Tied Test of 1986: The suspense beats a Hitchcock thriller

In the end, it was as well that the match concluded in such an astonishing fashion for it helped to mask a succession of unseemly incidents.

Kapil Dev’s thrilling century contributed a lot towards the match taking a dramatic turn.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

For the past 26 years, passionate cricket people in Australia have often, talked in a most animated way about the tied Test. Now, after the quite extraordinary events in the sound space that was the Chidambaram Stadium, Madras, they will have to specifically qualify their remarks. For there are now two epic encounters which beg earnest and lively discussion at the very mention of the word “tie”.

It is, of course, utterly pointless to argue as to which was the more fantastic game: the tie between Australia and the West Indies in Brisbane in December 1960 or the astonishing conflict — and the word is used advisedly — between Australia and India.

Of course, it matters nought, both were remarkable matches, perhaps the jewels in cricket’s crown. There was, however, a fundamental difference between the two matches, which cannot be ignored. It is well documented that Riche Benaud and the late Sir Frank Worrell’s teams enjoyed a close friendship throughout the West Indies’ watershed tour of Australia that summer of 1960-61. Sadly, no such mateship and understanding exists between the teams under the leadership of Allan Border and Kapil Dev.

Bad blood

Indeed, it is difficult to recall a more acrimonious Test than this one. While the cricketers of Australia and India may respect each other’s capabilities as cricketers, they seem to have little else in common. Perhaps, in the end, it was as well that the match concluded in such an astonishing fashion for it helped to mask a succession of unseemly incidents.

For reasons best known to the protagonists themselves, bad blood exists between the teams. It was evident in Australia last summer and, quite obviously, nothing has changed.

Border, who ensured a thrilling match with his bold and imaginative closure of Australia’s second innings — when was the last time an Australian skipper was able to make two declarations in a Test — had said publicly that there is no love lost between the two teams.

The Indian power brokers have too been quite as forthright, but, then again, at times their actions have spoken louder than words.

Events on that frenetic final day were as wild as one could possibly witness in the traditional cricket arena and umpires Dara Dotiwala and Vikramraju were hardpressed to keep control.

Border’s charge

Indeed, Mr. Dotiwala alienated the Australians from the first day and Border believes that much of the tension was brought about because of his apparent desire to be the focal point of proceedings.

Border, in fact, believed that both umpires performed creditably with their decision making but undid much of their good work by taking the letter of the law to extremes in weather conditions which were bound to drive players to the brink.

Certainly Border snapped on the final day when Mr. Dotiwala suggested the Australians lift the tempo of the proceedings. While the home team, played the final two hours or so, much in the manner of a limited-over game, Border pointed out to Mr. Dotiwala that the stakes were particularly high. He reminded him that it was a Test match, and not a club game, that was in the balance.

High tension

Of course, Border was not the only one who succumbed to the pressure on the last day. Greg Matthews, who had such an outstanding game, was indignant at the attitude of Chandrakant Pandit and Mohammed Azharuddin. Tim Zoehrer showed dissent when Mr. Dotiwala refused him a stumping appeal against Chetan Sharma, Pandit had to be led away from the Australians during the last drinks break when physical violence seemed a distinct possibility; and Ravi Shastri got agitated when suddenly and inexplicably unsure of the total India was pursuing. And, it must be said, they were not isolated incidents, certainly, from that point of view; Border believes it was the toughest and roughest of his 82 Tests.

Just how much of the bitterness and drama can be attributed to the stifling weather will only be determined as this series progresses.

Certainly the Australian team manager, Mr. Alan Crompton, believed that a combination of the heat and humidity and the extraordinary nature of the game were the primary reasons for the controversies.

“To a very large measure, the incidents were attributable to the extreme heat and humidity and I think it would be inhuman of me not to understand the pressures the players were under in those circumstances,” he said when the team arrived in Hyderabad for the third limited-over international.

Let-off

While he conceded that some of the behaviour on show may not have been acceptable in other places at other times, he did not take any action against any Australian player.

The Indian officials were mysteriously silent over the whole affair. The many crises aside, it is a match that will be talked about for as long as the game is played.

While there were many disturbing moments it was nevertheless, a privilege to witness such an incredibly intense event.

Indeed, it was a particularly proud moment for the 29 Australians — the official party of 18, seven journalists and four tourists — in the howling mob of 30,000 on the final day and, what a precious occasion it was for Bob Simpson, the tourists’ cricket manager, who is working closely with Border to ensure smoother paths lie ahead for the team.

For Simpson, who is much loved in India, was a member of Benaud’s team which tied with the West Indies. Interestingly, Simpson gained more satisfaction from this match. In 1960, the Australians were somewhat subdued because they always believed they would win. This time, when they regained their composure, there was a sense of euphoria as the Australians felt they had lost the game they could not have dreamt of losing at one stage over the first four days.

The French champagne, an offer to the team at the Banjara hotel Hyderabad, four hours after the chaotic presentation ceremony, tasted very sweet indeed to Simpson.

Heroics

As was the case in Brisbane, the match produced some astonishing heroics, performances that will never be forgotten by those who cherish Test cricket.

Unquestionably, the command performance to end all command performances was given by Dean Jones, the most likeable Victorian extrovert who had waited uneasily for two and a half years for his recall to the team for his third Test.

Such was Dean Jones’ dominance of the Australian first innings, that the efforts of David Boon and Allan Border went unnoticed.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

For eight hours and 24 minutes he defied the stifling heat and humidity, severe bouts of retching and vomiting, painful stomach and leg cramps as well as the versatile Indian attack to return 210, the highest score by an Australian batsman in India.

Such was his dominance of the Australian first innings, that the efforts of David Boon (122, his third century in four Tests against India) and Border (106, his 19th Test century) virtually went unnoticed. Certainly there have been few occasions during his distinguished career when Border has played bit part in the proceedings.

And then came that marvellous hand of 119 from just 138 balls by Kapil Dev to ensure India avoided the ignominy of following-on in its first home Test since the series triumph in England earlier in the year.

It was at this point, too, that Matthews, the mad-cap all-rounder, who has developed a special rapport with the crowd, throughout India, began to extend his influence.

Stunning

He danced when he took five wickets in an innings for the first time in 15 Tests, and of course followed it up with another five in the second innings. He finished with the stunning analysis of 10 for 249 from 68.1 overs — and penultimate delivery.

And, to boot, he scored 71 runs in all and remained unbeaten in the second innings when Border took the biggest gamble of his cricket life by closing at five for 170, and challenging India to score at four runs an over for 87 overs to realise the impossible dream.

And, then there was the modern master, Sunil Gavaskar, who played a most beautifully controlled innings to give India realistic chance of victory, playing in his 100th consecutive Test match. He scored a glorious 90 from 170 deliveries, some of his cover and off drives, reviving memories of his salad days.

And, then came the brave deeds of Mohinder Amarnath — surely the world’s most relaxed international cricketer — Azharuddin, Pandit, Chetan Sharma, Shivlal Yadav and Shastri, who remained so poised in those desperate dying moments, and Ray Bright, who picked himself up off the mat to finish with five wickets for 94, and a match return of seven for 182.

And, then came..... and so you could go on for this was one of those exceptional moments in sport.

This was a tied Test match.

This article was published in The Sportstar of October 4, 1986