Mohinder Amarnath: Taking the fight to the opposition

Mohinder Amarnath, the epitome of valour in the Indian dressing room, had been struck by a bouncer from Malcolm Marshall and needed hospitalisation during a Test in the West Indies. Mohinder recalls his glory days ahead of India's 500th Test.

Mohinder Amarnath hooks Pakistan's Imran Khan to the fence during the fourth Test match between India and Pakistan at the Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan in January 1983.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

He returned to the field with battered lips and a blood-stained shirt to continue his innings.

Mohinder Amarnath, the epitome of valour in the Indian dressing room, had been struck by a bouncer from Malcolm Marshall and needed hospitalisation during a Test in the West Indies.

The first ball he faced the next day was promptly hooked for a six as Mohinder sent a strong message to Clive Lloyd and his men.

It was Test cricket at its menacing best. Bouncers were dealt with firmly. Aggression was met with aggression. And the respect was mutual.

Marshall was said to have appreciated Mohinder’s robust response. No wonder his wicket was so precious for bowlers all over the world.

The gutsy Mohinder figured in 69 Tests and hit 11 centuries in a career spanning 19 years. He followed in his illustrious father’s — Lala Amarnath — footsteps.

“Learnt it from Dad,” was his patent answer when discussing technique. "We have all grown over a period of time from our first Test in 1932. There was no exposure those days. We hardly had any facilities."

Learning from seniors

“We had so much to learn from our seniors who never made any demands. We had some great individuals but suffered as a team. C. K. (Nayudu), Mushtaq Ali, (Vinoo) Mankad, and Lala Amarnath are the names that come to my mind most,” reflected Mohinder in a chat with Sportstar on India’s Test journey.

History points to India’s potency at home. Overseas wins were scarce until Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi broke the trend in 1968 in New Zealand.

“We have been traditionally very strong at home but overseas wins did not come regularly. Pataudi changed that.

“In fact he changed a lot of things. He led from the front literally and made the difference that lifted the team,” said Mohinder

He also spoke of the mindset that carried the team to greater heights.

“It was certainly the changed mindset of the team. There was a belief in the 1960s, and the next decade, that matches had to be won overseas for the team to gain reputation.

“It really changed from that win in New Zealand. The early phase of 1970 guided us through that decade. It was a wonderful phase and the team performed brilliantly.”

Mohinder plays his part

For Indian cricket, the incredible chase at Port of Spain was a standout achievement. The target of 403 was accomplished in style with Mohinder playing the anchor role — 85 in 440 minutes.

“The players were confident because most of us had been playing in the English county league. The experience of playing overseas counted and we could adapt quickly.”

Mohinder gave a large part of the credit to Bishan Singh Bedi. “He had more faith in us than we had in ourselves. He brought his county experience to the dressing room.

“The 400 was the turning point in Indian cricket history. He had the exposure of playing under pressure and passed it on to the Indian team. It was a lovely process of learning. You could say it was a period of transition for us all.”

The 1980s saw Indian cricket grow rapidly. “We continued to be good at home but did not travel well as a Test team overseas. Beating England in England in 1986 was sweet. You can add the Madras tied Test too to this list.

“Right through the next two decades we looked a good Test side. We always had quality spinners and they improved with proper exposure.

“I think we reached our pinnacle at Kolkata (in 2001) against Australia when [V.V.S.] Laxman and [Rahul] Dravid came up with a divine batting show. Their knocks are fresh in my memory.

“From trying to save the game we won it. The best moment in Indian cricket, no doubt, and one we can take pride in, for all time to come.”

Mohinder is part of a cricket legacy that was born in 1932 at Lord’s when Mohammad Nissar bowled the first ball of the Test to Percy Holmes. But as he insisted, “It is the rich history that sustains the game as it is played today. There are still three stumps at either end.”

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