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Stabroek News

The best of the West Indies and India at Sabina
published: Friday | May 19, 2006

Tony Becca

BACK IN November 1948 when the West Indies and India confronted each other for the first time in a Test match, the West Indies, batting first, scored 631 at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium with four batsmen - Clyde Walcott, Gerry Gomez, Everton Weekes and Robert Christiana - ticking off a century each in Delhi's first Test match.

When India batted, the home team scored 454 with Hemchandra Ramchandra Adhikari chipping in with an undefeated 114 and, despite the great fast bowlers on one side and the great spin bowlers on the other, in spite of a few low totals, since then batsmen on either side have enjoyed themselves.

They include the likes of Weekes, Walcott, Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the West Indies, and Polly Umrigar, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Sardesai, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammed Amar-nath and Sachin Tendulkar of India.

Weekes, for example, scored four centuries in a row and missed number five when he was run out for 90; Kanhai, 256, rattled up the top score between the two teams.

Gavaskar, 124 and 220, 107 and 182 not out, scored centuries in both innings of a Test match on two occasions, and with 11 double centuries - six for the West Indies and five for India, with 149 centuries - 87 for the West Indies and 62 for India, cricket fans in the West Indies and in the subcontinent, from Sabina Park in Kingston to Bourda in Georgetown, from Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi to Wankhede in Mumbai, have witnessed some of the finest batting by some of the game's best batsmen.


Jubilant fans lift Rohan Kanhai (in circle) shoulder high after his 158 not out against India on the final day of the first Test match at Sabina Park in 1971. - FILE

The luckiest of them all, however, are probably the fans at Sabina Park - and not so much those who were on hand in 1962 and who saw Sobers dominating the likes of Rusi Surti, Salim Durani, Rameshchandra Nadkarni and Erapally Prasanna while scoring 153 in the second Test and 104 in the fifth, but more so those who were present during the Test matches of 1953 and 1971 when Umrigar, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, and then Pankaj Roy and Manjrekar, when Sardesai and then Kanhai paraded their class.

On both occasions it was batting at its best - the first, an exhibition of strokeplay, the second, one in which strokeplay was beautifully mixed with technical skill and character.

In 1953, in the fifth and final match of the series, Umrigar, up against left-arm spinner Alfred Valentine at his best, scored 117 out of 312 in the first innings of the match, Roy and Manjrekar, also up against Valentine, scored 150 and 118 respectively as India recovered to reach 444 in the third innings and, in between that, in the West Indies first innings of 576, Worrell scored 237, Weekes 109 and Walcott 118 against the right and left spin pair of Subhash Gupte and Vinoo Mankad - also bowling at their best.


But for the last few hours when the West Indies, after losing Bruce Pairaudeau and Jeffrey Stollmeyer for two and nine respectively, decided to settle for a draw, it was stroke for stroke, shot for shot for the entire six days.

In 1971, India, batting first, were sinking at 75 for five when Sardesai, batting at number four in the absence of both Gavaskar and Viswanath, ticked off India's first double century against the West Indies with a majestic innings of 212 that rallied his team to 387.

In a match which saw the hunter becoming the hunted, the West Indies, trailing India on first innings for the first time, were forced to follow-on, and following on his top score of 56 in the first innings, Kanhai, up against the spin of Bishen Bedi, Prasanna, Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan and Durani, stroked a copybook 158 not out in an innings which, along with one of 93 from Sobers, carried the West Indies to safety.

With Andy Sandham scoring 325 in 1930 - the then world record, with George Headley scoring 270 not out against England in 1934 - the then highest score by a West Indian, with Sobers scoring 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958 - the world record at the time, and with Lawrence Rowe scoring 214 and 100 not out against New Zealand in 1972 on his debut, there have been some great and wonderful performances at Sabina Park before and since 1953 and 1971.

In terms of strokeplay, however, the combination of Umrigar, Roy, Manjrekar, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott was something special, and as far as rescuing one's team is concerned, so too were the performances of Sardesai and Kanhai.

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