Personal and statistical anecdotes of Indo-Aus Test series

Kersi Meher-Homji recalls

The Indian cricket team is in Sydney and I have gone all nostalgic. Below are some of my memories.

Bedi, Prasanna and me

I was watching the Indian cricket team doing net practice at the Sydney Cricket Ground a day before their match against NSW in November 1977. To my surprise Bishan Bedi (who I had befriended in 1971-72 during the World XI tour) threw the ball to me saying: “Bowl, Kersi.”

“What me, bowling to Test cricketers?” I asked in shock. “Yes, bowl Kersi,” he repeated, a man of few words. Bowling my slow, slow off spinners and half-volleys to Ashok Mankad and left-handed Surinder Amarnath was an experience I’ll never forget. To bowl alongside spin wizards Bishan and Prasanna was an additional thrill. Awesome!

Feeling 10 feet tall after my seven minutes of ”˜glory’ I was emboldened enough to ask Prasanna as to how I had bowled. Prasanna did not know what to say ”“ to be honest and say “awfully” or be polite and say “not badly”? He chose diplomacy instead: “Stick to your writing.”

I had my revenge two months later. After the net practice session he had given me his autobiography One More Over to read. When he asked me, prior to the Sydney Test in January 1978, how I liked his book, I replied: “Pras, stick to your off spin.”

He was not amused.

Bradman who?

The following story was told to me by Sunil Gavaskar. When the World team under Sir Garry Sobers toured Australia in 1971-72, team members Tony Greig and Hylton Ackerman had flown in from South Africa and were received at the Adelaide airport by an elderly gentleman. Sobers mumbled an introduction and Greig and Ackerman, sleepy and tired after a long air trip, said hello.

While waiting to go to the hotel, Ackerman asked the gentleman to hold his overnight bag while he went to the toilet. When he returned he asked the gentleman if he had ever played cricket to which he replied, “Yes, I did when younger.”

Becoming curious Ackerman asked, “What did you say your name was?” He replied, “Bradman, Don Bradman.” Ackerman did not know where to look as Garry Sobers, who had heard the conversation, laughed hysterically in the background.

Gavaskar and Srikkanth dominate

Australia was lucky in the third and final Test in Sydney in 1981. India flayed the Aussie attack to declare at a massive 4 for 600, being 1 for 334 at stumps on the opening day. Gavaskar (172) had added 191 for the opening wicket with Srikkanth (116) and 224 for the second wicket with Mohinder Amarnath (138).

Later to be named Man of the Match, scintillating Srikkanth needed only 97 balls for his maiden Test century. Aided by a runner for most of his daredevil innings, he was particularly severe on spinner Bob ”˜Dutchy’ Holland, smashing 22 runs off one over (hitting 4,6,4,4,4). It may be added that Srikkanth was dropped when he was on two and Gavaskar had two lives when 3 and 27. Oh, the ifs and buts and what-might-have-beens of cricket!

Sydney Cricket Ground or Sachin Cricket Ground?

No wonder the Swamy Army and many Indians call the SCG Sachin Cricket Ground. In five Tests in Sydney, ”˜Little Master’ Sachin Tendulkar amassed 785 runs at an astounding average of 157.00 hitting three unbeaten centuries with a top score of 241 not out in 2003-04. His sequence: 148 not out in 1991-92 as a teenager, 45 and 4 in 1999-2000, 241 not out and 60 not out in 2003-04, 154 not out and 12 in 2007-08 and 41 and 80 in 2011-12.

Whitney on teen sensation Sachin

The Perth Test in 1992 was ”˜pretty special’ for Mike Whitney. “It was the only time I took 10 wickets in a Test or first-class match and the only time I was adjudged Man of the Match,” he told me.

What about his emotions when dismissing Sachin Tendulkar, who was playing magnificently for 114?

“I was delighted no doubt but he was then only a teenager. As time went on the thrill of dismissing him has got more intense. In 1992, the 18-year-old had not attained the eminence he achieved in later years. To me he remains a master, a legend ”“ a wonderful player.”

“I feel so humble to have played with and against Sachin, Shane, Murali and Lara among other icons. I had the privilege of dismissing Lara in both innings in the Melbourne Test of December 1992. They were my last two Test wickets.”

Laxman or taxman?

After his amazing match winning innings of 281 in the Kolkata Test of 2001, VVS Laxman had arrived in Australia with a big reputation. In a letter to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bernie Bourke wrote tongue-in-cheek, “The taxman is bad enough. Now we have to deal with the Laxman.”

James Stanbridge added in Column 8 of the same newspaper, “In Afrikaans, a laksman is an executioner or hangman. Steve Waugh possibly agrees with this after VVS’s performance in the Calcutta Test.”

Kohli shines in Australia in 2014-15

Virat Kohli became the second debutant captain after Australia’s Greg Chappell to hit two separate centuries. Chappell had scored 123 and 109 not out against the West Indies at Brisbane in 1975-76 in his captaincy debut. However, Kohli’s aggregate of 256 (115 + 141) is a record for the highest run-aggregate by any batsman on captaincy debut. New Zealander Graham Dowling (239 + 5) had previously scored the most runs, 244, in his captaincy debut against India at Christchurch in 1968.

In 2015, Kohli considered this century in Adelaide as his best at Test level, ahead of his 149 against England in the August 2018 Test against England in Edgbaston, Birmingham. He told BCCI TV after the Birmingham masterpiece, “Adelaide still remains very special to me because it was second innings, and we were chasing a target. And I had total clarity that we are going for the target. Not once did I think that we are not. That was a beautiful zone to be in.”


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