Samir Chopra December 17, 2010

India's Great Misses: Exhibit One - the 1979 Oval Test

Of all the Test matches that India has let slip from its grasp in its cricketing history, three rankle me in particular
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Of all the Test matches that India has let slip from its grasp in its cricketing history, three rankle me in particular. As India start a 13-month schedule of Test cricket, which could cement their standing as No. 1 and turn them into undisputed world champions, they might want to think about how three matches that should have been wins turned into draws. Hopefully, India won't make the mistakes they made in these three games if they want to be world champions, not just in terms of rankings but also in terms of perception.

Exhibit Numero Uno in this rogues' gallery is the Oval test of 1979, the fourth test of the series with England, arranged to take place after India's disastrous outing in the 1979 World Cup. India had lost the first test by an innings, saved the second after being bowled out for 96 on the first day, and weathered an Ian Botham-storm bravely in the rain-ruined third. Things didn't improve much in the fourth. India conceded a 102-run first innings lead, and on the fourth day, with plenty of time left in the match, found themselves chasing 438 to win.

Incredibly enough, thanks to the innings of lifetime from Sunil Gavaskar, which aided and abetted a 213-run opening stand with Chetan Chauhan, and a 153-run second wicket partnership with Dilip Vengsarkar, India were, at one stage, 366-1. India had begun the twenty mandatory overs at 328-1, needing five and a half runs over to win. Run chases at that pace were not common back then, and required the raising of a team's game.

India, however, stumbled badly, going from 366-1 to 429-8 before time ran out. Indeed, a loss looked possible at one stage. The promotion of Kapil Dev to No.4 failed (a promotion that Gavaskar disagreed with as he felt Gundappa Viswanath would have done better by just picking up singles and keeping things moving), while for England Ian Botham did his bit by picking up 3 for 17 and effecting a run-out, and India collectively lost the plot.

There are many ways to not be excessively critical of India: it was always going to take them a long time to switch from thinking about saving the game to winning it (India batted for 150 overs in their second innings); it was a miracle that they even came that close to winning despite their record in the series; and so on.

But it is worth remembering what India missed out on: the greatest run-chase of all time would have been achieved in England, in front of an English press. Would there be any doubt that Gavaskar's innings would have been reckoned the greatest of all time had India won? The anointment would have been swift and its displacement would have taken some doing. I mention the venue and the audience deliberately because there is no doubting who controlled the cricketing world's information order, the influence on which is as much part of a champion's responsibility as the actual performance on a field.

India had the stage set for them: the right venue, the right moment, had all come together. They failed to rise the occasion, whatever the reason. The Oval test of 1979 was deemed a "brave fightback", a "glorious draw" and all of the usual platitudes that India seemed to specialize in back then: brave losers and brave fighters. Not winners. In saying this, I'm not being excessively harsh; India did suffer from a loss of tactical and psychological nerve back in September 1979, one that ensured the greatest of cricketing glories slipped away from their grasp. It was the symptom of a fundamental problem, one which would manifest itself in Exhibit Numero Dos. But that's a story for the next post.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rambo on January 16, 2011, 22:26 GMT

    I truly believe it was Venkat's insipid capataincy that let India down in this test. He might have promoted Kapil to no 4 to step up the run rate (since Kapil lasted only 5 deliveries it would not make a big difference), but why did he send a dour batsman like Yashpal (in debut series) ahead of Vishy? Also why did he not make use of his other big hitter - Karsan Ghavri?

  • Shuvo on January 15, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    Sushil Doshi was commentating in Hindi when he handed over the mike to Ashish Ray to continue in English. And that's when Gavaskar holed out to mid-on after an incredible 221. Sushil Doshi was constantly warning heart patients to turn off the radios. It was that breathtaking. A couple of sixes by Venkat at death got the hearts racing to our mouth. And as wickets kept tumbling our faces were ashen. Bharath Reddy (only series he ever played) was the keeper and he french cut a four in the penultimate over. Brearly had his field up as he needed only 2 wickets in the last over and India 11 runs. We finished 9 short of glory and that was that.

  • Krish on January 14, 2011, 11:33 GMT

    I think we are missing the point on Gavaskar's greatest prowess on batting . Since he left , no opener has scored so many runs in test cricket and mind you if an opener stays in the Innings it gives so much confidence to the later order batsman . It is incorrect to accuse the Indian team of not winning as no other team so far has essayed such a chase . This test probably paved way for the confident Indian team later on who went on to win the World Cup in '83 .

  • Dev on January 13, 2011, 22:29 GMT

    I still remember this game. I was listening to the commentary standing outside my neighbor's house. In lot of ways this was the test that got me hooked to the cricket. I remember India had visited Pakistan before this and that was the first televised series. However, India got a drubbing by losing 2-0 and this test was the first one for me where India came close to winning against some stiff odds. I agree that India didn't have the winning ways then and lost the plot.

  • Anonymous on January 13, 2011, 7:51 GMT

    Gavaskar has carried the stigma of "not winning matches for his country often enough" - his 100 and 200 in his debut series with the match ending with India needing only a couple of wickets, similarly 156 in WI in 1976, and 2 centuries in Calcutta with WI having only one wicket left. But this one tops it all. Little more that he could have done. If such an innings were to be played today, the batsman would be compared to Bradman...Rightly does Imran say that Gavaskar's ability to soak pressure was incredible and was matched only by Ian Chappell. Imagine masterminding this chase - the mother of all run chases in history.

  • jaanson on December 28, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    yes it was one of those nearly games. what has not been highlighted is that england bowled only 5 overs in the half hour after tea before the mandatory overs started with bob willis taking his own time to walk back and breareley making many field changes. where did the author get the info that smg advised against kapils promotion? i have never read or heard about it so dont make false allegations. it was kapils first year in international cricket and maybe a year or so later he would have won the game for india by playing himself in first and then going for the big hits. still a pity that india didnt win.

  • ravi on December 21, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    Who says media is more balanced...

    Can someone dare to comment on Mr Tendullkar..whose sole objective is to steer clear of any responsibility and nevershow any passion or ownership for country.

    Isnt this the reason for his longivity? ie he is able to focus on hisgame as he hardly bothers what team needs.

    Critique invited!!!!!!!!

  • MiddleStump on December 21, 2010, 16:04 GMT

    The article is not accurate regarding the differences between Venkat and Gavaskar. In fact, SMG in his book sympathizes with Venkat and says that had Kapil Dev taken India to a win then Venkat would have been hailed as a genius. Later as captain, Kapil Dev failed again in the world cup semi final in Mumbai. More relevant is the appalling decisions by the umpires at the Oval that robbed India of a deserving win. After being blitzed in the first test, the Indian team fought back quite well in the rest of the series. The media criticism of Venkat was uncalled for. After all, the test was drawn not lost. Compare this with the Brisbane test in 68 where India lost the test by 39 runs due to a late order collapse when victory was well in sight. But then the captain in that series was Pataudi, the darling of the media, and nobody dared to question his decisions. In that sense, the media is more balanced and objective in recent years.

  • Hemant Taparia on December 20, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    I remember this Test match quite vividly as on the last day of this match I was watching the Movie" Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki" in Paradise Cinema, and keeping one eye on the screen and one ear glued to the transistor for the running commentary. And it was really very much heartbreaking when the time had run out with India needing just Nine more runs for what would have been an incredible victory & world record 4th Inning chase. Yes, some of the umpiring decisions were quite galling. But it was a fantatstic run chase.

  • ut4me87 on December 19, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    I remember that game, watching on TV with my Dad in London. Umpiring was an issue as was the promotion of Kapil ahead of Vishy. Trevor Bailey on Test Match Special could not believe that. Vishy easily penetrated the field - until he was given out and that was the end of the chase.

  • Rambo on January 16, 2011, 22:26 GMT

    I truly believe it was Venkat's insipid capataincy that let India down in this test. He might have promoted Kapil to no 4 to step up the run rate (since Kapil lasted only 5 deliveries it would not make a big difference), but why did he send a dour batsman like Yashpal (in debut series) ahead of Vishy? Also why did he not make use of his other big hitter - Karsan Ghavri?

  • Shuvo on January 15, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    Sushil Doshi was commentating in Hindi when he handed over the mike to Ashish Ray to continue in English. And that's when Gavaskar holed out to mid-on after an incredible 221. Sushil Doshi was constantly warning heart patients to turn off the radios. It was that breathtaking. A couple of sixes by Venkat at death got the hearts racing to our mouth. And as wickets kept tumbling our faces were ashen. Bharath Reddy (only series he ever played) was the keeper and he french cut a four in the penultimate over. Brearly had his field up as he needed only 2 wickets in the last over and India 11 runs. We finished 9 short of glory and that was that.

  • Krish on January 14, 2011, 11:33 GMT

    I think we are missing the point on Gavaskar's greatest prowess on batting . Since he left , no opener has scored so many runs in test cricket and mind you if an opener stays in the Innings it gives so much confidence to the later order batsman . It is incorrect to accuse the Indian team of not winning as no other team so far has essayed such a chase . This test probably paved way for the confident Indian team later on who went on to win the World Cup in '83 .

  • Dev on January 13, 2011, 22:29 GMT

    I still remember this game. I was listening to the commentary standing outside my neighbor's house. In lot of ways this was the test that got me hooked to the cricket. I remember India had visited Pakistan before this and that was the first televised series. However, India got a drubbing by losing 2-0 and this test was the first one for me where India came close to winning against some stiff odds. I agree that India didn't have the winning ways then and lost the plot.

  • Anonymous on January 13, 2011, 7:51 GMT

    Gavaskar has carried the stigma of "not winning matches for his country often enough" - his 100 and 200 in his debut series with the match ending with India needing only a couple of wickets, similarly 156 in WI in 1976, and 2 centuries in Calcutta with WI having only one wicket left. But this one tops it all. Little more that he could have done. If such an innings were to be played today, the batsman would be compared to Bradman...Rightly does Imran say that Gavaskar's ability to soak pressure was incredible and was matched only by Ian Chappell. Imagine masterminding this chase - the mother of all run chases in history.

  • jaanson on December 28, 2010, 22:21 GMT

    yes it was one of those nearly games. what has not been highlighted is that england bowled only 5 overs in the half hour after tea before the mandatory overs started with bob willis taking his own time to walk back and breareley making many field changes. where did the author get the info that smg advised against kapils promotion? i have never read or heard about it so dont make false allegations. it was kapils first year in international cricket and maybe a year or so later he would have won the game for india by playing himself in first and then going for the big hits. still a pity that india didnt win.

  • ravi on December 21, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    Who says media is more balanced...

    Can someone dare to comment on Mr Tendullkar..whose sole objective is to steer clear of any responsibility and nevershow any passion or ownership for country.

    Isnt this the reason for his longivity? ie he is able to focus on hisgame as he hardly bothers what team needs.

    Critique invited!!!!!!!!

  • MiddleStump on December 21, 2010, 16:04 GMT

    The article is not accurate regarding the differences between Venkat and Gavaskar. In fact, SMG in his book sympathizes with Venkat and says that had Kapil Dev taken India to a win then Venkat would have been hailed as a genius. Later as captain, Kapil Dev failed again in the world cup semi final in Mumbai. More relevant is the appalling decisions by the umpires at the Oval that robbed India of a deserving win. After being blitzed in the first test, the Indian team fought back quite well in the rest of the series. The media criticism of Venkat was uncalled for. After all, the test was drawn not lost. Compare this with the Brisbane test in 68 where India lost the test by 39 runs due to a late order collapse when victory was well in sight. But then the captain in that series was Pataudi, the darling of the media, and nobody dared to question his decisions. In that sense, the media is more balanced and objective in recent years.

  • Hemant Taparia on December 20, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    I remember this Test match quite vividly as on the last day of this match I was watching the Movie" Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki" in Paradise Cinema, and keeping one eye on the screen and one ear glued to the transistor for the running commentary. And it was really very much heartbreaking when the time had run out with India needing just Nine more runs for what would have been an incredible victory & world record 4th Inning chase. Yes, some of the umpiring decisions were quite galling. But it was a fantatstic run chase.

  • ut4me87 on December 19, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    I remember that game, watching on TV with my Dad in London. Umpiring was an issue as was the promotion of Kapil ahead of Vishy. Trevor Bailey on Test Match Special could not believe that. Vishy easily penetrated the field - until he was given out and that was the end of the chase.

  • RITEN CHATTERJI on December 19, 2010, 13:47 GMT

    This Test match was an ideal example of so near and yet so far . After an excellent opening partnership of 213 between Sunny and Chetan the middle order just failed to take advantage of the sound start given by them. Limited over cricket in India was at its infancy and with the requirement of five runs an over they were totally overawed by the situation. However, the highlight of this run chase was the stupendous knock of Sunny Gavaskar which was hailed by the connoisseurs of the game.

  • SAMK on December 19, 2010, 6:55 GMT

    2 Dubious decisons by the English Umpire costed us the amtch.

  • Straight_Drive on December 19, 2010, 0:05 GMT

    I remember this game. It was poor captaincy of Venkat. He should have sent Vishy ahead. At that time, Vishy was the best one-day player in the Indian team. Venkat was never a good captain. He had C.D. Gopinath's pull. Pras was a great captain (Karnataka won the Ranji trophy under him) and he had to play under Venkat for South Zone. Therefore, I would say Pras was more a gentleman than Venkat. Venkat was very short tempered with a Himalyan ego. Even players from Tamilnadu swore at him.

  • Longmemory on December 18, 2010, 23:50 GMT

    This tops my list of "ones that got away" as well. I agree with views of SMG's "team-spirit" & Venky's taciturn nature made by others. The umpiring was indeed godawful during the final overs. We have only SMG's word that he disagreed on promoting Kapil, Venkat will keep mum. Look at that scorecard & you'll see the 'keeper was Bharath Reddy, Venky's team-mate from TN. Venky was convinced Kirmani kept badly to him as he preferred his state-mate Prasanna. Venky allegedly kept Kiri out of the 16 that went to England- it came back to haunt him as Kiri's batting might have come in handy in that chase. Reddy was at the crease when the match ended! Indian selectors showed their class by making SMG captain for the next home series when the players were on the flight home after the Oval test. Venky learned about his deposition as the pilot announced it on the PA system en route. Venky is not the most likable guy nor was he a great bowler but I'd any day trust him over SMG.

  • Kishore on December 18, 2010, 21:09 GMT

    In my opinion, it was Kapil Dev's failure to score after being promoted to up the ante, as well as Bharat Reddy's failure with the bat, that cost us a win.

    After being 350 for 1 (or was it 2 wkt down), we let the game slip away to 428/8. Gavaskar was awesome. What a great knock that 221 was. I still rate that very highly.

  • Kishore Sharma on December 18, 2010, 20:25 GMT

    I remember this match well. I lived in England at the time and was watching the match on BBC TV. It was the BBC commentators (Peter West, Richie Benaud, Ted Dexter etc) who first suggested that, when India were one-wicket down, that should another wicker fall then Venkat should promote a hard-hitter like Kapil Dev up the order. I can't help but feel that the Indian team were likely following the BBC commentary in the dressing room and got influenced by the experts' advice - remember they were not used to a run-chase situation then and lacked confidence during those times. So, I think it is a little harsh to blame Venkat since this was really an unfamiliar situation for the team.

  • Suresh Lalvani on December 18, 2010, 20:09 GMT

    India would surely have won but for what Ted Dexter called a "rush of umpiring decisions" against India. Vishy was given out caught to a bump ball, and Venkat appeared to have made his ground but was given run out. Other close decisions went in England's favour.The England appealing (especially Mike Brearley) pressurised the Umpires during India's run chase.

    Sir Len Hutton described Sunil Gavaskar's knock as the perhaps the greatest innings ever played.

  • AV Madhavan on December 18, 2010, 15:47 GMT

    The 1979 Oval Test was certainly one of the most exciting run chases in the history of Indian cricket, we came so close to winning it bud sadly did not cross the winning line. The decisions against Vishy and Venkat were both dubious, hoe I wish the third umpire reviews and the UDRS were in vogue at that time. Venkat was a thorough gentleman and a professional par excellence. I have never seen him getting into any controversy and even after that famous innings of 36 by SMG in the world cup, he never uttered a word. To me, Venkat always has a very special place in Indian cricket as no one has performed so many roles with such distinction - from a player to manager, coach, administrator, selector, and finally, a world class umpire. He was tough but straightforward and that's why he was not popular, whereas SMG may be a great batsman but in my book, he is not a team player, and it was difficult to captain him and he was one of the reasons why we lost that epic test.

  • Venkat Krishnan on December 18, 2010, 10:34 GMT

    I remember this match only too vividly listening to Sushil Doshi's Hindi commentary at that time. I agree with Samir that this was a great miss; but remember, there was a diffidence about us - we would have been happy merely to play well, in those days; the stakes were not too high for India then - we were amateurs in comparison to England and Australia which had a high standard of professionalism; perhaps that is why we never go respect - we only got patronizing reviews, as one of you has stated. But it is ludicruous to criticize Venkatraghavan - who was perhaps one of the true Indian professionals at that time, a man who got jerked in and out of the team due to selectorial inconsistencies. During his entire career he was given tasks when nobody was willing to handle them - he was a good captain because he was tough on his teammates, and many did not like it - including a certain SMG, who in 1975 did the utmost to humliate his own captain by scoring 36 n.o. in 60 overs.

  • Harsh Thakor on December 18, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    With modern experience of one-day Cricket India would certainly have won.However very few teams even today could equal India on that day.It was the dubious umpiring decisons in the end that cost India a well-earned win.Vishy was given out caught to a bump ball.Gavaskar's innings was amongst he top 5 innings in test Cricket of alltime,and even Tendulkar has not equaled such an effort.

  • Harsh Thakor on December 18, 2010, 5:02 GMT

    One of India's most spectacular performances ever in Test Cricket and one of Cricket's all-time great fightbacks.On very few occasions have I been prouder of being an Indian.India after being outplayed for so long reminded you of an army making a historic comeback in a war and turning certain defeat into a famous victory.Sunil Gavaskar ,compiled a classic,played one of International cricket's greatest innings ever,displaying technical skill of a surgeon.India were cruising home till Gavaskar fell at 390,and then some blunderous umpiring decisions agaisnt Vishy and Venkat robbed India of a win.I am certain had Vishwanath been sent in his usual position India would have cruised home as Vishy was master in such situtaions with his superb ability to bisect the most impregnable of fields.

    Even English fans were so impressed that in the closing stages they wished India to win,who were certainly the moral winners.It was like seeing an epic film.

  • Bhajrang Bir Vijay on December 18, 2010, 1:59 GMT

    Good theme. After events dos and tres, how about India's worst failures: Bridgetown 1997 and Chennai 1999 comes to mind.

  • Srini on December 17, 2010, 20:57 GMT

    I remember this match well as well. Too much was left for the last 20 overs. One day matches were still in their infancy in India at that time and their batsmen were not used to scoring over 5 an over even in one days. At one point it seemed India might even lose the match and tried to play out the last 2/3 overs for a draw. That was a sad choice bec 1-0 or 2-0 series loss would have made no difference while a victory would have leveled the series. But then again, in those days, a loss was to be avoided at any cost.

  • sarwar on December 17, 2010, 18:24 GMT

    what about the sydney test vs aus,three wickets to go and one and half over left,and when kumble was playing an innings even hanif mohammad would have been proud of,the next three batsmen gave aus a win out of nothing.

  • Tokus on December 17, 2010, 18:10 GMT

    Totally Agree with Hari and Anonymous on the English Umpiring ...they played a vital role in ensuring this was Draw if not English Win. I would say even now Indian team shows traces of diffidence, a hallmark of our earlier teams. Why we still play safe before going for win when we know the best teams in the World - WI of 80s and Aus of 90s/2000 were agressive as hell against any team on any surface.Losing a few matches due to aggression should be acceptable but you would still end up winning many or even saving some.

  • Anonymous on December 17, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Agree with "Anonymous"...no one talks about English umpiring which tried to do its best to get "Draw" as final result if not English "Win". Overall India has come long way from those heady days of "diffidence" although you still see some traces to this day.

  • Alok on December 17, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    Seen the highlights of this match on the telly a couple of times. Dominating feeling each time was "so close and so far".

    Bar Australia and West Indies (and Imran Khan's team a little later), few teams of that era every aimed to go for a win until the draw was a certainty. India's cricketing philosophy almost until Kapil took the captaincy was to ensure that there would be no loss, and then if possible go for a win. Given that they didn't always achieve first, going for the win wasn't always an option.

    My point, as some others have also pointed out, is not that this was a team failure but one manifestation of a flawed cricketing philosophy that wouldn't change for a decade or two to come. Kapil started the slow change, and it was only much later after the failed captaincy of Azharuddin and Tendulkar, did Ganguly, Dravid and Dhoni in that order change this scheme of things.

  • BL KATWA on December 17, 2010, 17:07 GMT

    Chasing 439 to win, 4th day stumps score was 79/1 with 360 required on last day in 360 mins i.e. run a minute. In those days runs-per-over equation vocabulary was unknown. Defeat was staring the following day and it the talk was whether the play would last beyond tea or would the Indians capitulate before lunch as they had done miserably in the 2nd innings in their previous visit at Lord's for 42 runs. Unable to watch it on TV that day (my mother had passed away that day), with brief visits to a room with the radio and keeping up with the score, I felt it was a masterstroke that Kapil Dev was promoted to no. 4 but sadly it did not work. But again, the rest of the players did their utmost to reach the score of 429. What rankles me is the fielding side dashed off the field after the fifth ball of the final over (not possible to get 2 wickets with the final ball). The batsmen and/or the umpires should have stopped that because with a no-ball,India could have secured victory with 6 and 4.

  • Anonymous on December 17, 2010, 15:46 GMT

    Hari is right about Vishy's dismissal. I saw that game and the then prevailing BBC slowmo technology cast severe doubts over the umpiring. I also know a member of that team very well and have it on good authority that Indians considered some of the English umpires (Constant et al) to be blatantly rasict and frequently ruled in the locals' favour. In fact SMG has written about this as well. Re Venkat, he was a crap captain, an average offie (not a patch on Pras) and due to his stint with Derbie, carried weight in the British worshipping BCCI of the day. The post 1978/79 Pak losses and Packer fiasco resulted in Bedi losing the captaincy and SMG's wings were being clipped at the time too. Post England 1979, SMG became the undisputed superstar till Kaps joined him in the early 80's. But let's face it, the 70's Indian nation itself was riddled with self doubts and low self esteem. Remember it was still just 30 years post 1947. What chance would they stand against a confident English team?

  • Kedar Pandit on December 17, 2010, 15:39 GMT

    Good article Samir. I remember that game very vividly. Sadly India did lose the plot after Dilip's wicket as SMG was purely going on adrenalin and was knackered to the hilt by then. Venkat's rubbish captaincy was a big factor too. Don't forget Kapil was a rookie those days and a comfortable run chase was in progress even after allowing for the nascent days of Indian ODI history and lack of experience in run chases. If you see the history till then, even moderate run chases at home, never mind abroad, proved to be hard work for the Indians. Had Venkat listened to SMG's suggestion in the team talk and let Vishy come up in after DBV's wicket, who knows what might have happened!! Another issue however you ought to have covered is a socio psychological factor, namely that Indians lacked self esteem and especially in England always considered inferior to the English. This also enabled the native press to continue to be patronizing and condescend them at the first possible opportunity.

  • Hari on December 17, 2010, 14:26 GMT

    I vividly remember this match and I was listening to the BBC commentary the complete Final day's play. The gamble to send Kapil would have been hailed by the same SG if the result had been different. Every one does know the hitting capability of Kapildev and it was the Captain's choice too. Well, the equation of SG and Venkat?? By the way, Vishy in that second inning- Was he really out? Any takers.

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  • Hari on December 17, 2010, 14:26 GMT

    I vividly remember this match and I was listening to the BBC commentary the complete Final day's play. The gamble to send Kapil would have been hailed by the same SG if the result had been different. Every one does know the hitting capability of Kapildev and it was the Captain's choice too. Well, the equation of SG and Venkat?? By the way, Vishy in that second inning- Was he really out? Any takers.

  • Kedar Pandit on December 17, 2010, 15:39 GMT

    Good article Samir. I remember that game very vividly. Sadly India did lose the plot after Dilip's wicket as SMG was purely going on adrenalin and was knackered to the hilt by then. Venkat's rubbish captaincy was a big factor too. Don't forget Kapil was a rookie those days and a comfortable run chase was in progress even after allowing for the nascent days of Indian ODI history and lack of experience in run chases. If you see the history till then, even moderate run chases at home, never mind abroad, proved to be hard work for the Indians. Had Venkat listened to SMG's suggestion in the team talk and let Vishy come up in after DBV's wicket, who knows what might have happened!! Another issue however you ought to have covered is a socio psychological factor, namely that Indians lacked self esteem and especially in England always considered inferior to the English. This also enabled the native press to continue to be patronizing and condescend them at the first possible opportunity.

  • Anonymous on December 17, 2010, 15:46 GMT

    Hari is right about Vishy's dismissal. I saw that game and the then prevailing BBC slowmo technology cast severe doubts over the umpiring. I also know a member of that team very well and have it on good authority that Indians considered some of the English umpires (Constant et al) to be blatantly rasict and frequently ruled in the locals' favour. In fact SMG has written about this as well. Re Venkat, he was a crap captain, an average offie (not a patch on Pras) and due to his stint with Derbie, carried weight in the British worshipping BCCI of the day. The post 1978/79 Pak losses and Packer fiasco resulted in Bedi losing the captaincy and SMG's wings were being clipped at the time too. Post England 1979, SMG became the undisputed superstar till Kaps joined him in the early 80's. But let's face it, the 70's Indian nation itself was riddled with self doubts and low self esteem. Remember it was still just 30 years post 1947. What chance would they stand against a confident English team?

  • BL KATWA on December 17, 2010, 17:07 GMT

    Chasing 439 to win, 4th day stumps score was 79/1 with 360 required on last day in 360 mins i.e. run a minute. In those days runs-per-over equation vocabulary was unknown. Defeat was staring the following day and it the talk was whether the play would last beyond tea or would the Indians capitulate before lunch as they had done miserably in the 2nd innings in their previous visit at Lord's for 42 runs. Unable to watch it on TV that day (my mother had passed away that day), with brief visits to a room with the radio and keeping up with the score, I felt it was a masterstroke that Kapil Dev was promoted to no. 4 but sadly it did not work. But again, the rest of the players did their utmost to reach the score of 429. What rankles me is the fielding side dashed off the field after the fifth ball of the final over (not possible to get 2 wickets with the final ball). The batsmen and/or the umpires should have stopped that because with a no-ball,India could have secured victory with 6 and 4.

  • Alok on December 17, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    Seen the highlights of this match on the telly a couple of times. Dominating feeling each time was "so close and so far".

    Bar Australia and West Indies (and Imran Khan's team a little later), few teams of that era every aimed to go for a win until the draw was a certainty. India's cricketing philosophy almost until Kapil took the captaincy was to ensure that there would be no loss, and then if possible go for a win. Given that they didn't always achieve first, going for the win wasn't always an option.

    My point, as some others have also pointed out, is not that this was a team failure but one manifestation of a flawed cricketing philosophy that wouldn't change for a decade or two to come. Kapil started the slow change, and it was only much later after the failed captaincy of Azharuddin and Tendulkar, did Ganguly, Dravid and Dhoni in that order change this scheme of things.

  • Anonymous on December 17, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Agree with "Anonymous"...no one talks about English umpiring which tried to do its best to get "Draw" as final result if not English "Win". Overall India has come long way from those heady days of "diffidence" although you still see some traces to this day.

  • Tokus on December 17, 2010, 18:10 GMT

    Totally Agree with Hari and Anonymous on the English Umpiring ...they played a vital role in ensuring this was Draw if not English Win. I would say even now Indian team shows traces of diffidence, a hallmark of our earlier teams. Why we still play safe before going for win when we know the best teams in the World - WI of 80s and Aus of 90s/2000 were agressive as hell against any team on any surface.Losing a few matches due to aggression should be acceptable but you would still end up winning many or even saving some.

  • sarwar on December 17, 2010, 18:24 GMT

    what about the sydney test vs aus,three wickets to go and one and half over left,and when kumble was playing an innings even hanif mohammad would have been proud of,the next three batsmen gave aus a win out of nothing.

  • Srini on December 17, 2010, 20:57 GMT

    I remember this match well as well. Too much was left for the last 20 overs. One day matches were still in their infancy in India at that time and their batsmen were not used to scoring over 5 an over even in one days. At one point it seemed India might even lose the match and tried to play out the last 2/3 overs for a draw. That was a sad choice bec 1-0 or 2-0 series loss would have made no difference while a victory would have leveled the series. But then again, in those days, a loss was to be avoided at any cost.

  • Bhajrang Bir Vijay on December 18, 2010, 1:59 GMT

    Good theme. After events dos and tres, how about India's worst failures: Bridgetown 1997 and Chennai 1999 comes to mind.