The coming Sunday (October 8) when Rohit Sharma and Pat Cummins stride out for the toss ahead of the World Cup encounter at Chennai’s M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, fondly referred to as the Chepauk, the rival skippers will be adding another key chapter to the India-Australia cricketing rivalry.
Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in 2001 may remain the eternal peak, but there is no mistaking the charms of Chepauk as many Chennai fans would always vouch for.
Years may have ebbed away and yet the Indo-Aussie lore at Chepauk always has an immense recall value. Since we are in the business of the World Cup, a trophy that Kapil’s Devils and M.S. Dhoni’s men won in 1983 and 2011, it would be apt to remember the 1987 game that pitted India against Australia at Chepauk.
Defending champion India was staring at Allan Border’s Aussies. This was the Wild Western with the Madras touch. Border, in the process of rebuilding a unit, was a tough batter and astute leader. Meanwhile, Kapil was the one who unleashed his toothy grin at Lord’s in 1983 after India stunned the West Indies.
The 1987 World Cup joust turned out to be a thriller with Australia snatching a one-run win over the stunned Indians. The visitors posted 270 for six in 50 overs. Geoff Marsh scored a ton and incidentally his son Mitchell (Marsh) is part of the current Australian unit. India’s pursuit seemed in order with Sunil Gavaskar, local favourite K. Srikkanth and Navjot Sidhu flourishing atop the order.
However, the chase unravelled as wickets often fell and India was bowled out for 269 in 49.5 overs. The last-over climax was in keeping with the earlier scripts of India against Australia at this hallowed venue. Just the previous year in 1986, the rivals had played out a tied Test, the second in cricket’s history. That match is often remembered for the late Dean Jones’s stellar double hundred. Unable to bear the notorious Madras heat, the batter threw up and even lost control of his bladder.
However, Border, always a cowboy chewing nails for fun, insisted Jones keep batting and the latter precisely did that to leave India gasping. In the fourth innings of this epochal game, India was in the hunt but when the overall scores were level, spinner Greg Matthews trapped Maninder Singh LBW, a verdict that even to this day non-striker Ravi Shastri doesn’t agree with.
A historic tie was the gift that cricket bequeathed to Chepauk’s passionate crowd.
Years later, the stadium witnessed the battles between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. There was always magic in the air and hopefully the atmosphere will be the same as the latest World Cup rolls into town, while another Chennai-son R. Ashwin has earned his spot back with the Indian squad.