Team India Specials

Class of ’86

Wednesday, June 10, 2021
Sai Mohan

Mumbai: On 10th June 1986, India had scripted a momentous victory against England at Lord’s. It was truly historic as India took 54 years to finally win a Test at the Mecca of cricket.

The Asian giants went into the series on a high, with triumphs at the 1983 World Cup, 1985 World Championships and praiseworthy performances in Australia behind them. The usually critical English press gave thumbs up to Kapil Dev’s outfit.

The popularity of the team had grown, thanks to the historic World Cup victory of ‘Kapil’s Devils’.

“We got a tremendous reception when we landed in England. We were a popular team in England, thanks largely to superstars like Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar in our ranks,” Kiran More, India’s wicketkeeper batsman on that tour, told Cricketnirvana.

Going into the 3-Test series at Lord’s, the momentum was with India, as they had already swept the ODI series 2-0.

“The atmosphere at Lord’s was fantastic. England was the team to beat in those days, as it had won the Ashes and performed well in the season prior to 1986. I sincerely feel we had one of the best Indian teams ever, with four very good all-rounders in Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny, Ravi Shastri and some top-class batsmen. India had impressed England after the ’83 World Cup triumph, so nobody was taking us lightly,” Maninder Singh, the left-arm orthodox spinner who took four wickets in the Lord’s Test, told Cricketnirvana.

More, who made his debut in that historic Test, echoed similar sentiment.

“It was probably the first time in history when nobody called as underdogs while going into such a big series. Personally, it was a great honour for me because I was trying to fill the giant shoes of Syed Kirmani and was making my debut at Lord’s.”

Mohinder Amarnath, who had scored a patient 69 in the first innings of the match, recalled the Test rather stoically. “It was just another series, just another win as far as I am concerned. There aren’t any special memories as such for me.”

Amarnath played down the ‘Lord’s hype’, saying winning at any venue was on par to winning anywhere else. “I don’t understand what the fuss about winning at Lord’s is? Every venue is special and we were least intimidated when people reminded us that we hadn’t won there before. We knew that we had the team to beat anyone, anywhere.”

It was speedster Chetan Sharma, who took a five-wicket haul in the first innings, to set up India’s victory. “I have never seen an Indian bowler produce that much swing in England. He was simply unplayable,” More recalled.

Amarnath recalled how Sharma had reduced his workload with the ball and also of fellow all-rounder Roger Binny. “We used to play a lot of all-rounders who supported Kapil. Roger and I knew a lot about the English conditions but Chetan Sharma made the ball talk in that Test match. His spell in the first innings was superb.”

India were in a spot of bother at 90-2 in their first innings after England were wrapped up for 294. The likes of Derek Pringle and Graham Dilley were threatening to run through the India innings. And then Dilip Vengsarkar produced truly a special innings at his favourite venue, Lord’s — a glorious 126.

“I think that knock by Dillip deserves to go down as one of the best-ever by an Indian. It was not an easy surface to bat on and England had a lot of swing bowlers. Most of our batsmen failed but Dilip remained not out till the end and took us to a good position,” Amarnath fondly reminisced. Vengsarkar innings lasted for five hour 43 minutes and was punctuated with 16 magnificent hits to the boundary.

Captain Kapil Dev led India’s bowling attack from the front in the second innings and finished with 4-52. Maninder also bowled splendidly to spin a web around English batsmen. He conceded only nine runs of 20.4 overs and snapped three crucial wickets. The host team’s innings folded at 180.

“Kapil bowled a lethal spell to remove Gooch, Robinson and Gower in quick succession. Once that happened I knew the game was ours. It became easy for the spinners to come and finish it off,” Maninder recalled.

India knocked off the 136 runs on the last day to go 1-0 up in the series.

The incredible India had finally exorcised the ghost of Lord’s.