Tamil Nadu faltered early and found themselves 207 runs behind Rest of India, who had piled up 433. Oddly enough Arun Lal, the RoI captain, decided not to enforce the follow-on
Gopal Sharma, Rest of India offspinner: It was a sporting wicket and I had found a good rhythm. I managed to take six wickets in their first innings, which put Tamil Nadu under pressure. I was a bit surprised that we didn't make them follow on, and it didn't help that our batsmen didn't do well the second time around.
VB Chandrasekhar, Tamil Nadu opening batsman: They had a 200-plus lead, and if they had put us in again the match would probably have been over. But they decided to set us a target, which gave us the time to gather ourselves and go for it.
Arun Lal: I wanted to enforce the follow-on, but the selectors wanted to watch some of our batsmen batting. Obviously the team had another plan, but we had to go against our wishes.
The wicket lived up to its reputation and started crumbling into the third day. Tamil Nadu bounced back and kept RoI down to 132. With two days to go, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Tamil Nadu's captain, knew that they had time enough to turn things around completely.
Chandrasekhar: Chikka [Srikkanth] gave us a lot of confidence. He was an international star and it was a big boost for us to be playing with him. He actually said during the game that if they didn't enforce the follow-on, they would pay for it. "Macha, you're going to lose the game," he said to Arun Lal when RoI decided to bat a second time. I don't know how much of it he believed, but he certainly made us think that it was possible.
Bharat Arun, Tamil Nadu opening bowler: We very much wanted to win the game, especially since we had batted badly in the first innings. Krish was always optimistic. He said, "Let's go out and try hard. There are chances that we can win." So we went in with a very positive attitude. But we never really thought we would get there in that style and with a day to spare.
Chandrasekhar had a point to prove after being left out of the India side.
Chandrasekhar: I had had a reasonably good Ranji Trophy season - we had gone as far as the semi-final. It was definitely a phase where I was in the running to get into the national side. So from that point of view it mattered whether I scored runs in the Irani Trophy or not.
I was focused on trying to get a good score but I got out first ball for a duck in the first innings, lbw to left-arm medium-pacer Rashid Patel. By that time our wise men had already picked the team for the series against New Zealand. Naren Tamhane was the only selector at the game. The rest had left - they probably didn't expect anything much to come out of it.
Srikkanth: VB was obviously disappointed at getting a duck in the first innings and was determined to make amends. He knew he had a chance of getting selected for India. After the first-innings duck, I remember he went to the beach and sat there alone. He probably thought hard about what had happened and what he could do. In the second innings he came out and just hammered everything that came his way.
The wicket was growing softer and the surface was coming apart. But there was no stopping Chandrasekhar.
Chandrasekhar: Their bowlers, especially the spinners, tried their best to attack, but that day Chikka and I were in very good rhythm.
They had [Narendra] Hirwani, who was very good on the domestic front, and he had also erased West Indies on a similar surface earlier that year, at the same ground, but we were on a roll by the time he came on.
I always felt that if I could clear the fence with my first few strokes, I could hit my rhythm, and then I could take runs whenever I wanted. I was a compulsive hooker. It didn't matter if it was the first ball of the day or the last. And that's how I started my second innings. It was an intended hook that took the top edge and found its way past the boundary rope behind the wicketkeeper. The top edge didn't matter; what mattered was that I got four runs. That was my way of forcing the bowler to pitch it up, into the areas in which I wanted him to bowl. It worked reasonably well. There was never any pressure on us and we didn't have to defend at any point. It was an enjoyable time.
|"Chandrasekhar told me that there were certain shots where he didn't actually want to hit a six - only go over the infield. But he was connecting them so well that they went for six. There was this one six off Hirwani that went sailing over long-on, which he actually wanted to just chip over mid-on" Bharat Arun|
Chikka kept encouraging me, saying, "Macha, adi da, adi da" (Go on, hit it). As the non-striker he could see the flight of the ball, and if it was there to be hit, he would let me know. We had a very good understanding, and Chikka was a very fast athlete between the wickets, which helped.
Lal: It was an absolutely stunning innings. When a batsman plays like that you have no defence against him: if you have a long-on and a legspinner bowling and he hits you over long-on repeatedly, then your plans fall flat. His innings defied all cricketing logic. I kept trying by setting attacking fields, but despite everything he carried on hitting us. The old school believed in wearing the bowlers down and then dispatching the loose balls, making sure that your defence and concentration are good so that the risks are minimised. But VB's innings was against the grain.
Srikkanth: He was just hitting sixes at will, and it was not like he was hitting them just anywhere - they were authentic cricketing shots. The wicket was turning square by then - even I had got three wickets in the previous innings - so we knew we had to negate their spin, and that is why VB's knock was so significant.
Arun: He told me that there were certain shots where he didn't actually want to hit a six - only go over the infield. But he was connecting them so well that they went for six. There was this one six off Hirwani that went sailing over the D Stand at long-on, which he actually wanted to just chip over mid-on.
Sharma: Chandrasekhar played an extraordinary innings under pressure, and the way he and Srikkanth went about attacking our bowlers, we knew that they had nothing but victory on their mind. Since both of them were aggressive strokeplayers, it was always going to be a challenge to attack them under any circumstances. Nothing could stop them that day.
Once Chandrasekhar and Srikkanth departed, Tamil Nadu slowed down, and at 252 for 6 the match seemed set for another twist.
Chandrasekhar: Even after the top order fell we knew we would easily wrap it up, since we batted really deep. When you've been in such good rhythm, you tend to make mistakes if you try and slow things down. That was probably what did me in. When I went into the dressing room during the break there were so many people telling me how amazed they were at some of the shots I had played. That probably affected me. When I came back I just went back to hitting the ball straightaway, which was wrong.
[Navjot] Sidhu walked into the dressing room and said it was one of the best first-class innings he had seen. It was he who pointed out that it could be the fastest domestic hundred. I only got to know about the record when I saw the newspaper the next morning.
Arun: There was a slight slump once VB was out. When I went in at No. 9 we still needed about 50 runs to get and we had three wickets in hand. Shiv [Venkataraman Sivramakrishnan] was my partner, and he said, "Just play them out and I'll make the runs." But since their spinners were attacking, there were plenty of chances for me to get runs if I went for it. The wicket was crumbling fast and I knew it didn't make sense to plod around and get five or ten runs and get out.
Soon I realised that they had given up hope, so I began to think of finishing it off in style. The fielders were inside the circle and I picked an easy, flighted one and lifted it behind the bowler's head for a six.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine