Wisden Obituary

Chetan Chauhan

CHAUHAN, CHETANDRA PRATAP SINGH, died of complications from Covid-19 on August 16, aged 73.

An adhesive opening batsman, Chetan Chauhan was in danger of missing out on a long international career after his first five Tests produced a highest score of 34. Then, eight years after his debut, he was recalled in 1977-78, and settled into a productive opening partnership with Sunil Gavaskar that yielded ten century stands, plus another down the order after Chauhan picked up an injury. Their 3,010 runs together in 59 innings as openers stood as an Indian record until Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir passed it in November 2010. Gavaskar was ideally placed to dissect his technique. "His top hand was around the handle, the back of his palm would face him, and the top hand would get locked up as a result," he wrote. "It meant his leg-side game was a touch restricted, and he would score a lot more on the off side, with that rasping back-and-across square cut his attacking shot."

Chauhan won his first cap in 1969-70 against New Zealand, and took 25 minutes to get off the mark, before smacking seamer Bruce Taylor for four and six (his only one in 40 Tests). He had made his first two centuries the previous season, the second an eye-catching knock for West Zone against an array of international bowlers. In 1972-73, Chauhan hit 203 for Maharashtra against Gujarat - having won a brief Test recall against England after three years out - and 207 against Vidarbha, when he shared an opening stand of 405 with Madhukar Gupte.

He seemed reinvigorated when his work with a bank took him to Delhi in 1975. His first two seasons for his new team produced nearly 1,000 runs apiece, including an undefeated 158, despite a broken jaw, against a Haryana attack led by the young Kapil Dev; in his next two games, he made 150 and 200. Haryana off-spinner Sarkar Talwar said: "He took Ranji Trophy matches as seriously as Tests."

This run of form earned Chauhan a second recall, for India's 1977-78 tour of Australia, who were weakened by defections to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket; it led to a seesaw encounter, which Australia - led by the returning veteran Bob Simpson - shaded 3-2. After an eight-and-a-half-hour 157 against Victoria at the MCG, Chauhan was picked for the Second Test at Perth. He made a gritty 88 - and stayed at the top of the order almost unchallenged, until the emergence of Kris Srikkanth in 1981-82. At The Oval in 1979, he put on 213 with Gavaskar as India made a heroic attempt to chase down 438 - they finished nine short with two wickets left.

Gavaskar, however, felt their stand of 192 against Pakistan in Lahore the previous October was better, coming in front of a hostile crowd of 40,000. Both fell in the nineties - a rarity for Gavaskar, who would finish with 34 hundreds, but more familiar for his partner, who got to 70 ten times in Tests, but never three figures. Chauhan observed: "You are the century-maker, not me."

The pair's adventures included a near walk-off, at Melbourne in 1980-81, after Gavaskar was incensed at being given lbw to a ball from Dennis Lillee he thought he had edged. He beckoned his partner to leave the field with him, but they were met near the boundary by India's manager, who told Chauhan to go back. He retired after the 1984-85 Ranji Trophy final, which Delhi lost to Bombay. Characteristically, he just missed a century, dismissed by Ravi Shastri for 98. He did make 21 first-class hundreds, though, and averaged 40. He also occasionally bowled off-breaks, and surprised Gujarat with six for 26 for Maharashtra in December 1971.

A member of the BJP, Chauhan had two spells as an MP, and latterly had a seat in the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly. He had perhaps been given a taste for politics by an early encounter with India's finance minister, when he and Gavaskar successfully petitioned for tax reductions for match fees. Chauhan was also heavily involved in cricket administration, and had spells as a selector and as India's team manager, where his diplomatic approach helped defuse a racism row during the 2007-08 tour of Australia: Andrew Symonds claimed the Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had called him a monkey. Sourav Ganguly paid tribute to "a tough opening batsman, and a person with a tremendous sense of humour and tremendous attachment to Indian cricket".

© John Wisden & Co.