Devraj Govindraj recalls 1971 victory at The Oval

Former Hyderabad pacer Devraj Govindraj, who toured England with the Indian team in 1971, witnessed the historic victory at The Oval. 

He was not a part of the XI but had the privilege of watching BS Chandrasekhar spin magic to bundle out England. “When I look back, it is just unbelievable to see Chandra bowl such a spell (six for 38) to bowl England out for 101 in the second innings and set us a victory target of 173. You will be surprised that our captain Ajit (Wadekar) told the boys to play for a draw. He reasoned that no Indian team has ever drawn the Test series in England,” recalled the 74-year-old in a chat with Sportstar.

“Frankly, there was no discussion of any sorts. Just a simple message from Ajit and once the team entered the field, it was obvious that they just couldn’t read Chandra at all as they were also too defensive,” he said.

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“Compounding the misery of English batsmen was the brilliance of Eknath Solkar who pulled off some stunning catches. In fact, at one stage, they were more worried about him diving all over to latch on to any snick than the bowler,” said Govindraj, who was one of the five Hyderabadis in the Indian squad on that 1971 tour to England; the others being Abbas Ali Baig, P. Krishnamurthy, Syed Abid Ali, who scored the winning runs, and Kenia Jayantilal.

“I have no regrets for not playing. For a fast bowler had no place in the scheme of things. Gavaskar and Abid Ali opened the bowling. Spin was our trump card,” he said.

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“That win was a huge surprise for all of us. And, watching the action from the dressing room was itself a memorable experience,” the former pacer said.

“And, I can tell you, when we landed in Mumbai, thousands of fans lined up on either side, showering petals on our cavalcade Oh! That was the biggest ever reception for any team in Mumbai,” he said, adding that he expects Virat Kohli’s team to stage a comeback after the loss at Headingley.

“Kohli’s team is a far superior side and has a great fast bowling attack while in our times spin was the strikeforce. I love the attitude of the current fast bowlers. They can come back strongly despite the defeat in the last Test,” Govindraj concluded.

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