Then, the Gavaskar-Vengsarkar show; now, the Vijay-Pujara bash!
Television presenter Gautam Bhimani turns back the clock and rejoices in the present
As I sat on a shady corner of the steps of the North Pavilion terrace at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, and watched another wristy flick through mid wicket by pujara off Doherty to take india to 317/1, the partnership with vijay touched 300, it dawned on me that they were now 45 short of breaking the record for the 2nd wicket. A record set by Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar against the West Indies. A record that in my mind was so familiar and so vivid. I was there that day……
It was a nippy hazy Sunday afternoon at the Eden Gardens. It was New Year's Eve and day 3 of the Calcutta Test against Alvin Kallicharran’s Packer shorn West Indies team. Age 8, and clubhouse ticket in hand, I was all excited at the possibility of watching India bat, with West Indies losing wickets rapidly to the off spin of Venkat. Once the innings break happened, West Indies all out 327 my Dad had to rush off to the commentary box and friends we came with had to leave to prepare for new years eve party at home. So that meant I was alone, but not wanting me to be left without company, and being a totally different era, Dad deposited in the Indian dressing room in the able hands of Anshuman Gaekwad. I propped myself in the viewing balcony outside the dressing room, and soon realized that India had a change in batting order. Gavaskar would be opening with Gaekwad. I looked visibly perturbed that my “guardian” was going off to pad up and go bat. I soon heard a voice from the back of the room, it might have been Bishen Bedi, going “don’t worry son, anshu Uncle will be back soon to take care of you……”
Well, Anshu Uncle did come back pretty soon, clean bowled by the speedy Sylvester Clarke for 5. Sitting next to me, a tad fidgety and restless was Dilip Vengsarkar. At the fall of the first wicket, he trudged down the clubhouse stairs (those days it was a long way down to the middle at Eden) passing a visibly upset Anshu Uncle who came back muttering under his breath. Vengsarkar was off in a flash. Gavaskar, already looking fluent on the back of a first innings hundred. They took it to 70/1 at the close of the day (and of the year). We were back in 1979, bright and early on Tuesday morning (1st Jan was a rest day). I had my appointed seat and watched mesmerized as Gavaskar and Vengsarkar took apart the West Indian bowling. A decent attack. Apart from Clarke, there was Malcolm Marshall, Nobert Philip and the deceptive Vanburn Holder. Before end of day, they took the score to 361/1, Gavaskar on 182, Vengsarkar on 157. In sight of a double, Gavaskar unselfishly declared to give himself time to bowl the visitors out. In the end, the Caribbeans held out for a draw in fading like on Wednesday evening…..
My mind quickly jumped back to 2013, as Pujara worked Siddle away to long leg for 1. The record had been broken, and I felt privileged to have witnessed both partnerships, 35 years apart. One, as a wide eyed spectator, the other as a TV presenter and wide eyed spectator!