Team India head coach Ravi Shastri has revealed that he remembers every ball of the 1971 Oval Test against England distinctly, although he was only nine.
Tuesday, August 24 marks 50 years since India defeated England at The Oval to create history, registering their first Test series win on English soil.
In a video uploaded on bcci.tv, Shastri reminisced about memories of that legendary triumph. He recalled:
“50 years ago, India first beat England to win a Test series in England. I was nine years old and I very distinctly remember every ball bowled in that Test match. I was listening to the radio, you had great commentators. It was riveting stuff, especially when it got close to the wire in the third and the fourth innings. I remember Farokh Engineer, the dashing professional, he was one of the first professionals in England, getting runs in both innings – a half-century in the first, a crucial 28 not out in the second. Vishy (Gundappa Viswanath) getting some runs, Ajit Wadekar (Indian captain) getting some runs in the first innings. Eki (Eknath Solkar), as always, chipping in with runs and wickets when it mattered.”
Shastri recalled that India’s catching and bowling in the match was outstanding. He added:
“Eki’s two catches, literally on the strip, one off Venkat (Srinivas Venkataraghavan) and one off Chandra (Chandrasekhar), were outstanding catches. I also remember Venkat taking one in the slips. And, of course, the brilliance of Chandrasekhar, turned the game on its head. 6 for 38, I still remember the figures. I remember 59 by Engineer in the first innings.”
1971 triumph in England set the tone: Ravi Shastri
Shastri admitted that he got nervous as India lost a few wickets in the chase. He described then England captain Ray Illingworth as a shrewd thinker who made a chase of 173 look like 273. The former left-arm spinner further recalled:
“When it got tight in the end, (there was) a crucial partnership between Viswanath and Engineer. It took India close to a win and then Vishy, my childhood hero, got out. My heart was beating with just about 8-10 runs to get because Illingworth was probably one of the shrewdest captains in the business. He made a 172-173 look like 272-273. Every run was crucial and India got it in singles towards the end and then Engineer came in and played a few shots.”
“It was Abid Ali, who hit the winning runs, I still remember. Through point, hit it for four. The crowd invaded The Oval on that day. Abid forgot to take the stumps, he ran halfway towards the pavilion. And then that’s a classic sight, where he goes back to get a stump but there are no stumps left.”
The Indian head coach admitted that the series victory in England in 1971 served as a major inspiration for the coming generation. Shastri concluded:
“Engineer was carried back on the shoulders of everyone. It lifted the spirits of Indian cricket in a huge manner. It gave them the belief that they can go overseas and win. To do it in England is always a story. Fifty years have gone by. Those players, whoever were part of that team, really set the tone.”
Incidentally, the current Indian team are in England for a five-match Test series. With a 1-0 lead, they will take on England in the third Test, which starts on Wednesday at Headingley.