Podcast: India’s greatest cricketing victories E08 - Dilip Doshi on beating England in 1981 at Wankhede

In this episode of India’s Greatest Cricketing Victories, Vijay Lokapally caught up with Dilip Doshi about his five-wicket haul vs England in the 1981 Wankhede Test, parochialism in cricket and how far the game has come today.

Published : Aug 17, 2022 06:08 IST

In 1981, India scripted a memorable 138-run victory over England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to take a 1-0 lead in the six-Test series. 

The team sheet on both sides had legendary names like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Geoff Boycott, and more. There were no centurions in this Test but the match saw four five-wicket hauls and one of those went to Dilip Doshi when he almost singlehandedly took care of the English lineup which batted second. 

In this episode of India’s Greatest Cricketing Victories, Sportstar’s Vijay Lokapally caught up with the veteran spinner about this match, his playing days, and how far the game has come in India since. Do listen in. 


E01 ft. CD GopinathE02 ft. Farokh EngineerE03 ft. Karsan GhavriE04 ft. Madan LalE05 ft. Yajurvinder SinghE06 ft. Syed KirmaniE07 ft. Shivlal Yadav


Vijay Lokapally: Thank you Dilip Bhai for agreeing to speak to The Hindu and the Sportstar. You would have had some association during your active playing days with The Hindu and Sportstar. We are one of the few magazines in the country. This interview is part of a series we are doing on some of India's greatest victories. Obviously, you will have your choice, like in your debut game at Chennai where you had taken eight wickets. That was a great performance. But we picked November 1981 match against England where India won by 138 runs.

But to begin with, what are your memories of your debut? Although it was a drawn game, you did amazingly well. I have brought a list of batsmen you got: Graeme Wood, Kim Hughes, Graham, Yallop, Dav Whatmore (in both innings), Rodney Hogg, Alan Hurst, and Andrew Hilditch. So you got the best batsmen out.

Dilip Doshi: Thank you. I would just say that it's the most wonderful memory really and I was thankful that I got a chance at last. I wanted to prove a point. That's the thing you know. Basically, you play because you want to play for your country and hopefully, you win games. That was the whole purpose. And of course, you love the game. As a child when you grow up, you dream of playing for your country and when it comes true it's a very, very impossible feeling to describe, except that I can say that it will never leave you. You know it always stays with you, the thrill.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, and sir, this move to go to Bengal. Was it because in search of opportunity or the fact that maybe Bengal was a good team and you have had a regular chance to play there?

Dilip Doshi: No, nothing like that in that sense. I was born in Rajkot. Saurashtra is, you can say, my birth state, the state of my roots for both my parents. But my father was doing his business in Calcutta in those days, so we lived there. So I was born in Rajkot but always lived my entire growing up life in Calcutta. Calcutta and Bengal always my, as I said, the Karma Bhoomi at that time you know. I had no choice and I have no regrets. I think after independence, Calcutta was arguably the best place to grow in because of the education, the Maidan, the art, and culture, and it was fantastic.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, sir. Before we dive into your Test career just a word about the delayed entry to First-class cricket and international cricket. What would you attribute that to?

Dilip Doshi: To be very honest there was a typical parochialism in our country then. I got an entry into my college team straight away. I did not play any school cricket of any significance except in Maidan in Calcutta. So, you're honing your skills against others. And I recall that without being immodest, we used to practically win every game then we played in, and I used to have figures at times like 8 for 2 runs and things like that. I did realise that I was able to play against good players and get wickets. So it instills confidence in you and you grow up street-smart, as you would call it. Then I went to St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, and I got my chance immediately. I proved a point because St. Xavier's College became the champions of the Calcutta University program year after year. When I was playing I used to be the highest wicket-taker. So it felt rewarding you know, but then I had to wait for years to play for Calcutta University simply because of parochialism. Even many of them considered me as a Gujarati playing in Bengal or living there. I mean that was only those few people. The people in Bengal knew that I was a home product. I personally felt that I was more Bengali in that way than anybody else. Because at the end of the day people did not think about India the way we do today in those days.

And so I got a very late entry into university cricket. At the same time into Bengal cricket as well. But anyway, I have no regrets about that. To be honest, Vijay, when you’re playing like that you're honing your skills, your sharpening whatever you need to learn and you don't have to think about it. It's an automatic process. Today, looking back, you can say that you are learning, but when you're playing, you're not saying you're learning, you're simply playing and by being the experience into your cells, and you know that goes to teach you what do what to do, what not to do.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, Dilip Bhai. I think that's very, very sporting of you. But just one question for the first Test match. Which one would you pick as the best wicket? Graeme Wood or Hughes, who was brilliant, a good player of spin, even Whatmore or Hilditch, the opener. Who should be your pick?

Dilip Doshi: I think it's difficult to pinpoint a wicket. But let's say that the thrill of getting Graeme Wood on the first day on my first Test is like, as they say, opening a bottle of our leaves. The first one is most difficult to take out from a bottle of leaves. And once you take the first one out, it paves room for the others, as they say. So I thought that was not a bad start, you know.

And I got a good spell the next morning. The butterflies had settled down. By the way Vijay, since you asked me, let me tell you a story about a renowned commentator from the north of India. In those days there was more Akashvani, and Doordarshan was there. Not much of prominence there. At least I could lay my hands on some of the tapes. But within my hearing distance there was this guy. After the toss was done and we were going out to the field, he said to one of the other members of the team, to Rajinder Singh Ghai, the left-arm spinner, a bowler of wonderful merit. But, he said to the other fellow that your chance will come as this old guy will go out in a Test or two. I don't want to mention his name and I gave him a piece of my mind. That's how crude or how parochial some people were, and I have no regrets. It made me more determined than I realised.

Vijay Lokapally: That would have made you, really, you know, just to prove him wrong, right?

Dilip Doshi: No, no. See, this is where I'm saying you are there. It's a bit like a golf game. You want to improve your own score, so you want to establish yourself as a player. He's going to contribute to the wellness of the team or the winning of the team. So you need to be at your calmest mind. If you get ruffled by these people, they have been successful and you pay a way for them. So you have to take a deep breath. I do believe in meditation and I have always done that since when I was a child. That helps me a lot to calm down and in a way to be very philosophical. You don’t forget them, but you forgive them and move on. Otherwise, you hold those grudges.

Vijay Lokapally: True Dilip Bhai. Now coming down to that Test match at Bombay. With the iconic venue and great opposition, I mean they had some wonderful players.

Dilip Doshi: That was arguably the best England team had come to India.

Vijay Lokapally: What are your immediate memories? I'll ask you specific questions. When you think of that match, what strikes you?

Dilip Doshi: Well, first of all, I felt that every series will start with my aim as a player to contribute to the team's victory, and you know that feeling was very important. And you know that we did not score many runs in the first innings. And when they batted, I recall they were 104 for one or something in that region. I had to request my captain to bowl me from the other end. Finally, he did accede to my request and I worked from the other end. I got a wonderful spell of 5 for 12. What helped me was my persistent inquiring line on the middle stump. So I believed in not giving batsmen any room on either side to play and bowling a tight line with a blind spot. This is the technical way of saying when a left-arm spinner bowls from close to the stumps round the wicket, he can create a line that creates a blind spot for the batsman either to play only straight or play against the spin. So I was happy that they played against the spin and the result was obvious that we were able to get them bowled out very quickly. We got a small lead and I thought it brought a lot of beliefs in our team that we can beat this team.

Just for your knowledge, we had not beaten a good England team in India. We won some matches, but we lost the series and the only victory that we had against an England team of not so much of great merit was Tony Lewis' team in 1972-73 when they had some good players.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, yeah it was not the strongest England team

Dilip Doshi: To that respect, I felt that spell of mine paved the way for the series and what happened in the rest of the series is another story anyway.

Vijay Lokapally: Sir, now I really want to know about bowling from that particular end you insisted.

Dilip Doshi: It always works. I will tell you why. In every venue that you play there are some areas and some ends is not necessarily suits you, but it works better for certain kind of bowling. Not always in our times and I felt that it did work.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, so which end was that?

Dilip Doshi: That was then I asked for Tata's End.

Vijay Lokapally: Sir, when you decided to bowl from a particular end what are the factors were there that prompted that you will be better off bowling from this end?

Dilip Doshi: It's hard for me to recall every small detail now. But I had played at the Wankhede don't forget that. I play two home series there already. We beat Australia and we beat Pakistan in series. So I already had some experience by that time, and maybe that tilted this thought in the favour of bowling from that end. I cannot recall, to be very perfectly honest, every small detail, but I know that that's what happened, that happens with every bowler in the world.

Vijay Lokapally: I was tracking down the scores. I saw from 131 for three they were all out for 161. You had Fletcher, Botham, Tavare and Emburey in a row. So what are your memories of these four wickets? Because actually these four wickets gave India the win.

Dilip Doshi: Yes, absolutely. I was playing in county cricket for a long time. And I know Ian Botham was an outstanding cricketer and he had the ability to change the course of any game that in which he played. He's proven over the years that he could do that. I felt that Ian will try to hit me out of their attack. We are very dear friends and he's a great competitor. I would have loved them either to jump out to the crease or to play me against the line and they chose to play against the line many times and the result was in my favour. I beat them in flight and with a little bit of spin, so that did help. So you get on a roll you know that kind of a you get into that kind of a spell. That's why I tell you I think it was a 5 for 12 to be precise in about 8 to 10 overs.

So you hold them in a vice-like grip. For me, the grip has to be vice-like. You hold them and suffocate them with the oxygen which is the runs. But it's not negative bowling, you are attacking. You have an attacking field because you got close in people who want to catch them. So then they have to decide either to defend and watch the game or to hit you out. So you know it's a strategy.

Vijay Lokapally: And sir, here, if you see Tavare was a blocker. Fletcher, as you know, would adapt. Botham was an attacking batsman. Emburey, of course, was there. So, what kind of adjustment you have done to your bowling to bowl out these batsmen of different character?

Dilip Doshi: Well, Tavare was a stickler. He played straight. He would not take any undo chances. But when you crowd a batsman with a few close in fielders, if I recall we had four close in fielders for them. And if you can imagine, there are four close in filters. Plus wicket-keeper five, plus the bowler six that gives only five players in equation on the outfield leaving huge gaps. The temptation for most of the people will be to play a few shots to get those fields out of the scatter because you know our total was low. We were in a way, defending a lot. But there was no way you can defend. Either you get them bowled out to get to get a start, or you allow them to settle down and take a first innings lead over you, which would have made the series entirely very different. So the strategy of attacking them with close in field and you know, testing them with the nerves worked out like that. And Fletcher, of course, was one of the best players of spin in his time because when he played against our spinners, also on turning pitches, he knew how to negotiate. See playing against a spinning ball is about negotiation. The ones and the twos and the force and the odd six. You cannot predetermine anything. You have to play according to the situation on the field placing in the board and that's where I felt that planning and that knowledge of these cricketers and where to bowl to them helped.

Vijay Lokapally: Sir bowling to these established three batsmen and then when you run into the tailenders, say Emburey or Bob Willis, so do you need to change your strategies or you would stick to the same line and length?

Dilip Doshi: Well, you know. We had stick to same line in length because they have to adjust the game, but you entice them a little more with the freedom to play one or two shots and in the process if they hit you one or two it doesn't matter to me. The aim was to get the first innings lead. And we could get that. And that's where we changed the course of the series.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, and sir, am I right if I say you did not believe in buying your wickets, you wanted to earn your wickets? You never gave away easy runs whether Test match or ODIs. So what kind of mindset did you have whether, like you said, to throttle them or buy your wickets?

Dilip Doshi: Well, I think buying the wickets is an old time term used to be when people threw the ball in the air or they tossed it up as they say and people would go for a slog and ended up playing 15-20 runs and throw over their wickets. For me, I think the game is all about the runs. But at the same time you need to get the batsmen out. So it's a balance. The balance is if you toss the ball, you cannot spin the ball so much because in tossing the ball, the process of tossing and spinning or two different things. You can propel a spinning ball when you spin the ball you actually propel it. You know, like you spin the top like a child, you have to actually do that to spin the top and so similarly to spin the ball, you do propel a spinning ball. If you try to toss a ball, you will not be able to impart enough spin. A spinning ball dips. I'm sorry to be technical, you asked me.

Vijay Lokapally: No fine sir.

Dilip Doshi: So a spinning ball dips, creating an illusion in the mind of the batsman that he's there. But he's short of that. So I believe that spinning the ball also requires giving it the air, but it is not the kind of air that tossing up. You cannot mix up of flighting a spinning ball and tossing a ball. Yeah, I felt that I was a flight of the ball by spinning it. It's a quick flight rather than toss the ball, which is much easier to play in my view.

Vijay Lokapally: And sir, your friend Ian Botham got 9 wickets in the Test match. What did we say about that? Here you were a spinner and he was a medium fast bowler doing well. So was it an ideal pitch for both spinners and medium fast bowlers?

Dilip Doshi: Actually, it was a wonderful cricket pitch. It was not a spinning pitch by any standards. I was lucky to be able to extract spin on any pitch and I know that on a good pitch you need to only spin this much to get the edge of the bat. That's why a tight line and length is so essential for getting effect of a turning ball. And Ian Botham is always in the game whether he's batting or bowling. He will find his way to get you out. Ian, as you can see, on any kind of pitch, can seam, or he could be quick, or he could bowl cutters. So he mixed his variations and he was handful.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, and sir I mean the target. I mean India made just 227 from what I saw from the score, there was not a single half-century from any batsmen. The target was 241, but how could you bowl just one over? Kapil Dave and Madan Lal bowled 5 overs each and you had just one. I mean you had initiated the collapse in the first innings and getting to bowl just one over. Was it a disappointment? I'm not instigating you.

Dilip Doshi: Well, of course, it was a disappointment. But sometimes what happens is if you get the result, the method of getting a result is forgotten. So I have no regrets about that. It just happened that I bowled only one over.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah yeah, so would you rate this one of your finest victories? I mean I got the fact that you did perform. You played a major part in it.

Dilip Doshi: Well, I would say that my spell of 5 for 12 was the series decider. You can see it. I don't have to say it. Otherwise, they would have taken a lead over hours and it would have been a different game, series altogether. But you know that when a team wins, it's more important than anything else.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, yeah. And sir, you were quick in going through your overs. Wasn't a tactic? Or was it your style that you had to get your overs done quickly because batsman hardly had any leaving time?

Dilip Doshi: Well, generally speaking a spin bowler (I had a short run up - four steps and bowl) If you fortunately didn't go for runs, then you are back on your mark very quickly. Really, it's no point in wasting time. You get on with your plan. But in that series it didn't happen so because I was accused of bowling very, very long timed overs by the England media and the press because I was advised to take my time to finish the overs. It was recorded that some of the overs took as much as four to five minutes, which is why I was criticized by English press for that. But I was acting under the orders.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, that’s not your natural style.

Dilip Doshi: No, no, it deprived me of getting at the batsman sooner. I usually get to the batsman quickly. I remember the great Lance Gibbs. He used to finish his over in one minute 40 seconds.

Vijay Lokapally: Oh my God!

Dilip Doshi: Gibbs was relentlessly bowling at the batsman. I like that style. But there are times when you have to listen to the command of the captain, and you have to obey. It's a team game.

Vijay Lokapally: Right. Sir, one for this generation because they don't know the importance of what it was bowling to the field or having your own field and bowling to it. So but did you learn over a period of time or it came to you naturally that you will set your field and or maybe you will set your field once you get into your rhythm or you would have a predetermined a set of field before you begin your spell?

Dilip Doshi: Okay. Setting my own field, I learned playing in Maidan and developing your own game. If you go through a proper system or in my view whatever system you may want to call it the coach is advising what to do. The way I grew up that I had to decide where my field should be and it teaches you the way forward. And of course as a bowler if you know where you are bowling and where you would like the batsman to play you. So you have to visualise that that's the reason why I like the sentence of Sir Neville Cardus who said that “cricket is like outdoor chess. You put your soldiers or whatever it’s. I don't play chess, but I can understand that comparison, the analogy. So I feel that it's important to leave certain gaps where the batsman is tempted to play and that's what actually you want him to do.

So field placing you learn by experience. But as a bowler, like most of the bowlers otherwise worth their salt, they would have a fixed field and you will adjust one or two players in the field according to the batsman coming in. Whether it's a more defensive field or a little more attacking will depend on the individual coming in and your strategy for him.

Vijay Lokapally: Right and sir, what is it that one season of domestic cricket in India will not give you what you will get say one season of county cricket? Are there any salient points which you think have. You've played so many years and you've lived in England and you have played in India in Ranji Trophy.

Dilip Doshi: Well, County cricket in the era in which I played and much before me was possibly the finest quality cricket any cricketer would hope to play because England had an extensive season and a very full programme. I was playing literally seven days a week. I started playing in the era when the wickets were uncovered. Right, so it could rain and you could still go out and play on a wet pitch where you'll have to adjust the game entirely as a batsman or as a bowler. And then the sun coming out and the wind drying the pitch. The game didn't get stopped because of rain. If it is raining, they didn't play, but when it stopped you could still play. So that made cricket in England very unique. That was the only high quality professional cricket possible in those days apart from the league cricket in Lancashire League and the Northern Leagues of England, where all of the great cricketers played, including Sir Garfield Sobers, many of our Indian cricketers from the past and the Australians. Now you playing against the best players in the world in county cricket. In those days, most of the international cricketers were playing in county cricket. Very few Indian players played. Australians played. South Africans who were not able to play Test cricket also played. So it was a learning place for everybody, including those great players. We're just two different conditions to play in day in, day out according to the demands of the game. And we were playing one day cricket as well. So, there was John players’ league of 40 overs. Benson & Hedges 55 overs, Gillette Cup of 60 overs each. So plenty of cricket and you were able to hone your game and your talent according to the demands.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, sir last couple of questions. One is your views on T20 because cricket fans and writers of my generation feel you would have made a fabulous T20 player and do you agree? Would you have loved playing the T20? And your views on this format.

Dilip Doshi: Vijay, I love playing cricket. T20 would make different demands on your game. You would expect to bowl 4 overs. And I would ideally, I would want to, take at least four weeks in four overs because the batsman going out after you, which is not a problem. On some days you accept that they will really go after you and they'll get the better of you. On some days you will get the better and you'll doing the game for your team. That's the philosophy with which you have to enter this kind of cricket.

Of course, T20 has come to stay. It's a great form of entertainment. I would not agree that it is a proper form of cricket. But it still needs to be played to make a lot of families, youngsters, even the corporates today interested to bring the money and keep it financially healthy. But too much of it, in my view, is going to spoil the health of the game. It's like too much fast food without having the proper meals going to ruin your health. So, I think it's important to strike a balance. For me, First Class cricket and Test cricket are the prime forces of game. It is those games that bring you great players into the game. People will go to watch miles. T20 can give a club cricketer a decent chance. An average cricketer can be a hero for a season. And I don't blame him. But as I said to you, that he would not make a good First Class or Test player. He would disappoint you. Because the transformation is huge. So I would say that a balanced approach would be necessary. My only one advice to any youngster is that don't sacrifice technique or the longevity of the game for a very quick, short success. So even for short success, adjust your game without losing your roots. Roots of the game, the technique of the game as a bowler. If a bowler has to bowl wide deliveries continuously for the sake of the team. If you got control, you should be able to do that, but then you need to have the muscle memory to go back to your roots of bowling the proper length and line. You know what I'm saying?

And for many youngsters building that muscle memory is very important and that can only be built by the proper game of cricket and that is First Class cricket.

Vijay Lokapally: And sir, our girls are doing exceptionally well. Do you follow women's cricket and do you have to anything to say?

Dilip Doshi: I see whenever it is possible. Whenever India is playing I look at the games and I feel very proud that our women's team have done exceedingly well. I was hoping they'll beat Australia, but I saw that they lost by mere nine runs.

Vijay Lokapally: Yes, sir.

Dilip Doshi: I I really feel proud. They've done wonderfully well. Yeah, and I'm sure that it will encourage many young girls to take up this great game.

Vijay Lokapally: And sir, finally, before we let you go… In 1991, I was a Sharjah. I attended your book launch where Mr Gary Sobers was there to launch it and you were kind enough to give me an autographed book. Do you agree he's the greatest cricketer to have played the game?

Dilip Doshi: I would not even discuss this with anybody. It's a given. I feel that two cricketers are truly God-sent Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers. No statistics should be brought up to compare him with anybody. People do not know the quality of cricket he played. People do not know the opposition he played and people do not even realise with what authority he commanded the games. So, and he's a true thorough gentleman. God bless him. I mean I was very lucky to spend a few hours with him in London about a few weeks back. Wonderful man. And of course, he's the greatest. He's the Emperor of Cricket I would say.

Vijay Lokapally: Thank you, thank you. Sir, and I forgot to ask you one thing. Just a word about the state of the Indian team. I mean there is such fabulous talent now and we can in fact have two teams playing in a tournament. So how do you look at the current Indian team?

Dilip Doshi: I think we have a fantastic talent of fast bowling. I can say even some of the young talent, wonderful fast bowlers who can bowl quick, are not playing in the team, could play for many other countries. Well, that's a great asset to have.

About batting and spin bowling I have two big question marks. Let's talk about the batting first. A lot of our batting is without technique. The reason why many people are getting leg before the wicket or getting bowled as often as they are getting is because of the footwork. I am not a batting coach, but as a bowler, I know enough about batting. So I can say that the batting technique, even at the highest level of Test cricket, has gone down considerably as opposed to our Indian batting a decade back. When if you look at the spin bowling, unfortunately on good pitches outside India we are still not as effective as we should be. Because I think this success on very helpful pitches has blinded us towards that. And we have not been able to develop the technique and the temperament required bowling relentlessly on batting pitches and the field placing that it requires. So it's a basic problem I see in Indian cricket and unless it is addressed we may lose our position as a top Test-playing nation. And as far as betting is concerned I have to ask you a question. This is a very different question.

Look at all the great teams in the last 50 years. Watching the game, if not playing that long but understanding the game. All the top teams did they ever have any coaches is my question to you.

Vijay Lokapally: Not really, I would have asked you this question. What kind of coaching would you need at the Test level?

Dilip Doshi: Well, I don't need any coaching at the Test level otherwise how reached that level? My point is you need a fielding course. You need a trainer. You need the physio. And probably you need two masseurs to make sure that if you have stiffness and if your body requires a certain release, they can give you. So fitness training is very important. Fielding coach or fielding practice especially is very important. All these are aspects of the game that you cannot ignore. The bowling coach and batting coach in my personal books are redundant. But I would have my own manager in the team who is like an elder brother to the boys. They can talk about their personal or games to him and the person in charge has to be large-hearted enough and worldly enough to suit them. And if it happens to be a former cricketer and who can give them a tip or two so be it, but it's not essential to be a former cricketer. I remember we had Wing Commander Durani in Australia in 1981. He played such a wonderful role as a manager. I'm sure he was a decent enough club cricketer or maybe he played for services I don’t know. But he never ever told us anything about the game. He got on with his job as an elder brotherly person and kept us all in good humour and through various difficult situations on the tour we were able to sail through and still square a series. So it goes to show really you do not need a coach. This is my personal view. It may be old-fashioned. But the game is old fashion let me tell you that. You still have two bats side on and bowl side on. And whatever the greats of the game did, you still have to do that to be successful. You cannot change the basics. You can make some adjustments. So these are my personal views. I know they are not enforceable because the game has gone too far forward in a corporatised manner which I welcome. Because without enough money in the game, it will die down and India is a powerhouse. But as India and Indians we have a huge responsibility towards this great game and towards the world, cricket to ensure that we set a good example of keeping the First Class cricket alive with talent and that’s for the Test cricket.

Vijay Lokapally: Sir, thank you. Your views will always remain valuable. As you said, maybe not be enforceable, but it can be kept in mind.

Dilip Doshi: Thank you, I have to be honest to the game that has given me a lot.

Vijay Lokapally: Yeah, you have also been very kind to us sir, and thank you for this interview.

Dilip Doshi: Thank you very much for having me Vijay. Pleasure is all mine. Have great regard for your group.

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