Rajput recalls his memories of wearing the India cap for the very first time and losing the Test series in ...

Saturday, July 19, 2021

'Lankans benefitted from their umpires'

Sai Mohan

Mumbai: Sri Lanka have registered their most famous victories in Test cricket over the years with their master artistry of authentic spin bowling and sharp, hard-line cricket. However, their earliest Test series conquest that came in 1985 against the Indians, under the captaincy of Duleep Mendis was thoroughly due to a formidable pace attack.

The trio of Asantha de Mel (12 wickets), Rumesh Ratnayake (20 wickets) and Saliya Ahangama (18 wickets) combined for 50 wickets in the three-Test seres. Former India opener Lalchand Rajput, who made his Test debut during the series, credited Mohinder Amarnath's absence and skipper Sunil Gavaskar's decision to bat at No 4, for his inclusion in the XI.

Rajput spoke to and recalled his memories of wearing the India cap for the very first time but the more distressing memory of losing the Test series.

"It was India's first official tour of Sri Lanka hence there was the added pressure. We were not sure of what to expect but we knew for a fact that we were capable of defeating Sri Lanka. Kapil Dev, who was our captain at the time, was very confident of us doing well. We had toured there in the past but they were not official games." 

"The pitches those days in Sri Lanka were very seamer friendly, especially when the conditions were overcast. Rumesh Ratnayake was a genuine pace bowler and if there was a speedo meter those days I can tell you he was clocking above 90mph. He along with De Mel formed a potent new-ball duo and it wasn't easy to face them, especially at Kandy where there was a lot more assistance for the pacers."

"Some people were trying to inflict fear on our minds at the start of the tour about security concerns but to be honest we were roaming around freely without any worries.

Rajput stated that the standard of umpiring during the 1985 tour of Sri Lanka was 'disgraceful'. 

"We were criticised severely at the end of the tour but I can stick my neck out and tell you that the Sri Lankans benefited heavily due to home umpires. It were the home umpires who gave them the edge."

"The second Test at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo saw them overcoming us thanks to a fiery spell from Rumesh Ratnayake who took 9 wickets in that match. We were completely outplayed on that fateful fifth day, following which the Sri Lankan government declared a national holiday since it marked the country's first-ever victory in Test cricket." 

"They had a solid batting lineup too and Duleep Mendis' century in the first Test against us was one of the best knocks that I had seen while on the field. They were an aggressive team and not easy to overcome, especially at home. Asoka de Silva was the solitary spinner in the team but gave great support to the frontline seamers."