Tied Test II - 14 years on
In his enthralling book `The Greatest Test Of All'' Jack Fingleton, besides giving us a vivid account of the Tied Test at Brisbane in December 1960 between Australia and West Indies, also expresses the apprehension that the match would be responsible for giving rise to a number of bores, who will never get tired of saying `I was there' and then proceed to relate the events of that historic game to a not always willing audience.
Similarly a later generation like mine will always be a bore, ever ready to relate the exciting events that unfolded before my eyes during Tied Test II. I was fortunate enough not only to be present during the five days of the match at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Madras but also lucky enough to report the events for a newspaper and a magazine of the publishing group I worked for.
Fourteen years have now passed since umpire Vikram Raju raised his finger to adjudge Maninder Singh leg before to Greg Matthews to bring the curtain down on a pulsating encounter, surely one of the most eventful Test matches of all time. But I am able to recall many of the events as though they happened only yesterday. There are certain things in life one can never forget and for me, Tied Test II is one of these. From the first ball bowled by Kapil Dev to David Boon on the morning of September 18 to the last, sent by Matthews to Maninder at 5.18 pm on September 22, the game held one spellbound.
Sure, since that memorable day the cynics have dismissed the Test as not holding a candle to the Brisbane Test in excitement and thrills. Some others have tried to denude the significance of the game by calling it a contrived finish. Sure, there is always something special about the first time a certain thing happens and viewed from that angle, Brisbane will always have a clear edge over Madras. But no one can deny that in the intense manner that game was fought by two seemingly equal opponents, for the many outstanding achievements and for its pulsating finish, Tied Test II will always remain exceptional for the many thousands who were there at the stadium and for the millions who watched the unbelievable finish on TV.
As for the cynics who dismiss it as a contrived finish, I can only laugh derisively at their ignorance. By that, do they mean to say that the captains and team members planned the whole thing in such a way that the game should end in a tie? As an eyewitness on all the five days, I can state with some authority that both captains wanted to win and neither side hid their disappointment when the match ended in the manner it did. The Indian captain Kapil Dev, in a television interview immediately after the game, said it was nice to be part of a historical event but ``we would have liked to have won the game,'' a sentiment shared by the Australian camp who were rather upset at being robbed of victory by some umpiring decisions, as they believed.
No, Allan Border declared on the final morning because he sensed his side could win. And Kapil Dev, by accepting the challenge of scoring 348 runs in 87 overs, also made it clear that he wanted victory. This positive approach of the two captains, in a way, led to the memorable finish. About the only aspect in which Brisbane scored in a big way over Madras was the sporting manner in which the teams conducted themselves. At Madras, on the final day, in the heat and humidity of the cauldron that was the MA Chidambaram stadium and with tension building up, some players lost their cool and the behaviour of some of them left much to be desired.
But in every other way, Madras 1986 can be compared favourably with Brisbane 1960. The fluctuating fortunes, the great performances and the eschewing of defensive tactics led to a great match. At Brisbane each team scored 737 runs while 40 wickets fell. At Madras, each team scored 744 runs while 32 wickets fell. At Brisbane, the game moved this way and that before ending in a tie. At Madras, Australia dominated for much of the first four days but the final drama was so intense that like at Brisbane, it can be said that neither side deserved to lose.
As far as performances are concerned, Tied Test II had all the heady ingredients of a brew to match what happened 26 years before. David Boon led off with 122 on the first day and on the second day Border followed with 106. But perhaps the innings of the match was played by Dean Jones. Utterly exhausted in the heat and humidity, Jones was dehydrated but carried on and on for 503 minutes in compiling 210, after which he required hospitalisation. Jones' double century might have been the last word in courage but for sheer brilliance in strokeplay in adversity, Kapil Dev's knock of 119 was no less remarkable. The Australian second innings was largely undistinguished but there were heroes aplenty on the final day with Sunil Gavaskar leading the way with an unselfishly attractive 90 and then Ravi Shastri controlling the innings in the climactic stages when it seemed to flounder against Matthews and Ray Bright, each of whom took five wickets. Matthews in fact was one of the genuine heroes of the Test for his indefatigable bowling which saw him take ten wickets in the match and a start to finish spell of 39.5 overs on the final day.
Oh yes, there were heroes galore and there was place in the list for the two umpires too - DN Dotiwalla and V Vikramraju. Both not only had to keep their cool, they also had to calm frayed tempers during the tense closing stages. Really, Tied Test II had everything. For me, it will always remain the crowning glory in my long journalistic career.