A Monday and Saturday separated by 46 years and a few months.
Indian cricket felt humiliated at Lord’s on June 24, 1974 and one couldn’t escape that feeling on December 19, 2020.
In 1974 it was 42 against England, India’s then lowest cricket total. In 2020, 36 is the new low that Indian cricket hit against Australia.
On that day, the Indian innings ended at nine down with B S Chandrasekhar being “absent hurt”. On Saturday, it was Mohammed Shami, who had to retire hurt.
That Thursday saw Geoff Arnold get four and Chris Old snap five in an inspired spell of swing bowling on a green top at Lord’s. This Saturday had Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins give a display of quality seam bowling on a bouncy track.
“I don’t have any recollection of that match. Just that we played badly and dukh bhari baatein yaad karne ka kya faayda (what’s the use of remembering something that hurts so much),” Madan Lal, who was a part of that match, told PTI.
What exactly went wrong on June 24, 1974 during those 17 overs?
There couldn’’t be a better and exhaustive reference than Sunil Gavaskar’s seminal autobiographical work Sunny Days.
“Arnold started with two huge outswingers followed by an inswinger that hit (Farokh) Engineer on the pads as he played forward...(Ajit) Wadekar was bowled by Old and Vishwanath was out to a beauty which (wicketkeeper Alan) Knott snapped in front of first slip. (Brijesh) Patel got one that lifted and brushed his glove on its way to the wicket-keeper,” he wrote.
Gavaskar, with his brilliant sense of humour, described his conversation with Eknath Solkar, who had hooked an Old bouncer for six.
“At the end of the over, Solkar came down the wicket to ask me to stay and help him save the game. That was not to be as I was leg before to an Arnold break-back.
“By the time I removed my leg guards, Madan (Lal) and Abid (Ali) had joined me in the pavilion. And before you knew it, we were all out for 42. England had won the Test by an innings and 285 runs and with that the series.”
Over the last five decades, there have been multiple theories about the ‘Summer of 42’ but what exactly did Gavaskar think about that debacle?
“Lots of theories have been advanced about our being skittled out for a paltry 42 runs when on the same wicket England made 629 and India 302 runs. “The simple answer is that Arnold and Old bowled five good balls which got our top five batsmen out. After that there was no resistance from the tail-enders. We were skittled out before lunch and champagne was flowing in the English dressing room to celebrate England’s victory in the series.”
The 42 all-out happened in the second Test and India lost the next in Birmingham to lose the series 0-3. Wadekar was sacked from captaincy and dropped from not only the national team but also the West Zone side. Unable to take this frontal humiliation from the BCCI, Wadekar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
It was a forgettable Monday in 1974 that no one saw coming. Just like the Saturday, when Kohli was at his wits end to explain what exactly went wrong.
On Saturday, India endured a morale-crushing loss to Australia in the opening day-night Test in Adelaide. A rampaging Australia cruised to an emphatic eight-wicket victory inside two and half days in the first Test after India collapsed to 36 in their second innings.