India’s 71-year Test ”“ The journey to triumph in Australia – book review

Lala Amarnath and Don Bradman tossing for a coin for a Test match in 1947-48.

Book Review by Kersi Meher-Homji

India’s 71-year Test ”“ The journey to triumph in Australia by R Kaushik. Foreword by Ravi Shastri. Churchill Press, Australia, 2020. 196 pages. Price: A$ 60.00.

The coffee-table book is a magnificent presentation with eye-catching colour pictures, brilliant match reports and player profiles, memorable scoreboard photos and comprehensive statistics.

The book reflects comprehensibly on India’s twelve tours to Australia, starting from 1947-48 to face Don Bradman’s Invincibles, tracing the history of a rivalry dominated by the host nation and climaxing with a unique series victory under Virat Kohli’s leadership in 2018-19.  India had to struggle for 71 years before their first series win down under, hence the title of the book.

BANGALORE, INDIA – OCTOBER 09: Allan Border (left) of Australia and Sunil Gavaskar (right) of India pose with the Border-Gavaskar trophy before the First Test between India and Australia at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium on October 9, 2008 in Bangalore, India. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Vast legion of India’s fans celebrated the above mega event when Kohli’s men won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, making them the first team from Asia to pull off a series victory on Australian soil.

Author R. Kaushik is one of India’s respected cricket writers who has covered many Tests involving India. The Foreword to this book is written by Ravi Shastri who coached the above victorious team as also the current one in an engrossing series. Shastri starts off with, “Of all countries I have toured, Australia has been the best.” Praising the quality of cricket in Australia he adds, “The great thing about success in Australia is that it doesn’t come easily.”

The well-researched book is divided in four Sections: Initiation (describing tours to Australia in 1947-48 and 1967-68), Progress (tours in 1977-78, 1980-81, 1985-86 and 1991-92), Confluence (in 1999-2000, 2003-04, 2007-08, 2011-12 and 2014-15) and Glory (2018-19).

Kaushik describes each tour in 3-D detail, giving highlights. Each Chapter is titled interestingly, for example: Independents take on the Invincibles, Flattering to deceive, A cracking stalemate, Fractious relations – fabulous action, History rewritten at watery SCG”¦

The strong points of the book are the candid profiles of the heroes from Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad to Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, MS Dhoni, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jasprit Bumrah and Kohli via Nawab of Pataudi, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, EAS Prasanna, Bishan Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar.

Below are a few titles featuring players, ranging from nostalgic to topical:

Vijay Hazare, A giant in every sense: “Vijay is a common Indian name, but there was nothing commonplace about Vijay Samuel Hazare”¦ Before the Adelaide Test, the devout Catholic went to St Peter’s Cathedral to seek blessings, and his prayers were answered soon when he unleashed scores of 116 and 145.”

Vinoo Mankad, The Mankad behind the headline: “Many cricket followers associate him with an unusual mode of dismissal [to be Mankaded], but Vinoo Mankad was an exceptional all-rounder in his own right.” The Australian media was incensed but Bradman defended him.

Nawab of Pataudi, Charge of the Tiger: “A schoolboy prodigy in Winchester, he made his first-class debut for Sussex when only16.” I thought I knew all about him till I read this book. It revealed that he had toured Australia in 1967-68 without a bat, so he would pick up the one closest to the door as he exited the dressing room.

Bishan Bedi, Wizard Supreme: “Charismatic and strongly outspoken, Bishan Singh Bedi was at once the most successful cog of the legendary spin quartet of the 1970s and 80s [along with Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan].”

Sandeep Patil, India’s answer to Hollywood: “A fierce ball-striker he acted in a Hindi movie while still an international cricketer.”

Kapil Dev, All-Round Legend: “Kapil became the talisman for a generation of aspiring quicks.”

GR Viswanath, The diminutive genius: “Easily, India’s most adored and revered cricketer.” I disagree with the author here. What about a certain Sachin Tendulkar?

Sunil Gavaskar, The relentless accumulator: “His final Test innings, 96 against Pakistan on a raging turner in Bangaluru 1987, was the ultimate masterclass in the art of batting on a mine-field against top-quality spinners.”

VVS Laxman, Very Very Special, indeed. “VVS Laxman in full flight was a sight for the gods.”

Rahul Dravid, The Fulcrum: “He truly was India’s man for all seasons.”

Sachin Tendulkar, The Gold Standard: “The most recognisable face in India, if not the cricketing world.”

Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar, The Don meets his heir apparent: “When the greatest cricketer to have walked the planet anoints you as the one that reminds him of his own batting, you know that you must be doing something right.”

Virat Kohli, A Modern – Day Colossus: “Unlike several of his predecessors, Kohli wears his heart on his sleeves and therefore has had his fair share of brushes with the opposition, especially Australia. Even so, he enjoys great respect and maybe even grudging admiration among Aussie fans”¦”

And there are more characters to enliven the book, from Lala Amarnath in 1947 to modern day match-winners Pujara and Bumrah. Most of the splendid photos are from Getty Images and Bradman Museum.

Kaushik’s India’s 71-year Test is a must read book for all cricket-loving Indo-Australians.

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