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Only three countries have played more than 500 Test matches. India is going to be the fourth when they take on New Zealand at Kanpur today. India is now number two in the ICC Test team rankings and a clear favourite to win the series against New Zealand to claim the number one spot. India has found an assertive and aggressive captain in Virat Kohli. Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja are two world class spinners in the side who also feature in the top 10 ICC Test bowlers ranking. Ajinkya Rahane would like to emulate his batting aptitude at home, what he has exhibited in overseas Tests sofar. When India celebrates this mammoth land mark event, here is a look back at its eventful journey and some snippets from the landmark Test matches.
1st Test, India v England, Lord’s, Only Test, 1932
Captain – C.K. Nayudu, India lost by 158 runs
The events that lead to India playing its 1st Test match were more fascinating than the match itself. In 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, India had won the Gold in hockey without any fuss. In the following European tour certain Dhyanchand had scored 75 goals. Indian hockey had done enough to draw attention in the international sports fraternity. In that opportune moment few Cricket evangelists from India and Britain initiated the idea of formation of BCCI in 1928. Both BCCI and ICC proposed a tour of the sub-continent by MCC in 1931 and a return tour in 1932. But At the start of 1930 Gandhiji had launched the civil disobedience movement, by marching to Dandi to break the salt law. He was arrested. There was a widespread movement all across India and the proposed MCC tour of the sub-continent was quietly shelved. Next year, British government had invited Gandhiji for a round table conference to decide on India’s future. The conference failed and after returning to India, Gandhiji was arrested again in early 1932. That year India toured to England for the 1st time and played the 1st Test at Lord’s. There were few notable players like Vijay Merchant, withdrew from the tour in support of civil disobedience movement. The royalties, who were supposed to lead India in the field sanely withdrew from the squad and let a commoner C.K. Nayudu to captain the 1st Test, much against some team member’s protest. India lost the 1st Test but not without a fight. Captain Nayudu and the fast bowler duo Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh (who went to the same Alfred High School of Rajkot as Gandhiji) were impressive in that tour. And thus, 25th June 1932 marked the birth of cricketing nation. It was indeed an achievement for BCCI and MCC to have the tour organised given the bitter and volatile political situation where 60,000 odd Indians were imprisoned by the British government.
1932 Indian Test Cricket team. Back: Lall Singh, Phiroze Palia, Jahangir Khan, Mohammad Nissar, Amar Singh, Bahadur Kapadia, Shankarrao Godambe, Ghulam Mohammad, Janardan Navle. Seated: Syed Wazir Ali, C.K.Nayudu, Maharaja of Porbandar , KS Limbdi , Nazir Ali, Joginder Singh. Front: Naoomal Jaoomal, Sorabji Colah, Nariman Marshall.
100th Test, India v England, Edgbaston,3rd Test, 1967
Captain – Tiger Pataudi, India lost by 132 runs
By the time India played its 100th Test, Tiger Pataudi, the charismatic captain and the architect of modern India cricket outfit was at the helm of affairs. Pataudi had established himself as a seasoned captain instilling faith and cohesiveness that’s required for a team. Though India had won 10 Test matches in the previous 99, they were yet to win a match playing away from home. India lost the 3rd Test at Edgbaston and the series 3-0. But the 100th Test was the only match where the famed Indian spin quartet (Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi) played together. In the 3 match series the spinners took 33 of 36 Indian wickets, which is unheard of in a present day tour of England. The Spin quartet amongst them took 853 wickets in 231 Tests and were vital to India’s many memorable series wins especially on foreign soils. It was appropriate that, under Patudi, India registered their 1st away victory in their 105th Test a year after in Dunedin.
200th Test, India v Pakistan, Lahore, 1st Test, 1982
Captain – Sunil Gavaskar, Match drawn
Sunil Gavaskar was leading the team, when India played its 200th Test. India started wining Test matches under Tiger Pataudi. Under Gavaskar India mastered the art of not losing Test matches. India had so far played 35 Tests under Gavaskar’s captaincy and had lost just 3. India had won 8 and drawn a staggering 24 Tests. Sunil Gavaskar was 4 centuries away to equal with Sir Don Bradman’s record of 29. India’s 200th Test at Lahore, the 1st of the 6 match series ended in a draw. But the match produced some remarkable statistics. The most notable one was, Zaheer Abbas becoming the first batsman from the sub-continent to score 100 first-class centuries and Gavaskar the 5th player to score 7000 runs in Tests after Boycott, Cowdrey, Hammond and Sobers. This Test was tragically marred by poor crowd response because; to earn some quick money the Pakistan board had auctioned the entire series to a contractor who had fixed an exorbitant entry fee for public.
300th Test, India v South Africa, Ahmedabad, 1st Test, 1996
Captain – Sachin Tendulkar, India won by 64 runs
The 300th Test India played is remembered for many firsts and one one notable last. This was South Africa’s first Test in India. It was Sachin Tendulkar’s 2nd Test as a captain and 1st full fledged home series. When India landed at Ahmedabad for the match, Tendulkar had less than 3000 Test runs and Anil Kumble was the most experienced Test bowlers of the Indian attack with 28 matches. A 22 year old VVS Laxman was making his Test debut. But the match is fondly remembered for Javagal Srinath’s fast and accurate seam bowling in a spinner friendly pitch, which earned him his 1st five-wicket haul in Test cricket. He took 6 for 21 in the 2nd innings where South Africa lost their last six wickets for nine runs. Notably, this was the last appearance for Sanjay Manjrekar in Test as well as international cricket.
400th Test, India v West Indies, Jamaica, 4th Test, 2006
Captain – Rahul Dravid, India won by 49 runs
When India played its 400th Test, Sachin Tendulkar was the leading run scorer for India going past Sunil Gavaskar and Anil Kumble was the leading wicket taker going past Kapil Dev in Test matches. Rahul Dravid had taken the mantle of leading India in Tests after the golden era of Sourav Ganguly. Last time India won a Test Series in the Caribbean was in 1971. Anil Kumble was the only one to be born from the squad members of India’s 400th Test before 1971. India prevailed in the series deciding match at Jamaica. Captain Rahul Dravid guided his team home with two masterful innings of 81 and 68 in a 3 day affair. India won a series in the Caribbean for the first time in 35 years. In the course of the match Anil Kumble reached to 1000 wickets in first-class matches. Mohammad Kaif who had scored a Test century in the series and averaged above 55 runs never played a Test match for India again.
This is one the biggest home season for India, where they play 13 Test matches. India took the least number of years (84) to play its 500th Test. Given the growing popularity of T20 cricket and Test matches being replaced with limited over matches, it will be exciting to watch the growth and popularity of Test cricket. Will the 1000th come in a lesser time? Will it ever come, ever?