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Sardesai: middle order mainstay
July 03, 2007 00:22 IST
Former Test player Dilip Sardesai, who died in Mumbai on Monday, was the mainstay of the Indian middle order batting in the 1970s, combining sound technique and footwork that made him one of the finest players against spin bowling.
Sardesai, one of the fulcrums around which the Indian batting revolved, played 30 Tests between 1960 and 1973 at an average of 39.23, with five hundreds to his credit, and played in the middle order mostly. He also opened at times.
A right-handed batsman possessing good defence, the stocky player was a very good driver of the ball and notched over 10,000 runs in his first-class career spanning nearly 12 years at a healthy average of 41.75, inclusive of 25 centuries.
Sardesai first came to national attention while scoring a superb 87 for Combined Universities against the visiting Pakistan team in 1960-61 on his first class debut.
The golden phase of Sardesai's career came during the 1970-71 Test series in the West Indies [Images] when India, under Ajit Wadekar, chalked up its first series win in the Caribbean.
Sardesai's aggregate of 642 runs was only next to that of debutant Sunil Gavaskar [Images] who had made 774 from three Tests.
Sardesai toured the West Indies twice in 1961-62 and in 1970-71, England [Images] in 1967 and 1971 and Australia in 1967-68.
A prolific scorer in domestic cricket and one of the golden boys of Mumbai cricket in its heydays, Sardesai played at home against England (1961-62, 1963-64 and 1972-73), Australia (1964-65, 1969-70), New Zealand [Images] (1964-65) and the West Indies (1966-67).
His last Test was at home against England in 1972-73.
Sardesai showed his liking for Caribbean pitches when he notched up 60 against the fiery West Indian attack led by the redoubtable Wes Hall in 1961-62, the first series played by the hosts after their unforgettable Test series in Australia that contained the famous tied Test at Brisbane.
In that match, he opened the innings and the worth of his knock became evident when compared with the Indian total of 187 in that innings.
Sardesai came into his own at home against Mike Smith's England in the 1963-64 series by compiling 449 runs at an average of 44.90, five times crossing 50.
He failed against the Bob Simpson-led Australia in the next season, but was in his elements against New Zealand soon afterwards with a tally of 359 runs (topping the averages with 119.66).
This was the series in which he made his first double century (200 not out) in the second innings of the Test match in Mumbai after the Indian team were shot out for 88 and followed on.
India not only saved the match but very nearly won it too and later went on to clinch the series with a victory at Delhi's Ferozshah Kotla ground.
Sardesai made a spectacular comeback to the national team for the 1971 tour of West Indies after he appeared to be out of the reckoning. His Test best score of 212 at Kingston [Images], Jamaica, in a total of 387 came in this series.
He also notched up 112 at Port of Spain and 150 at Bridgetown to emerge as one of the two star batsmen of the historic Test series victory with 642 runs (av. 80.25).
He also stitched together vital partnerships with late Eknath Solkar lower in the order but for which India could have lost the first, second and fourth Tests.