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Opinion: Narendra Hirwani's magic at Chepauk remains unsurpassed for 30 years

Narendra Hirwani's record at Chepauk remains unbroken for 30 years Photograph:( DNA )

Bengaluru, Karnataka, India Jan 08, 2018, 08.19 AM (IST) Pankaj Agrawal

“Records are meant to be broken” – Ace swimmer Mark Spitz quoted this once. Spitz created history by winning seven gold medals in single Olympic in 1972. This record held ground for good 36 years. In 2008, Michael Phelps broke this in 2008.


Some records are so ahead of their times that it takes a long time for someone to surpass them. In the 1968 Mexico Olympic, Bob Beamon set a World Record in Long Jump when he leaped 8.90 meters and surpassed the previous record by staggering 55 cms.  It took someone 23 years to go past Beamon’s act.


In 1986, Viv Richards scored the fastest Test century. He did this using 56 balls; 11 balls less than the then prevailing record. It took 30 years for someone to surpass this. This month one such record in Test Cricket would complete three decades and it is still unchallenged. 


In January 1988, Indian Leg-Spinner Narendra Hirwani (then 19 years old) claimed 16 wickets in his debut Test match against West Indies at Madras (now Chennai). His match figure of 16 for 136 runs remains world-record for the best match figure in Test on debut and also it is best ever figure in a Test match by an Indian bowler.


In 1987-88, West Indies played a Four Test series in India. It was a significant series in a sense that it was India’s first Test series after legendary Sunil Gavaskar took retirement. 


India sans Sunil Gavaskar was up against a strong side under the new captain Dilip Vengsarkar. West Indies under the captaincy of Viv Richards was a formidable side.


India lost the first Test in Delhi and next two Test matches ended in a draw. The last test of the series was slated in Madras during 11-15 January 2018. Vengsarkar and the ace spinner Maninder Singh were ruled out for this Test due to injury. Ravi Shastri led the team at Madras and India fielded three debutants; Ajay Sharma and WV Raman were the other two apart from Narendra Hirwani.


During the one of the tour game of the same series, Hirwani played for the U-25 team against West Indies. He was impressive and took a 5 wicket haul. Fresh in memory, thus, when Maninder Singh got injured, Hirwani was picked. 


India batted first and scored 382 runs. In response, and at the end of second day’s play, West Indies were around 150 runs on the board for five wickets. Hirwani claimed three out of those five wickets. In fact, at the close of 2nd day’s play, the Test was fairly poised for both the teams. 


However, at the start of the third day, things turned dramatically on an underprepared and deteriorating track. The turning point came when well settled Richards failed to read a googly from Hirwani and got clean bowled.  Hell broke loose after this. West Indies lost its remaining four wickets in no time; all claimed by Hirwani.


India declared their second innings on the fourth day and set a target of 416 for West Indies in fourth innings. Hirwani struck again and batsmen were just clueless. West Indies were wrapped up in 42nd over on fourth day itself. India won the match by a huge margin of 255 runs with one day to spare.


Hirwani match figure was 16 for 136, which still is a world record for best bowling figures on debut. It is an all-time Indian record for match Test match figure. When Kumble took all 10 wickets in an innings in 1999, even he ended with a match haul of 14 wickets.


The Madras Test was the first and last Test for Ravi Shastri as the captain. Shastri, thus, finished with 100% Test captaincy record. Hirwani next three Test matches were against New Zealand in home series during the end of 1988, in which he took 20 wickets. Therefore, after first four Test matches, Narendra Hirwani had staggering 36 wickets against his name. But quickly he rose, more quickly he fizzled. His performance nose dove. He became an easy pick for the batman largely because he was slow in the air. Narendra Hirwani finished his career with just 17 Test matches and he could add an abysmal 18 wickets in last 13 Test matches.


Notwithstanding what sort of career Hirwani could make for himself, what he did in Madras 30 years back was mercurial and no short of a miraculous performance. This certainly is one of the records which have been lasting for insanely long.   


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).