When Jaisimha was on fire

M. L.JAISIMHA... proved a point or two to the Indian selectors with his dazzling batting in Brisbane.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

The Australians simply could not fathom the folly of leaving Jaisimha out of India's original team. And their bewilderment would only increase at the end of the Brisbane Test, writes Gulu Ezekiel.

India's second tour of Australia saw the tourists being beaten conclusively in the first Test in Adelaide and the second in Melbourne. An injury to leg-spinner B. S. Chandrasekhar meant a SOS was sent out to M. L. Jaisimha as his replacement prior to the third Test in Brisbane.

It was a shock that Jaisimha had not been selected in the original touring party under the captaincy of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

Both the three-day match against Queensland and the one-day game against Queensland Country XI in Brisbane were washed out. That left the tourists short of match practice after the Melbourne Test. As for Jaisimha, he flew from Hyderabad to Brisbane, catching numerous connecting flights and arriving just before the Test with no chance at all to check out the Australian tracks. In the light of his subsequent batting feat, it was a marvellous performance considering the debilitating effects of jetlag.

Pataudi won the toss as he had done in Melbourne in the previous Test, but this time he asked Australia to bat first. The batting had collapsed in Melbourne after India took first strike, and Pataudi wanted to protect his batsmen from any early life in the 'Gabba wicket.

Bill Lawry, in his first Test as captain, and Ian Redpath took full advantage of the lack of fast bowlers in the opposition. They dominated the opening session to put on 76 for the first wicket before Redpath fell to off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna for 41.

The spinners now came into their own. After just a few overs of ineffective medium pace, Surti switched to spin. He along with Prasanna and Nadkarni restricted the mighty Aussie batting line-up to 312 for 7 on the opening day from 89 overs (77 of which were bowled by the spinners).

Lawry, Bob Cowper, Paul Sheahan and Doug Walters all scored half-centuries, but none could reach three figures. And when medium pacer Umesh Kulkarni captured the final wicket of Walters for 93 on the second morning, the home side was all out for 379.

Once again India's fragile top-order crumbled and at nine for three, there seemed little hope for the beleaguered Indian batting. Farokh Engineer, Abid Ali and Ajit Wadekar fell cheaply to the pace bowlers. But the best Aussie bowler was surprisingly Cowper, who captured seven wickets in the match with his innocuous off-spin. Pataudi now joined Surti at the crease in a desperate bid to restore some respectability. Surti was enjoying a purple patch in the series and in 156 minutes of classy batting he and Pataudi put on 128 for the fourth wicket.

Surti reached his second 50 of the series, while Pataudi, still struggling with a leg injury that forced him to miss the opening Test, was all class in his innings of 74 that included 10 fours and a six. Batting virtually on one leg in the second Test in Melbourne, `Tiger' scored 75 and 85. And here again he showed his superb technique and temperament before falling lbw to opening ball bowler Eric Freeman.

Surti was out just two runs later and at 139 for 5, India was virtually back to square one. Chandu Borde also fell cheaply and Jaisimha and Nadkarni were together with the score reading a sorry 169 for six by stumps on the second day.

Jaisimha (overnight on 16) batted superbly on the third day and certainly proved a point. His 74 took nearly four hours and with useful runs from Prasanna there were even visions of India gaining the first innings lead. But that was not to be and Australia's lead was exactly 100.

Jack Fingleton, writing for The Hindu, had this to say: "Jaisimha is naturally a good cricketer. He must be so to bat so assuredly today after not even one good net practice."

The Aussie batting legend, like all others watching Jai bat, simply could not fathom the folly of leaving him out of the original team. And their bewilderment would only increase at the end of the Test match.

Once again the openers gave Australia a good start, this time with a century stand. And once again the top order scored useful runs without anyone of them making a big score. The Indian spinners kept pegging away and they were rewarded as Australia failed to reach 300 for the first time in the series.

Prasanna was the pick of the Indian bowlers. He troubled the batsmen and finished with splendid figures of six for 104 off 34.4 overs.

The target was 395, a score till then only once before surpassed by a winning side and surely beyond the scope of the Indian batsmen.

At 177 for four, by close of the penultimate day, the mountain appeared even steeper. Surti's second 50 of the match, 48 from Pataudi and a rollicking 47 by opener Abid Ali, however, kept the Indian flame just about flickering.

Jaisimha (overnight on 5) was the hero of the final day's run chase. Indeed, as his century partnership with Borde (63) mounted, Lawry practically threw in the towel.

Borde was out to Cowper at 310 for 6 and now it was left to Jaisimha to wage a lone battle. The next four wickets fell for 45 runs of which he scored all but 11. Jai got to his century after nearly five hours at the crease with last man Kulkarni keeping him company.

When he was finally caught by Gleeson off Cowper for 101, the target was just 39 runs away.

It was the closest India had come to winning a Test on foreign soil in nearly 36 years. That landmark would be achieved a month later in New Zealand.

Jai was the lone Indian century maker of the series. Losing the fourth and final Test in Sydney completed the 4-0 whitewash. Bill O'Reilly, writing tongue-in-cheek could only wonder: "Indian cricket must be possessing riches if it could afford to overlook a performer so abundantly gifted as Jaisimha."

THE SCORES

Australia v India, 1967/68, 3rd Test, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba. January 19-24, 1968.

Result: Australia won by 39 runs.

Australia 379 (W. M. Lawry 64, I. R. Redpath 41, R. M. Cowper 51, A. P. Sheahan 58, K. D.

Walters 93; Kulkarni 2-37, Surti 3-102, Prasanna 2-114, Nadkarni 2-34) and Australia 294 (W. M. Lawry 45, I. R. Redpath 79, R. M. Cowper 25, A. P. Sheahan 26, I. M. Chappell 27, K. D. Walters 62 n.o.; Surti 3-59, Prasanna 6-104).

India 279 (R. F. Surti 52, M. A. K. Pataudi 74, M. L. Jaisimha 74; Freeman 3-56, Connolly 2-43, Cowper 3-31) and 355 (S. Abid Ali 47, R. F. Surti 64, M. A. K. Pataudi 48, M. L. Jaisimha 101, C. G. Borde 63; Gleeson 3-50, Cowper 4-104).