And I kept the ball and got the signatures of cricketers who played the match on it.” Now the signatures are not very visible but the ball still has the pride of place in his collection.
A stylish right-hander with a lovely cover-drive, Gopinath made 35 in the only Indian innings of the match, adding 93 for the seventh wicket with Polly Umrigar.
“The English attack had Statham who was on the spot all the time and was quick too. It was a challenge to face him but I did well,” said Gopinath.
The English line-up, which included that sweet timer Tom Graveney, was dismissed for 266 in its first innings.
“The batsmen would come down to Mankad, thinking they had the delivery covered, but the ball would suddenly dip in flight. He imparted a lot of spin on the ball. And with his dip and turn, he got several batsmen stumped,” said Gopinath.
When India batted, there were hundreds from opener Pankaj Roy (111) and Umrigar (130). Gopinath said Roy was a “competent bat,” and added, “Umrigar was not as sound as Vijay Hazare technically but was a very powerful hitter of the ball.”
The celebrated Hazare made only 20 in that innings but Gopinath holds him in high esteem. “He was very orthodox, copybook. Had all the shots and played the bouncer very well by just moving his head a little.”
India declared at 457 for nine, gaining a lead of 191. England, then, was bundled out for 183 in its second innings. Gopinath remembered, “The Englishmen were trapped on a turning pitch. Mankad and off-spinner Ghulam Ahmed took four wickets each. Ghulam was quicker through the air and on a pitch that offered a lot of purchase he was very dangerous because the ball would not turn much.”
His memory still sharp, Gopinath recalls the game as if it happened yesterday. It was a match for all times.