When pacer Karsan Ghavri turned spinner to dictate England's collapse

Former Indian pacer Karsan Ghavri reminisced the Test against England where he bowled spin and took a fifer at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Saurashtra coach Karsan Ghavri represented India between 1975-81.   -  Ashwin Achal

Karsan Ghavri played in an era when spinners formed the backbone of the Indian team. Oftentimes, in the 1970s, Ghavri was employed the sole pacer in the playing eleven.

But Ghavri, a nippy left-arm seamer, was a handy spinner himself. This quality came to the fore in the fifth Test against England, held at Wankhede Stadium in 1977.

In the England second innings, the Indian spinners - captain Bishen Singh Bedi, B. S. Chandrasekhar and E.A.S. Prasanna - struggled to get wickets. This gave Ghavri the chance to try a bit of left-arm spin - a move which worked wonders. Much to the surprise of Bedi, Ghavri picked up five wickets, including that of Tony Grieg, Derek Randall and Alan Knott. The match ended in a draw, but Ghavri had made his mark as a man with multiple talents.

“I was a spinner in school. One day, when I was in school, our captain got injured and could not play the tournament final. My coach asked me to run in from 10-12 yards and bowl with the new ball. In 5-6 overs, I took five wickets with the new ball. The coach suggested that I should concentrate on fast bowling. I agreed, and years later, got picked for the Ranji Trophy and for India as a fast bowler,” Ghavri, now the Saurashtra coach, said on the sidelines of his side’s Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka here on Sunday.

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“Against England at Wankhede, Bishen was our captain. He must have bowled 15-20 overs, but was unlucky to not get wickets. He went out for a rub, and asked Sunil Gavaskar to lead. Sunil gave me the ball and asked me to bowl spin. I bowled 8-9 overs and picked up five wickets,” Ghavri said.

“When Bishen was ready to come back to field, he saw that the England team had suffered a collapse. Bishen asked the manager, ‘How did this happen? Did we take the new ball?’. The manager replied, “No. It's the old ball. Karsan bowled spin and took a fifer’. Bedi was surprised,” Ghavri recalled.

Bedi had a quick chat with Ghavri in the dressing room. “Bedi told me not to bowl spin, not even in the nets. I said, ‘Paaji why? I took five wickets'. Bishen replied, 'If you take five wickets as a left-arm spinner, then of what use am I?’. In any case, I could not bowl spin often for India, because we had great spinners like Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan," Ghavri said.

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