It is ironical that Chetan Chauhan, who was the long-time opening partner of the century-machine Sunil Gavaskar, never got to the landmark himself. He got close on at least 10 occasions, but was dismissed in the 80s seven times and twice in the 90s. Until Shane Warne topped it, he held the dubious record of the most number of Tests without a hundred. Fans from his generation might have come to associate him with that bitter-sweet feeling of so-close yet-far but team-mates have described him as “gutsy” and a “fighter” in tributes after he succumbed to COVID-19 on August 16.
Chauhan was a sturdy and gritty batsman who could produce dour knocks if the situation demanded. His debut Test in Mumbai in 1969 provided a snapshot of what was to come: He took 25 minutes to get off the mark and his first scoring shot was a square-cut, a shot that would come to be associated with him. His next scoring shot was a hooked six, keenly watched by a teenager in the stands who would become his illustrious opening partner in the next decade. He was a batsman who was aware of his limitations and who played to his strengths — vast powers of concentration, a stronger off-side game, and sheer grit to blunt out the new ball. His partnership with Gavaskar averaged 53.75 in 59 innings together, superior to what Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir Sehwag managed. They had 10 century stands, including the 213 against England.
He was a popular man in the team, with his full-throated laughter and a rare ability to laugh at himself. Most of his team-mates also talk about his unflappable temperament, which perhaps helped him in the chaotic world of Indian politics and the stormy citadel that is the Delhi Cricket Association. He was a twice-elected parliamentarian and was also the manager of the Indian cricket team, notably during the 2008 controversial Monkeygate series in Australia where his managerial skills helped save the day.