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History was made at The Oval, 40 years back

Last updated on: August 17, 2011 14:41 IST

Wadekar led India to their first ever Test win on English soil in '71

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Bikash Mohapatra

Ajit Wadekar, who led India to its first win on English soil, tells Bikash Mohapatra that it was team effort that gave them that historic win at The Oval in 1971

Where would you find a captain after his team registers a historic win?

Leading the celebrations, one would presume.

Ajit Wadekar's case was different.

Having led India to a historic win over England at The Oval in August 1971 -- the visitors' first ever Test win on English soil -- it took some time before he could join the celebrations, the reason being very natural (pun intended).

"I had dozed off," recalled Wadekar, when asked about his immediate reaction following that win, a significant result in the history of Indian cricket.

"The next day we had to travel for a match against Sussex, and, since we were winning, I thought to take some rest before the trip," he explained.

It took some effort before the captain could join the celebrations.

"Ken Barrington, who used to be the England manager back then and also was very fond of us, came and woke me up," said Wadekar.

" 'What are you doing? India has won,' he told me. Thereafter began the celebrations, and when it got over, there was not a drop of champagne left."


Image: India skipper Ajit Wadekar and teammate B S Chandraserhar wave to cheering crowds at The Oval after India won the Test series against England in August 1971
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Chandrasekhar's bowling on the 3rd day was fabulous'

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The former captain seemed to remember every bit of that success story.

"They (England) had come back from Australia, having regained the Ashes," he said.

"We had won against the West Indies as well. But many thought it was a flash in the pan and the great West Indies team had lost because they had taken us lightly.

"No one gave us much of a chance, but we had the confidence and, most importantly, played as a unit," he added.

The veteran cricketer proceeded to elaborate on the match per se

"One day was lost because of bad weather and we trailed by 71 runs in the first innings," said Wadekar.

"However, the way Chandra (BS Chandrasekhar) was bowling on the third day, it was simply fabulous, and I knew if he got a wicket in his first two-three overs, he would bowl well thereafter," he continued.

"I, therefore, set an attacking field. Fortunately, he got John Edrich early in that innings.

"Then, Venkataraghavan took a great catch to dismiss Luckhurst," he added.


Image: Wadekar bats in India's 1st innings of the third Test at the Oval; wicketkeeper Alan Knott looks on

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'Knott's wicket was the turning point of the match'

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Asked about the turning point of the match, Wadekar had an interesting anecdote to offer.

"Alan Knott's was a big wicket, a thorn in our flesh," he explained.

"But Eknath Solkar, who used to field at forward short leg in those days, had marked Knott was a bit superstitious -- he used to use the bails to mark his stance.

"Eki came to me and asked if he could remove those bails for a while. I asked him to go ahead and he put the bails in his pocket.

"In came Knott, and not finding the bails, he marked with his spikes. He survived four balls and that, I believe, was the turning point of the match."

The win didn't come easy, though.

"We eventually managed to get them out for 101," recalled Wadekar.

"But when I was on 45, I was run out," he continued, adding, "We lost a few more wickets.

"Vishy (Gundappa Viswanath) and Farokh (Engineer), however, saw us through.

"It was a match where everyone contributed in some way or the other."


Image: Alan Knott bats against India

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'Sachin will get his hundred at The Oval'

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Four decades after that famous win, even as India looks to avoid a whitewash in the ongoing series, Wadekar didn't seem too hopeful.

"The morale is down," he explained.

"Too many things have gone wrong on this tour. They are just looking to come back.

"And this England team looks so determined. They are out to kill, it seems."

He was very positive about a certain individual though.

"Sachin (Tendulkar) will get his hundred at The Oval; mark my words!" said Wadekar.

The Master Blaster's 100th international century, if that happens, might just be a major positive in an otherwise forgettable series.

Besides, it would be a great tribute to that historic Indian win achieved four decades back at this very ground.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar

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