Slow and deadly
Chepauk in the seventies was notorious for its turning track. But not like this: in 1973, Tamil Nadu and Bombay contested one of the shortest Ranji Trophy finals ever. Bombay were top-heavy with Test stars and had coasted to the final. Madras came as a rude awakening as spinners and medium-pacers alike ruled the roost. Thirteen ducks were totted up as 27 wickets fell in an epic pile on the second day; the highest score in all four innings was 38 and the match was over a few minutes into day three.
Bombay 151 (Mankad 38, Kumar 5-48) and 113 (S Naik 28*, kalyanasundaram 4-8) beat Tamil Nadu 80 (Jabbar 29, Shivalkar 8-16) and 61 (Jabbar 28, Shivalkar 5-18, Solkar 5-23)
The pitch from hell
Padmakar Shivalkar, Bombay left-arm spinner Winning the toss was important and we didn't think twice before electing to bat on the Chepauk wicket, which was famous for being a turner.
Sudhir Naik, Bombay middle-order batsman It was an underprepared wicket; anybody would have turned the ball on it. That was why we dropped our regular fast bowler Abdul Ismail and added an extra batsman, Ajit Naik, who was a decent allrounder.
I was confident playing on that wicket, though, as were Ashok Mankad and the rest of our batsmen. That was because in Bombay we were used to playing the Times Shield in April and May, when the wickets were absolute turners. We were not afraid to face the likes of Venkataraghavan and VV Kumar.
Vaman Venkat (VV) Kumar, Tamil Nadu legspinner The semi-final win against Maharashtra was a big one for us. Winning on a batsman-friendly track gave us a major boost and since we knew that our bowling had stopped the superior batting side of Maharashtra, we were confident of facing Bombay in final. Bombay had a wonderful side, with the stars of the day occupying most of the batting positions. We knew we needed to contain them by taking the big wickets, like Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar and Dilip Sardesai.
Till we entered the field we didn't know what kind of wicket it would be. But I was not prepared for what happened once play started.
Bombay crash and burn
Kumar Hardly had 10 overs been bowled by the new-ball pair when Venky threw the ball to me and set an attacking field. When Venky and I started bowling we noticed the ball was turning a great deal and also coming quickly off the track. I asked [Patamada] Belliappa, our keeper, what he thought. He said, "VV, this is the best track to attack them and get them out as quickly as possible." So both of us spinners devised a plan, and since we had played against most of the Bombay batsmen, we knew, more or less, each one's weak points and we worked on that and it came off.
Naik Some deliveries from Venkat, especially, reared up like bouncers. Sometimes as I moved forward to play the ball it would suddenly jump; a few even flew over the wicketkeeper's head.
Shivalkar It was worrying being shot out for such a small score (151) in the first innings, considering what a strong batting order we had. Tamil Nadu were in a good position at the end of the first day, with Abdul Jabbar, who was in form, leading their reply strongly.
The best laid plans
Shivalkar The second day was a rest day, which was unusual. Eknath Solkar and I were roomies and we couldn't sleep that night. Eknath said, "Paddy, udya kai honar? [What will happen tomorrow?]." I said, "Ekki, to hell with everything. Tomorrow I'm going to stop being cautious, and flight the ball. And I will take the blame if it backfires."
|I was confident playing on that wicket, though, as was Ashok Mankad and the rest of our batsmen. That was because in Mumbai we were used to playing the Times Shield in April and May, when the wickets were absolute turners
B Kalyanasundaram, Tamil Nadu right-arm medium-pacer On the rest day we talked about how, if we could make around 300 in the first innings, they wouldn't be able to chase that. This without reckoning they had two guys by the name of Shivalkar and Solkar. When we came out the next morning we were bundled out for 80 - and the wicket didn't have too much to do with that.
How to fall in a heap
Kumar Tamil Nadu were quite comfortable at the end of the first day and Shivalkar was not quite menacing yet. [Abdul] Jabbar and MK Dalvi were playing the ball well and we thought that they would take us further. But once Dalvi got out to a poor shot, it was a procession. The top order showed no resolve and the lower order panicked. Shivalkar kept it absolutely tight, with good support from Solkar.
Ultimately, instead of attacking we started defending every ball, and that became our Achilles' heel. From 62 for 3 our next seven wickets fell for 18 runs.
Shivalkar On the second playing day, Good Friday, wickets started to fall straightaway. I bowled seven overs from the Pavilion End, and Tamil Nadu's last eight wickets fell within 45 minutes into the first session. I finished with eight wickets for 16 runs.
New innings, old story
Kalyanasundaram When Bombay batted next they were comfortable to some extent before suddenly becoming groggy. They were six down for 60-odd at one stage, which was when I came on and took four wickets, including a hat-trick. You couldn't really say it was a spinner's track, because in that case they should have been bundled out for 70, not 113.
Shivalkar They bowled extremely well. And if we had six Test players in our ranks, they had the likes of Venkat and VV Kumar. Kumar was one of the best legspinners around then, and I rated him next to Subhash Gupte. He flighted the ball very well and his loop was perfect. They also had good seamers who proved their worth by repeatedly beating our batsmen. It was good bowling more than the track that earned them wickets.
Kumar Bombay did relatively well for a while, but our medium-pacers did some wonderful work. The irony was, though it was a turning track, Kalyanasundaram got a hat-trick, and Mukund did very well too. They were quick and accurate, and after lunch on that second day the ball was really flying. So the Bombay batsmen were equally fraught against spin and pace.
Naik In the second innings I didn't change my mindset, even though I had the tail for company most of the time. What worked for me was, I was never a lifter of the ball. Also, I would defend on the front foot, trying to get as close to the pitch of the ball as possible, and try and push it into the gaps. I told Ajit Naik to do the same thing - he was tall and had a good defence so he could reach the pitch of the ball and block it. It worked for me in both innings. Gavaskar complimented me after the game, calling my defence "immaculate".
In the pitch or in the mind?
Kumar We gave credit to the Bombay batsmen as most of them had played bigger cricket than a Ranji final, but their attitude was deplorable: because they were expecting the ball to do a lot, they made every delivery out to be a wicket-taking ball and blamed everything on the track.
In fact, Venky and I used the straight ball more than turners. They were playing for the turn and even a batsman of the stature of [Dilip] Sardesai was occasionally not able to tell the straight one from the googly. We TN boys had a laugh over beer that evening.
|The question of the wicket as well as the turn it would take and the presence of the big names in the opposition created doubts in the minds of our batsmen, which ultimately led to our downfall
Naik A batsman like Sardesai couldn't be kept quiet for long. He tried playing some shots and missed many times trying to deal with the uncertain bounce and turn. In fact, most of the batsmen from both teams were in two minds about whether to block it or hit it [time and again], and that proved fatal in many cases.
Paddy and Ekki take charge
Naik One thing I was certain of: with Shivalkar and Solkar, who was a very dangerous bowler on bad wickets, Tamil Nadu would never score more than 125 under any circumstances. We also had very good close-in fielders in Solkar, [Sunil] Gavaskar, and [Ajit] Wadekar. In comparison, Tamil Nadu's close-in fielding was not as good, and crucial chances were missed. I also felt that their wicketkeeper was not competent for that sort of bowling; when the ball turned, he wasn't gathering it cleanly, and like a football goalkeeper he would stop the ball rather than catch it. A good keeper gives confidence to the bowler, so I felt the Tamil Nadu spinners may have held back from attacking all out.
Kumar The Shivalkar-Solkar combination worked because both were left-arm bowlers. Ekki mixed his ordinary medium pace, which our batsmen couldn't drive, with orthodox spin. Our game plan failed miserably in both innings.
The question of the wicket as well as the turn it would take and the presence of the big names in the opposition created doubts in the minds of our batsmen, which ultimately led to our downfall.
Kalyanasundaram The game was very much in the grasp of Tamil Nadu. If our top order had stayed out in the middle, we would have won the game.
You can have the trophy - tomorrow
Shivalkar I took 13 wickets in the match and while it was my career-best performance and played a big part in us winning the trophy, I wouldn't rate it as my best.
Kalyanasundaram On the second day, Kumar and I battled hard to prolong Bombay's frustration in the second innings. They just needed one wicket and they could've flown back home that evening.
VV was very serious, playing on the back foot and defending Shivalkar and Solkar as if we needed only three runs to win and everything depended on him! At one point he came up to me and said, "Kalli, can you do me a favour?" I asked him what. "You should not lose your wicket today," he said. I was amused. "What's the difference?" I asked. "Even if I don't get out tonight, either of us will get out tomorrow.
"They should not take the Ranji Trophy to Bombay tonight," he stressed. The next morning, I was out first ball. At 10.30am Bombay won the trophy; at 11 o' clock, I went to my office to work.
Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor of Cricinfo