RIP V.B. Chandrasekhar: The day a TN stalwart mesmerised Rest of India

V B. Chandrasekhar's quickfire hundred off 56 balls had powered Tamil Nadu to an unlikely win over Rest of India in the Irani Trophy.

Tamil Nadu batsman V.B. Chandrasekhar (right) celebrates with his skipper K. Srikkanth after scoring a quickfire hundred in the Irani Trophy cricket match against Rest of India at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk).   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Friends and foes wrote them off. So too did critics and experts. They were 207 adrift. The wicket was aiding spin. They had to make 340 to win in the fourth innings. Could they come back from the dead to win the match and the trophy?

The only ones who believed they could do it were the Tamil Nadu cricketers themselves. Not only did the Ranji champion come back from a virtually lost position but it did it in such style as to make a truly astonishing victory possible.

Such wins have been achieved before in the match for the same trophy. The Rest of India XI defied time to make 421 against Delhi. Srikkanth made a century in that match. In the second of such matches in which there was a turnaround result, Srikkanth was the captain of the winning team.

It wasn't Srikkanth who set up this chase though he was a party to it. It was V B. Chandrasekhar, another grand striker of the ball, who made the win possible by making what is possibly the fastest century in Indian first class cricket — off 56 balls.

Until it began its second innings on the fourth morning little had gone right for Tamil Nadu. Losing the toss was the first disadvantage. The failure of Tamil Nadu's spinners on the first day was the second.

Venkatramana seemed to get tensed up because he was on trial. Srikkanth didn't help matters by juggling around with the bowlers in short spells. Runs were made rather easily against an attack which did not settle down for a long time. Indu Bhushan Roy himself made some of those. If India wish to pick him as an opener then it would have to ask for Tests to be played over 10 days at least.

The Tamil Nadu team, Ranji Trophy champion, which annexed the Irani Trophy, poses for a group photograph with the trophy in Madras on October 05, 1988. Standing left to right) : M. Venkatramana, B. Arun, L. Sivaramakrishnan, K. Srikkanth (Skipper), W.V. Raman, D. Girish, K. Arun Kumar, P.C. Prakash, S. Vasudevan and Robin Singh. Kneeling: V.B. Chandrasekhar, V. Sivaramakrishnan, M. Senthilnathan and U.S. Kumar.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Century stand:

Srikant Kalyani is a seasoned performer against spinners. He found the Tamil Nadu attack to his liking. He batted better on the second day than he did on the first. Jeswant, who did not seem bothered about this business of being on trial, opened his shoulders to let the ball and the bowlers have it. The control that the spinners had gained for the first time at the halfway mark in the Rest's first innings was lost as Kalyani and Jeswant put on a century stand.

The total of 433 is a figure Tamil Nadu could be expected to mock on form. Its record last year was such. But then it was facing a total after nearly five sessions in humid Madras. Whether it was fatigue or sheer carelessness, the fact remains that Tamil Nadu made a hash of its batting as it had much of the bowling save for Vasudevan who was among the wickets again.

To be fair to the side it was suffering as much from this 'trial' as its opponent. The tactics used at the batting crease were wrong Too many batsmen allowed themselves to be tied down by Gopal Sharma's accuracy. No one wished to take up the task of batting normally by getting to the pitch of the ball.

 

Steady spell

Gopal Sharma is not a clever little bundle of tricks. But he can be on the spot, ball after ball. He showed the home side spinners where they had erred. He kept the ball up, made the batsmen play with his good line of attack from outside off stump and bowled his captain into the embarrassing situation of having to refuse to enforce the follow-on.

Gopal Sharma was to end up with a record haul of 12 wickets in the match and he was on the losing side. Such is the unpredictability of the game. Only a handful of faithful stuck to the Ranji champion's ability to get back into the match.

Arun Lal's decision not to ask Tamil Nadu to bat on was the event on which the drama turned. This being a trial, Arun Lal perhaps did not believe it was important to crush the opposition.

All said and done, his was a bad cricketing decision. It was the Rest of India's turn to bat badly. It was not as if the Tamil Nadu spinners had suddenly improved in a day. The stalwart Vasudevan kept pegging away and W. V. Raman chipped in with a useful wicket or two.

Siddhu's absence (sprained wrist) meant there was none to offer the sedate start on which the side could have built on its first-innings advantage. By the third evening, the ball was doing nasty things. It was turning square and those batsmen who believe in merely offering their pad risk one of two things — either they put the bowler right on top or they make themselves susceptible to umpiring errors.

So much so, there was a ray of hope when the target was finally only 340 instead of being somewhere in the region of 400.

The Indian team had been selected on the third playing day itself. Tamil Nadu was in such a bad state by then that not only was the trophy seemingly out of its reach but it had also lost out in the sense that one of its two players who had been in the Indian team, Raman, was left out for the Sharjah trip.

The confusion over whether to treat this game as a mere trial had not been well resolved by the State selectors. The whole committee had descended on the match with its mind already made up. Tamil Nadu's cause was a forgotten one. By picking an older combination than was possible the local selectors had played into the hands of their national counterparts.

Bad decision

The remarkable thing about the win is that the cricketers thought it possible the moment. Arun Lal chose to bat again. There was a concern for Raman losing his place but the best way to make up for such glaring acts of commission is to hit back and win matches.

The Tamil Nadu guys did just that and proved in the process how far the team has come from the dank days when it was the biggest of pushovers at this level.

There is a new feeling of confidence and self-belief. It is reflected in the manner in which Tamil Nadu bats in an ideal mixture of outright aggression and old fashioned occupation of the crease.

There are dashers and there are stayers. There are also those like Srikkanth who reversed their styles just for the match. It was the team's best-known dasher who had been left high and dry as wickets fell in the first innings.

Srikkanth made a half-century for the top score but that was hardly sufficient against a total above 400. Srikkanth made a half-century in the second essay too. This was more than sufficient to be the foil in a blazing opening stand which opened up the route to victory.

Aggressive

Tamil Nadu batsman V.B. Chandrasekhar plays a shot during his century knock against Rest of India in the Irani Trophy cricket tournament at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk).   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

There are more than a few batsmen who hit the ball as hard as Chandrasekhar. What makes the youngster's style out of the ordinary is he can belt the ball while still being orthodox enough to be able to build innings.

Let's say he is a Srikkanth Mark II. His century was so superbly put together that the bowlers were to take a back seat for the rest of the match. Hirwani was the Rest's biggest failure. It should not matter if Hirwani is not found to be highly successful against Indian batsmen. But he must work harder if he is to make an impression on good wickets. Here on a none too good one he did not bowl well enough in the second innings when what he did at the bowling crease mattered to the team.

Chandrasekhar's knock will naturally be compared to that of Dilip Vengsarkar in the same match 13 seasons ago. Vengsarkar had been just a first-season batsman then and he vaulted the rungs at once. It is to be hoped Chandrasekhar's knock does not go in vain;merely because there was only one selector to watch the fireworks as Chandra struck eight 6's and eleven 4's off 78 balls.

There is no knowing how many balls Prakash Bhandari faced in making his 111 not out in 60 minutes for Bengal against Rajasthan in the Ranji trophy. He might have taken less than 56 to get his first 100 but he has to make way for Chandrasekhar in the matter of quickest runs in terms of balls faced. There are three recorded first-class innings which are faster than Chandrasekhar's.

David Hookes made a hundred off 34 balls, Lance Cairns one off 45 balls and Ian Botham one off 50 balls. Chandra's innings will join this list. It is only logical that he should be tried out soon enough against international opposition. To that extent, the Irani trophy match was vital for Tamil Nadu cricket. That the trophy was won is not going to be the most memorable thing about the triumph will become obvious soon. For, after all, it did play against a skipper who refused to rub it in by enforcing the follow-on.

Full marks to the veteran V. Sivaramakrishnan for making the victory finally possible by means of his patient knock without which the advantage of the opening stand could have been so easily frittered away. Girish and B. Arun contributed too to the safe sprint to the finish.

In the end, Tamil Nadu won a trophy but lost a place in the Indian team. Maybe, good will come out of this also. Dynamic victories like the one achieved will declare a dividend sometime or the other.

(From our archives, Sportstar issue dated October 15, 1988)