A belated silver jubilee reunion for Kumble, Raju, Chauhan

The spin trio met in Mumbai when Rajesh Chauhan dropped in to meet his former spin-mates Anil Kumble and Venkatapathy Raju, who are busy with commentary assignments.

The spin trio of Rajesh Chauhan, Venkatapathy Raju and Anil Kumble after India won the first Test match against England at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on February 2, 1993.   -  V. V. Krishnan

It was a belated silver jubilee reunion for Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan last week. They met in Mumbai when Chauhan dropped in to meet his former spin-mates busy with commentary assignments.

“It was a pleasant surprise but we had a good time reliving our exploits on the cricket field,” said Kumble, who was the leader of the trio, which came together for the first time in the 1993 Test in Kolkata against England. The match also saw S. Venkataraghavan – a part of the famed spin quartet that included E. A. S. Prasanna, B. S. Bedi and B. S. Chandrasekhar – make his debut as a Test umpire.

“Anil was our captain. He would decide the plan of action. I and Raju gave him the support from the other end because Anil was the match-winner in every sense,” recalled Chauhan, who finished with 47 wickets from 21 Tests. Kumble’s haul was 619 wickets from 132 Tests, the third best in history.

For Raju, who finished with 93 wickets in 28 Tests, the approach was simple. “I was the senior but Anil was the guide. He was the strike bowler and our job was to strengthen the process of winning the match. We had the backing of the captain (Mohammad Azharuddin) who always gave us the field we asked for. Azhar’s faith in us added to the confidence.”

Kumble, Raju and Chauhan were critical to India winning the 1993 Test series by a thumping 3-0 margin. The team had returned from a disappointing tour of South Africa, and Azharuddin was under pressure to retain his captaincy. He responded with a breathtaking 182 and never looked back. Ajit Wadekar, as cricket manager, had looked to India’s strength in spin bowling, and the trio of Chauhan, Raju and Kumble, who figured in 14 Tests together, did not let him down.

“We complemented each other. I and Raju would dry up runs at our end and Anil would explore angles to make dents in the opposition. Anil was a champion in reading the situation and the pitch. We were also helped by Manoj Prabhakar, who was a wily bowler,” remembered Chauhan, who also played his final Test at the Eden Gardens.

“We loved each other’s success. We celebrated wickets claimed by the others. There was no competition amongst us,” said Raju, describing a situation quite similar to the days when Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan routed the oppositions with some splendid teamwork.

The reunion was “fun” as Kumble noted. They parted with a pleasant reminder from Chauhan: “India never lost a Test I played in.”

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