By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) It was a sunny day on June 24, 1974, when India were all out for 42 — their lowest innings score then in Test cricket — against England in London, and it was a bright day in Adelaide on December 19, 2020, when India broke that dubious record, pointed out illustrious former spinner Bishan Singh Bedi. He played that match at Lord’s over 46 years ago and on Saturday, watched the third day’s play of India’s first Test against Australia on TV at his Delhi residence.
One difference between the two undesirable ‘feats’ was that the ball didn’t swing at Lord’s, but it moved at the Adelaide Oval. Another was that in 1974, one Indian batsman — Eknath Solkar — reached double figures, while on Saturday, all players from the visiting team were dismissed for single-digit scores. Solkar was unbeaten on 18 runs off 17 balls (105.88), comprising two boundaries and one six, in 34 minutes. There were two ducks 46 years ago and there were three on Saturday.
“Had somebody scored even 30, 36 would have remained 36, so if Solkar had then scored 18, 42 would have remained 42. I remember there was no resistance at all in 1974. That whole tour was a disaster. It was very badly planned and managed tour. Anyway, let us not think about that,” Bedi told IANS.
Ajit Wadekar’s India lost the Lord’s Test by an innings and 285 runs — and the three-match series 0-3 — while in Adelaide Virat Kohli’s team lost by eight wickets as Australia took a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
In 1974, pacer Geoff Arnold, now 76, captured five wickets while speedster Chris Old, who turns 72 on Tuesday, bagged four wickets as India were bundled out for 42.
“This 36 all out has revived my memory of 1974, but I am not at all happy to revive it. It’s just one of those things, and we have to accept it,” Bedi said with a chuckle.
Asked to compare the two lowest scores, 74-year-old spinner said: “You don’t compare such things. Such comparisons are most undesirable, to be honest. But a disaster is a disaster. It is one of those things when the Indian batting fell like a house of cards.”
Then, with tongue firmly in his cheek, Bedi, well known for his wit and humour, quipped: “Records are meant to be broken.”
Bedi, who was the most successful bowler in the first innings with six wickets, remembered the ball didn’t do much at Lord’s.
“It was also a very nice, clear, sunny day at Lord’s. There was no cloud cover. It just so happened that the straight ball either hit the stumps or took the edge of the bat. The ball wasn’t wobbling at Lord’s; in Adelaide today, the ball wobbled. 42 all out was rank bad batting,” he said.
“I can’t say the same for this (Adelaide 2020); it looks bad batting but the Australian bowling was very, very outstanding. They bowled cleanly. Credit has to be given to the Australians for bouncing back; not bouncing back, but pouncing back.”
Legendary leg-spinner Bhagwath Subramanya Chandrasekhar, who also played the Lord’s Test of 1974, said it was impossible to explain the reasons for teams getting out for low scores.
“It happens. You can’t give reasons for such things. The bottom line is that what has happened has happened. This was one of those things. India has a good side they will do well,” 75-year-old Bangalore-based Chandrasekhar, a man of few words, told IANS.
Two members of the Indian team that played at Lord’s in 1974 — Wadekar and Solkar – are no more. Among the others who are alive — Sunil Gavaskar, Farokh Engineer, Gundappa Viswanath, Brijesh Patel, Syed Abid Ali, Madan Lal, Erapalli Prasanna, Bedi, and Chandrasekhar — Engineer is the oldest at 82 years.
India, after taking a 53-run first-innings lead, faltered and were all out for 36 on Saturday — the joint fourth lowest score in 2,396 Test matches played over 142 years — ‘beating’ their own 42 of 1974. Australia then won the first Test by eight wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
The second Test begins on December 26 in Melbourne.