The Greatest Year – Two great victories by India abroad

With late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Former Prime Minister of India. Pic Courtesy: Kenia Jayantilal

Book Review by Kersi Meher-Homji

The Greatest Year by Anindya Dutta, 2020. Westland Publications, Kindle e-book. Illustrated. Available on Amazon India.

Cricket lovers from India may remember the year 1971 with joy and excitement as India defeated a strong West Indies team in the West Indies ”“ their first series victory abroad ”“ and a few months later beat the Ashes-winners England in England.

Well-known author Anindya Dutta has revived our memories by writing The Greatest Year which describes these two historic tours in 3D effect.

Author of Spell-binding Spells, A Gentleman’s Game, We are the Invincibles and the award-winning Wizards, Anindya Dutta has excelled himself in The Greatest Year. His latest book is so readable that I finished it in just two sittings.

To quote Anindya, “First, facing up to a West Indies side led by Garry Sobers and boasting of great batsmen like Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Roy Fredericks, the perennial whipping boys of cricket [India] achieved results that the team’s fans had never imagined in their wildest dreams. Youth and experience blended harmoniously to produce a stunning outcome.”

Then a few months later, a slightly different group of veterans and youngsters but under the same captain Ajit Wadekar, combined to halt the English juggernaut.

The shining hero was Sunil Gavaskar, aged only 22. Mihir Bose described young Sunil glowingly: “A genius, by definition, is not capable of rational explanation. He does things about which other mortals can only fantasise.”

Other heroes were skipper Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, BS Chandrasekhar, Salim Durani, Bishan Bedi, EAS Prasanna, Srini Venkataghavan, Farokh Engineer, Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar.

Wrote author Anindya on Solkar’s electrifying fielding, “Crouching at short leg was Solkar who attracted bat-pad catches as a flytrap attracts unweary winged creatures.”

The unsung hero for the twin triumphs was chief selector Vijay Merchant who had placed his faith in youngsters.

The above two overseas victories had far wider ramifications than they could have imagined then. “Indian cricket had crossed its Rubicon that August day at The Oval in England”, concludes Anindya.

It is not all serious writing. Anindya reminds us of the incident when an elephant was brought in on Ganesh Chaturthi to celebrate the stunning and historic Oval Test victory.

When the triumphant Indian team arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai), over 10,000 fans were at Santa Cruz airport. Screamed one of the many posters, “Golden Age of Indian Cricket. Sobers Sobered.”

Apart from the story of two marvellous overseas wins in 1971, the book is well illustrated and replete with interviews of players and quotations from experts.


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