Salim Durani: Was so overjoyed when I bowled Garry Sobers

Salim Durani failed to live up to expectations on the 1971 tour of the West Indies and was dropped for the last two matches of the five-Test series. But it was his role – claiming the wickets of Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd – that paved the way for India’s historic triumph.

File Picture: Durani’s success with the bat and ball on the 1962 tour forced the senior selection committee to pick him for the 1971 tour to West Indies.   -  The Hindu

Salim Durani did not fulfil his potential as an all-rounder. But many of his India and Rajasthan team colleagues aver that he had a great cricketing mind and was an attractive player to watch as a left-hand batsman and spinner. He played his part on his first overseas tour to the West Indies in 1962, becoming the second highest run-getter with 259 runs, which included a century, and the highest wicket-taker with 17 scalps. Durani’s success with the bat and ball on the 1962 tour forced the senior selection committee chaired by Vijay Merchant to pick him for the 1971 tour to the West Indies with Ajit Wadekar as captain, recalling him to the Indian team after four years.

Durani, however, failed to live up to expectations and was dropped for the last two matches of the five-Test series. But it was his role – claiming the wickets of Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd – that paved the way for India’s historic triumph against the West Indies in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Fifty years after that famous win, Durani takes a walk down memory lane.

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Excerpts:

What are your memories of the 1971 tour of the West Indies?

There is nothing better than going abroad for your country and with your team. And there cannot be anything bigger than winning Test matches and the series. We won a first series in the West Indies. It gave so much pleasure to all of us and the followers of Indian cricket and the Indian cricket team.

I went to the West Indies in 1962, too. That was my first tour overseas. We had the honour of playing against Frank Worrell.

The great Garry Sobers was the captain of the West Indies in 1971. He was a great all-rounder. We had a wonderful time. The people of the West Indies were wonderful hosts. Another important aspect of that tour was that India got a cricketer like Sunil Gavaskar. Dilip Sardesai and Eknath Solkar also had a fruitful tour. Eknath was one of the heroes of that tour.

India won the series 1-0. What do you recall about the dismissals of Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd in the second Test?

Garry was bowled with a ball that came into him sharply. He had no chance to defend because he was trying to respond to a delivery he thought was going away. Garry was beaten and bowled.

There was a little rough outside the off-stump of Lloyd. I tried to take the ball out in the air (drift) and break it into him. He was beaten in the flight and he hit the ball, with the spin, into the hands of Ajit Wadekar at short midwicket. It was a great catch by Wadekar.

Sunil Gavaskar Test debut on this day 50 years ago

How did you celebrate the dismissal of Sobers?

I was so overjoyed when I bowled Garry. I started jumping. Then Sardesai ran up to me and said: “Stop jumping, Salimbhai. We still have a long way to go. You have to bowl a lot more.”

The West Indies were not getting runs in the first two Test matches. The side was bowled out for 217 in the first innings of the first Test in Kingston, Jamaica, and 214 and 261 in the second Test at Port of Spain? But Garry Sobers was in good form right through the series...

Garry was getting runs with great comfort. He started really well and missed a century at Kingston. (He made 93 in Kingston, Jamiaca; 108 not out in Georgetown, Guyana; 178 not out in Bridgetown, Barbados; and 132 at Port of Spain, Trinidad). Sobers was a consistent performer for his team, he was the captain and he batted fluently. He was lovely to watch.

What did Sobers tell you after the second Test?

We used to meet many times after the matches. After I dismissed him for zero, he told me in jest: “Did not you get any other batsman, only me!”

A simple guy who loved playing cricket

You did not play the last two Test matches in Barbados and Port of Spain...

I did not have luck with the bat, was getting out to simple deliveries. I should have done better. I was getting out to (leg-spinner) Arthur Barrett and (off-spinner) Jackie Noreiga. I also batted at No. 3 in the second Test at Port of Spain. I felt so bad about not being able to get runs. Not only was I dropped for the last two Tests, but I was not selected for the tour of England. The selectors said I was not good enough.

"It appeared that god sent him with the Indian team to the West Indies," said Salim Durani about Sunil Gavaskar, who made his debut on the 1971 tour.   -  The Hindu

 

What about Sunil Gavaskar? He scored 774 runs in four Tests on that tour. He scored four centuries and three half-centuries (65 and 67 not out in the second Test; 116 and 64 not out in the third; 1 and 117 in the fourth; and 124 and 220 in the fifth).

It appeared that god sent him with the Indian team to the West Indies. He became one of India’s greatest batsmen.

Dilip Sardesai also rose to the occasion with some great batting. He made 212 in Kingston, 112 in Port of Spain, 150 in Barbados and 75 in the fifth Test in Port of Spain – in all, 642 runs.

Dilip batted beautifully. He was a great batsman against all sorts of bowling. I do not think he had issues facing fast bowling. He had his own, stylish ways of playing. He was a big run-getter.

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Eknath Solkar played a supporting role on most occasions to Sardesai...

Eknath played his role very well. He was one of the heroes for India in that series.

But M. L. Jaisimha did not get runs...

It was unfortunate. Like me, he too did not get going. According to me, he was one of India’s top batsman. He played the first Test and replaced me in the last two Tests. But all these things happen in cricket: bad luck chases good batsmen. Jai knew the game and he had a good technique. He could adapt against any bowling.

On the previous tour in 1962, the West Indies had a fast bowler like Wes Hall, but not one as fast as him in the 1971 series...

Yes, their fast bowling was not as powerful as it was in 1962. Why only fast bowling? Lance Gibbs played only one Test match. He played in Guyana. But he had played a lot of Test matches and he was not effective against us.

India’s new ball bowlers were Abid Ali and Solkar...

Tiny (Ramakant Desai) was with us on the previous tour in 1962. Tiny was a very good fast-medium bowler. We also had Rusi Surti and Vasant Ranjane in 1962. But on this tour, Abid and Ekky got some wickets. But the main bowlers were all spinners – (E. A. S.) Prasanna, (Bishan Singh) Bedi and Venkat (S. Venkataraghavan), who had an excellent tour.

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