May 3, 2002

Das earns himself a dubious distinction

Only Agatha Christie could have dreamed up a start more dramatic, and that would have involved some species of cyanide poisoning. Mervyn Dillon shivered Shiv Sunder Das' timbers off the very first ball he sent down in the Bridgetown Test, making Das the fourth Indian batsman to suffer the mortification of being dismissed of the first ball of a Test match.

Such first-ball dismissals, however, have hoary pasts. The first instance was more than a century ago, when Arthur Cunningham of Australia had England's Archie MacLaren caught off the first ball of the match. It is more surprising, however, to note that India's first such casualty came as recently as 1974 and that the batsman in question was that great technician, Sunil Gavaskar.

Ironically, Das has modelled his game on Gavaskar's own style, but he will surely not want to further emulate the Little Master on this front; Gavaskar went on to suffer the same fate on two more occasions, accruing to himself the "honour" of heading the list.

The first such occasion for Gavaskar came on India's ill-fated 1974 tour of England. On July 5, at Edgbaston, Birmingham, Gavaskar was caught by wicket-keeper Alan Knott off Geoff Arnold.

On December 10, 1983, at the Eden Gardens, Malcolm Marshall had Gavaskar caught behind by Jeff Dujon. In an effort to buck the trend of offering catches to wicket-keepers, Gavaskar, at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur, was caught by Javed Miandad off Imran Khan on February 21, 1987.

Sudhir Nayak and WV Raman provided the second and third instances of an Indian batsman falling on the first ball of a Test. Nayak fell to Andy Roberts (caught by wicket-keeper Deryck Murray) at the Eden Gardens on December 27 1974. Raman was trapped plumb in front by New Zealander Richard Hadlee at Napier on February 9 1990.

But India got in on the delivering end too. Two Indian bowlers have inflicted this humiliation on opposing batsmen. The first to perform this feat was Syed Abid Ali, who bowled West Indian Roy Fredericks with the first ball of the historic Test at the Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain. In that match, Gavaskar made his Test debut and, more importantly, India recorded their first-ever Test win in the Caribbean.

Great Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev has two such instances to his credit. On September 24 1983, at Burlton Park, Jullundur, Kapil trapped Pakistan's Mohsin Khan lbw with the first ball of the match.

The second time was at Kingsmead, Durban, on November 13 1992, when Kapil found the edge of South African Jimmy Cook's bat, Sachin Tendulkar diving at third slip to take a good low catch.