Down Memory Lane: India’s First Victory in a Test
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Down Memory Lane: India’s First Victory in a Test

January 28, 2021


India’s glorious victory down under has brought back memories of a Test match nearly 70 years ago. Though India had started playing Test cricket from 1932 onwards, we had not won a single Test match for nearly 20 years. We would lose most of the matches and occasionally draw a match. India would consider a drawn match as a moral victory.

Then the India Vs England series was held during the 1951-1952 season in India. Thanks to some brilliant batting by Pankaj Roy, Polly Umrigar and Vijay Hazare we managed to draw the first three Test matches. However during the Fourth Match, our batsmen succumbed and we lost the match decisively.

I was then a 10-year-old boy and as we did not have electricity in our newly built house, I used to go to my uncle’s house which was only 100 meters away to listen to the cricket commentary.

In the Fifth and Final Test match played at the Chepauk grounds in Madras, India played first and piled up a huge total of 400-plus runs. The spin bowlers also rose to the occasion and we got them out cheaply enforcing a ‘follow-on’ setting a target of 191 runs to make India bat again. But it was already the fourth evening of the match.

On the Fifth day, our spin bowlers again bowled exceedingly well and Indian spectators smelt victory. In those days, electricity in Udupi was generated and transmitted by a private company and it had specific hours of power cut like from 12 noon to 2 pm, etc. So my elder cousin and I eagerly waited for 2 pm to listen to the commentary. But alas, at 2 pm we heard just “Garr” noise. My cousin told me that once the match is over, the commentators just announce the results and pack up. He felt that either the match was abandoned due to heavy rains or we might have won!

We both had to wait eagerly for the 6.30 BBC news to get the good news that India had won the match by an innings and eight runs. The heroes were the three batsmen mentioned above and the bowlers were Vinoo Mankad and Gulam Ahmad. This was India’s first victory in 25 attempts. Though the losing trend continued for the next two decades, only after Kapil Dev became the Captain, winning became a habit.

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Incidentally, in the recently concluded match, Australian bowlers by then had taken a combined total of 1,013 wickets whereas the Indian bowlers had a total of 13 wickets between the four of them. Yet amazingly our bowlers scalped 20 Australian wickets!

– U.B. Acharya, Jayalakshmipuram, 22.1.2021

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