When sportsmanship turned the fate of an India-England Test match
Not for the sheer quality of cricket, but the India-England Test (1979-80) at the Wankhede Stadium (to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Board of Control for Cricket in India) will go down in history as one of the leading lights in this rivalry.
Not for the sheer quality of cricket, but the India-England Test (1979-80) at the Wankhede Stadium (to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Board of Control for Cricket in India) will go down in history as one of the leading lights in this rivalry for three prominent reasons: Gundappa Vishwanath's sportsmanship, Ian Botham's extraordinary all-round performance (6-58, 114 and 7-48), and Bob Taylor's world record of 10 catches.
Indian skipper Vishwanath allowed Taylor to stay put at the crease despite Hanumantha Rao adjudging him caught-behind off Kapil Dev at a critical stage in the Test. Taylor then went to amass a record sixth-wicket stand of 171 with Ian Botham. The 'honest culprit' behind India's 10-wicket defeat still doesn't regret the incident: "I never regretted it, and still don't. People are entitled to their opinion but that does not bother me.
"As a captain, I did what was right at the stage without thinking about the final result. It was clear that he (Taylor) was not out and that was the only thing that mattered," Vishwanath said. "Whatever we would have done in those five days, Botham was just too good and would have probably won it for England either way," added Vishwanath.
Vishwanath set an example of ethical truthfulness, but not without irking his teammates. "We were so cross with him... but quickly realised that it's the price you have to pay to be so honest sometimes," recalled Syed Kirmani.
"Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) and Dilip (Vengsarkar) were besides Vishy in the slips, we all went up in a flash when Taylor nicked it. The umpire was quick to raise his finger, but Taylor just nodded his head. Surprisingly, Vishy asked the umpire to change his decision. At the end of the day's play, we didn't talk about the incident with him (Vishwanath). But three days later when we lost, we were really angry," he said.
Karsan Ghavri, who took five for 52 in the first innings, paid rich tributes to the sportsmanship of Vishwanath. "Even if Taylor had edged the ball, that is the sort of sportsman spirit that will go down in history, something that will be seen once in 20-25 years," said the left-arm pacer. "Vishy was a gentleman and played the game as fair as anyone. Everyone remembers it for being the Botham Test - and it definitely was. But it was also a game testament to the sort of individual Vishwanath really was," he said.
Taylor too lauded Vishwanath during his return to the ground in 2006. "That was a great gesture of sportsmanship, which cannot be forgotten. I thought I would be in trouble. I remember Kapil's appeal and was declared out by the umpire. I wondered what was going on and started my walk back. Then, Vishy came up to me and said he will have a word with the umpire," he said.
On Thursday, the home of cricket will host the India-England centenary Test.