Bhagwath Chandrasekhar is widely regarded as one of the finest spin bowlers in India's cricketing history. He achieved an impressive record of 242 wickets in 58 Test matches, averaging 29.74 and boasting a strike rate of 65.9. Chandrasekhar's unique run-up and skillful delivery of leg breaks and googlies made him a challenging opponent for even the most skilled batsmen in the world. He earned a reputation as one of India's greatest match-winners overseas, achieving excellent results in England during 1967 and 1971, the West Indies in 1976, and Australia during 1977–78.
On the occasion of his 78th birthday we take a look at the highlights of his stellar cricket career.
Most wickets in a series
During the 1972–73 home series against England, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, the skilled leg-spinner, established a record that remains unbeaten to this day. In the course of the five Tests (nine innings) played in the series, he captured a remarkable 35 wickets at an average of 18.91 and a strike rate of 49.9.
Notably, Chandrasekhar claimed four five-wicket hauls throughout the series. His most impressive performance came in the opening match in Delhi, where he took 8-79 in 41.5 overs. It is worth noting that Chandra's tally of 35 wickets is the highest ever recorded by an Indian bowler in a Test series, whether played at home or abroad.
Brilliant overseas record
Bhagwath Chandrasekhar's away record in Test cricket is remarkable, having taken 100 wickets in 26 Tests (42 innings) at an average of 32.66. His performance was not only the best among his contemporaries, but it also stands out as one of the finest in India's Test history. His exceptional ability to take wickets is reflected in his impressive strike rate of 67.7, which is second only to R Ashwin among Indian spinners in overseas conditions.
One of Chandrasekhar's most memorable performances abroad came during India's tour of Australia in 1977-78. In the course of five Tests, he captured 28 wickets, including a stellar display in the second match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he took six wickets in each innings and played a crucial role in securing India's first-ever Test win on Australian soil.
Chandrasekhar's proficiency in taking wickets was also on full display during India's tour of the Caribbean in 1976. In four Tests, he claimed 21 wickets, demonstrating his skill in spinning the ball and taking crucial wickets at important junctures in the matches. Additionally, he also impressed during India's tour of England in 1967, where he took a total of 16 wickets across the series, showcasing his talent as a spinner both at home and abroad.
Instrumental in India's first win in England
On 24th August 1971, the Indian cricket team made history by recording their first-ever away Test victory, as well as their first-ever away series victory against England. Prior to this, the team had suffered 15 losses and six draws in overseas Test matches.
The third Test of the series proved to be the decisive match, with India entering the game with the hope of securing a victory after drawing the first two Tests. However, midway through the match, their chances of winning seemed unlikely as they conceded a 71-run lead in the first innings after being bowled out for 284 in response to England's 355.
But on day four, India captain Ajit Wadekar noticed the pitch was slowing down and introduced the spinners early on. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar rose to the occasion, with his spin proving too much for the England batsmen. John Edrich was dismissed on just his fifth ball, while Keith Fletcher followed him the next delivery.
Chandrasekhar's spin partner, S Venkataraghavan, also contributed with crucial wickets, dismissing Basil D’Oliveria and Allan Knott in quick succession. Chandrasekhar then cleaned up the tail to dismiss England for a paltry 101, finishing with the second-best figures by an Indian bowler in England at that time.
In the second innings, Dilip Sardesai and Ajit Wadekar steadied the ship after the early loss of the openers, with Farokh Engineer and Abid Ali taking India home on the final day to secure a historic victory that remains etched in India's cricketing history.
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