Best of the lot

G. R. Viswanath’s 222 at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai, in 1982, was a batting feast of the highest class.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Here’s Vijay Lokapally’s list of India’s five top Test batting and bowling performances against England.

BATTING Sunil Gavaskar,

221, Oval, 1979: A standout show that brought the best out of him. No doubt, his 57 at Manchester in more hostile conditions in 1971 remains close to his heart but the 221 was special. India almost overhauled the target of 438. When England presented a stiff challenge few expected India to respond positively. Gavaskar led the charge with an innings that left the attack in a daze. Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Mike Hendrick, Phil Edmonds and Peter Willey were tested by the batting master but India ran out of time and fell short by nine runs with two wickets in hand.

G. R. Viswanath,

222, Madras, 1982: A typical Viswanath performance that delighted the spectators. His range of strokes was on display right through and this regal knock at the Chepauk Stadium was a batting feast of the highest class. He walked in at 51 for two with Pranab Roy and Sunil Gavaskar back in the pavilion. It was a masterly innings that left Willis, Botham, Graham Dilley, Paul Allott and Derek Underwood frustrated. Nothing worked against Viswanath who was in excellent form in this drawn match. He was to play 11 more Tests after this innings but the double century remained unmatched.

Dilip Vengsarkar,

102 not out, Leeds, 1986: An artist at the crease, he was technically one of the most accomplished among Indian batsmen and was known to excel on tough pitches. Challenges always brought the best out of him and this match saw Vengsarkar dominate the bowling with creditable concentration. He made 61 and 102 not out in adverse conditions. In the second innings, he rallied the team from 70 for five with Gavaskar, K. Srikkanth, Ravi Shastri, Md. Azharuddin and Chandrakant Pandit falling cheaply. Vengsarkar handled the English attack with authority and produced a match-winning performance. His contribution stood out all the more since no other batsman made a 50 in the match.

Mohammad Azharuddin,

182, Calcutta, 1993: It ranks among the finest knocks on Indian soil. His three hundreds in a row (110, 105 and 122) in his debut series gave England an early glimpse of Azhar’s potential. When the Englishmen travelled next to India, this Hyderabad strokeplayer was named captain for just the first Test and the first two one-dayers. Azhar’s response was majestic as he flayed Devon Malcolm, Paul Jarvis, Chris Lewis, Paul Taylor and Ian Salisbury with a flurry of shots that transformed the Eden Gardens into a theatre of joy. It was a fitting reply to the National selectors for putting him under pressure before the Test.

Sourav Ganguly,

131, Lord’s, 1996: His selection for the tour surprised many. But what saddened him were uncharitable comments from some quarters that he came in because of ‘quota’ selection. Ganguly was determined to grab the chance and it came in the second Test of the series at Lord’s after India had lost the first at Edgbaston. The distinguished Sanjay Manjrekar paved the way for Ganguly’s selection and credit to coach Sandeep Patil for showing faith in the young Bengal player. Walking in at No. 3, Ganguly produced a crafty and flawless innings that convinced his critics that he belonged to the big league.

BOWLING Mohammad Nissar,

5/93, Lord’s, 1932: It was a sensational debut that shook the Englishmen. Having earned the distinction to play Test cricket, India had to make an early impression and the responsibility fell on this 22-year-old from Hoshiarpur in Punjab. An express bowler, Nissar rocked England by bowling Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe. When Frank Wooley was run out, the home team was struggling at 19 for three. India had made a fine debut and Nissar was the architect. He claimed three more wickets, those of Les Ames, Walter Robins and Freddie Brown. Though he made an excellent debut, Nissar could play only five more Tests over the next five years.

B. S. Chandrasekhar,

6/38, Oval, 1971: His whippy action and bewildering pace off the pitch made Chandra a very difficult spin bowler to face. Even the wicketkeepers would fail to read him. He was expected to exploit the English weakness against leg-spin and he struck at the appropriate time to fashion a dream victory. It was to become India’s first ever series win in England as Chandra ran through the opposition in a devastating spell that included the wickets of Brian Luckhurst, John Edrich, Keith Fletcher, Ray Illingworth, John Snow and John Price. India was set a target of 173 and it was duly achieved.

B. S. Bedi,

6/71, Bangalore, 1977: Those were lovely days when a contest between bat and ball would grow with every session. India’s strength lay in its spinners and the quartet of Chandrasekhar, Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan wove many a victory with their intricate art. Bedi was a joy to behold and brought immense striking power to the team with his crafty left-arm spinners. Chandra took six wickets in the first innings and Bedi 6/71 in the second to fashion a victory. Among Bedi’s wickets were Mike Brearley, Derek Randall and Tony Greig. Sensing his chance, Bedi, leading the side, opened the bowling in the second innings.

Chetan Sharma,

6/58, Birmingham, 1986: Though short-statured, Chetan was a dynamite with the ball. His energy motivated him to make the most of the on-field guidance that he got from Kapil Dev. Aggressive by nature, Chetan loved to test the batsmen with short stuff and his deceptive pace off the pitch was an asset, which he used well. His haul in this match was 10 wickets but the six in the second spoke well for the medium-fast bowler. Graham Gooch, Mark Benson, Bill Athey and David Gower were his first four victims. He had taken Gower’s wicket in the first innings too. It was a performance that evoked praise even from Kapil.

L. S. Sivaramakrishnan,

6/64, Bombay, 1984: With the ball twirling in his palm and eyes fiercely focused on the opponent, this leg-spinner presented a picture of immense concentration. It was only his second Test and he lived up to the expectations of skipper Gavaskar. He took six wickets in each innings but his 6/64 in the first essay was more impressive. He shone with the googly too and came up as a huge asset for a team that had looked for a replacement for Chandra. It is another matter that Sivaramakrishnan played only seven more Tests in his career, a huge disappointment considering his awesome talent.

Special mention:

Vinoo Mankad would always be known for his grand all-round show at Lord’s in 1952. To score 256 runs and also take five wickets reflected his endurance and commitment. He contributed 72 as an opener in the first innings and then bowled 73 overs to claim five wickets. He was back in the middle to make 184 against an attack consisting of Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman, Roly Jenkins and Jim Laker. His five victims were Reg Simpson, Peter May, Allan Watkins, Jenkins and Bedser. India lost the Test but the match is still remembered as the Mankad Test.