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West Indies v India, second Test, Port-of-Spain, 1970-71

Dancing in the lion's den

Dilip Sardesai, Steve Camacho, Charlie Davis and Salim Durani look back at India's famous first win against West Indies

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi

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West Indies 214 (Davis 71 not out, Kanhai 37, Prasanna 4-54, Bedi 3-46) and 261 (Fredericks 80, Davis 74 not out, Venkataraghavan 5-95, Durani 2-20) lost to India 352 (Sardesai 112, Gavaskar 65, Solkar 55, Noreiga 9-95) and 125 for 3 (Gavaskar 67 not out, Barrett 3-43) by seven wickets

After over two decades of Tests between the two sides, India's first win over the mighty West Indies came at a most apposite venue - the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, cheered on by thousands of their East Indian brethren. The tour was one to remember for two men in particular: Wadekar in his first series as captain, and Gavaskar, who made the series his own with four hundreds and an average of over 150. Old campaigner Sardesai wasn't far behind either, and it was his solid century in the first innings that set up the Port-of-Spain win.


Dilip Sardesai, scoring runs 'at will' © Cricinfo Ltd
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Even stevens

Dilip Sardesai Before the start of the series I was not sure if I was going to be in the first XI. But [Gundappa] Viswanath got injured at the beginning of the tour, and I came in for the first game, against Jamaica, and got 97 runs. Then in the first Test in Kingston, at one stage we were 75 for 5, but I went on to score a double-century. We made West Indies follow on for the first time ever, and that told us that they weren't as great a side as they were made out to be - as far as their bowling was concerned - and that we had every chance to beat them since we had great spinners.

Steve Camacho We thought we had a good chance as India themselves were going through a change, with a new captain taking over just before the series. But [Ajit] Wadekar welded them into a very close-knit team.

A turner in Trinidad

Camacho My abiding memory of the game was the Trinidad pitch. I watched the first ball of the match from the non-striker's end. It was a shooter from Abid Ali, and it hit Roy Fredericks's pads before going on to hit the stumps. The pitch behaved erratically, at least in that first session, but it improved after lunch and in essence became a slow turner.

Salim Durani When I went to the West Indies for the first time in 1962, most of the wickets were quick, but on this series there was no life in most of them. The Trinidad pitch was a slow turner, but there were no problems if a batsman was prepared to wait.

Charlie Davis As I walked in to bat, my first impression was that it was a plain wicket with uneven bounce.

The Oval was jam-packed. About half our population was East Indian, so there were a lot of fans rooting for the Indians. Garry Sobers always said that when they play at Trinidad it is like a home game for India. So it was little scary for me, but I had played a series in England the previous year, and I kind of knew what to expect.

Where have all the fast men gone?

Camacho Garry was past his peak as a bowler certainly. A lot of the time he bowled quickish, and mixed it up with orthodox left-arm. Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith weren't around anymore, and Vanburn Holder and Grayson Shillingford weren't by any stretch of the imagination fast bowlers. So it was a period of transition for us.

Durani The West Indies' bowling at the time was nothing compared to the earlier Caribbean teams, and that is one reason they didn't stand a chance of beating us.

Sardesai Even if they didn't have good fast bowlers, they had a couple of good medium-pacers, Vanburn Holder and Uton Dowe. Dowe didn't play in the second Test as Jack Noreiga was picked for the spinner's track at Port-of-Spain.

Venkat v Sobers

Davis One problem was that most of our top order were left-handers and for the Indian spinners, especially Venkataraghavan, that was an advantage.

He bowled tight, flat offbreaks, pitching them on middle and leg, and he once caught Garry in no-man's land, but since the bounce was uneven, the ball pitched and jumped over the off stump. The Indians knew that once they got Garry, who batted at six, they were home and dry. So in the next over Venkat brought the mid-on fielder to gully to force Garry into doing something stupid. He bowled the exact same ball, and seemed to catch Garry again playing half-and-half. But at the last minute Garry got back and hit it to the mid-on boundary. He then came up to me and said. "This man must be mad to bowl me without a mid-on." I laughed and said, "You were definitely gone to the cleaners in his last over." But that was Garry: he could do anything. Eventually Venkat bowled him in that first innings to have the last laugh.

Sardesai takes charge

Camacho The most important factor in the whole series was Sardesai's double-century in Jamaica. He followed that up with another good century at Port-of-Spain. He was given able support, again like in the first Test, by Eknath Solkar, who we dropped quite a few times.

Davis Sardesai was an accumulator, but he wasn't slow - he got runs very quickly and very easily.

Sardesai I had been having a very good time in the series, and was scoring runs at will. Having scored the double in the first Test, I had figured out how to get on top of their bowling. A time comes when you feel nobody can get you out, and I had that feeling all through that Caribbean tour.

 
 
Noticing Lloyd pushing balls that broke into him towards midwicket, I moved over to short midwicket. I had barely taken up position when Lloyd, as expected, hit the ball to me. I had to reach out and reclaim it, almost off my fingertipsAjit Wadekar
 

The surprise package

Camacho Noreiga was an offspinner who came to first-class cricket pretty late. He had decent flight, and he could spin the ball with a high-arm action. The Indians were good players of spin, but Noreiga bowled really well for his nine wickets in the first innings at a very economical rate. Sadly he had no one to support him from the other end.

Sardesai Noreiga was a big spinner of the ball. But he had so much flight that anybody could hit him out of the ground. In the first innings our batsmen somehow failed to apply themselves against him, and gave him some easy wickets. I thought not opting for the experienced Lance Gibbs was the biggest blunder West Indies made.

Davis I was very surprised by Noreiga's performance in that first innings. He was very quiet and unassuming - kind of overawed at being there in the West Indies dressing room.

Durani Noreiga was a very ordinary bowler. More than him earning his wickets, it was us playing bad shots. He bowled me a full-toss in the first innings, and I spooned a simple catch back at him trying to hit it to midwicket. He was definitely not in the class of Lance Gibbs.

Sunny as it goes

Sardesai From the very beginning I was impressed highly by Gavaskar's tremendous commitment and concentration - I've never seen any other Indian cricketer possess those virtues in such abundance. I knew he would go very far, and he proved people like me correct with his showing in the years to come, not to forget his four centuries in this series.

Davis Gavaskar didn't take any unnecessary chances, which made it very difficult to get him out. In his two innings in the second Test, his class and our lack of good fast bowling was a big disadvantage.

Davis makes his stand

Davis On an uneven wicket you need to play forward when the ball is keeping low, as it did here. Unfortunately my team-mates didn't understand that, so they kept playing back and got out. I ended up looking like a hero because I remained unbeaten in the match, but I was not - I was just using my head. I also mixed my forward defence with some good cut shots, which I grew more confident of playing during this Test; I was not such a big cutter of the ball before the series.

Camacho Charlie Davis stood strong, but he ran out of partners eventually. I came in at No. 6 in the second innings because I had been injured while fielding during the Indian innings. I couldn't even hold the bat properly due to the broken finger, and I was cleaned up by Venkat almost immediately on my arrival.

Durani takes two

Ajit Wadekar With Prasanna out and Bedi tiring, I had brought on Durani. It was truly a magic spell from this gifted allrounder that changed the entire complexion of the game. In the matter of a couple of overs the game swung dramatically in our favour. Sobers played over one, which spun into him and was comprehensively bowled for a duck. Noticing Lloyd pushing balls that broke into him towards midwicket, I moved over to short midwicket. I had barely taken up position when Lloyd, as expected, hit the ball to me. I had to reach out and reclaim it, almost off my fingertips.


Garry Sobers congratulates Syed Abid Ali and Sunil Gavaskar © Cricinfo Ltd
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Durani The West Indies batsmen were trying their best to make use of the slow wicket, which was not helping us. During one of the drinks breaks on the fourth day we decided that I had to come on to bowl as we needed someone to hit the deck now that flighting the ball was not working.

Garry and Clive were batting then. After pitching some deliveries outside off to Garry, I pitched one on this rough spot just outside the off stump. It hit the spot nicely, turned a little, beat his defence, went between bat and pad and took the off stump. He couldn't believe it and walked back muttering, "Oh, Jesus." I couldn't control my happiness, and was jumping in jubilation.

Clive was another big wicket. He was a great on-side bat, and never missed once he got to the pitch of the ball. Having made him play a few outside off, I over-pitched one on the off stump, but with a lot of turn. Clive attempted to lift it over my head. I had brought Ajit to short midwicket, guessing Clive would go for the shot. He mistimed it, and the ball was pouched well by Ajit.

A win worth the wait

Durani After that victory a new kind of enthusiasm infused Indian cricket. That was the time when the real interest in cricket sort of started. The Indian public had been hungry for a victory of this kind for long.

Camacho As the Indians were celebrating their long-awaited historic victory, the whole of the West Indies were washing away their loss by watching the epic fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, which Frazier won on points. For people like Fredericks, who supported Frazier, it was a happy moment. At least it made us forget our loss, even if for a few moments.

Gavaskar I have often been asked about my feelings after my Test debut in an encounter, which is a landmark in the annals of Indian cricket. Frankly, I felt satisfied with my performance, even though I did not do anything outstanding. However, I had taken the first step, and I had the satisfaction of having scored 132 runs in two innings, and had remained unbeaten once, to give me the very high average of 132. But to me it has always been a matter of great pride that I was able, in my very first Test, to be associated in Indian's maiden Test victory against West Indies and that too in the lion's den.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. Ajit Wadekar's and Sunil Gavaskar's quotes from Ajit Wadekar, My Cricketing Years, and Sunny Days, an Autobiography

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