Those who followed cricket in the 70’s can never forget how Bhagwath Chandrasekhar spun a web around the Englishmen on their own soil to not just win a Test match for India but also strike fear among batsmen. A fear which was at par with facing fast bowlers. Chandrasekhar was someone who always loved to trick England with his leg spin. In the 23 matches, he played against England, the crafty leg-spinner scalped 95 wickets at a miserly economy of 2.50. But what makes it even more admirable is Chandrasekhar was capable of outsmarting some of the best batsmen despite his bowling arm being affected by polio.
6/38 at The Oval, 1971
Chandrasekhar is best remembered for his iconic performance in the final Test of the three-match series between India and England at the Oval. Batting first, England piled 355 runs on the board and in reply India was bowled out for 284, conceding a lead of 71. The three-match Test series was on the line with both sides failing to eke out a win in the previous two matches. With just under two days of play remaining in the Test, a win seemed unlikely for India. But on a slowish surface, S Venkataraghavan started to get some purchase and this prompted skipper Ajit Wadekar to introduce Chandra in the attack and just five balls into his first over batsman John Edrich was gone. Bowling from the Vauxhall End, Chandra struck twice, in successive balls, just before lunch as Keith Fletcher was out when Eknath Solkar was caught at short leg.
What happened in the next two hours can only be described as one of the greatest spells by an Indian spinner bowling abroad. In his spell of 18 overs, Chandra gave away just 38 runs which included three maidens and picked up 6 wickets.
Befuddled by his quirky action the Englishmen had no answer to Chandra’s guile. Apart from Edrich’s dismissal, all others were caught by fielders around the bat as batsman prodded and tried to defend in vain. In reply, India cantered home with four wickets in hand as Syed Abid Ali hit the winning runs. India won the Test and series by a margin of 1-0. This was India’s first Test series win on English soil.
Between his debut in January 1964 and his final appearance on July 1979, India won nine Test matches away from the familiarity of home conditions. In five of those games, Chandra picked up 42 wickets at an average of 17.14 including five five-wicket hauls.