The recall of Dilip Vengsarkar is like a story from a schoolboyâ€™s cricket book.
Discarded from captaincy, discarded from the team, hounded out of the game, Vengsarkar stayed at home, unwanted, unappreaciated, while the team flew to New Zealand. Minus Vengsarkar, the team struggled through a couple of early matches, saving defeat in one of them by the skin of their teeth and the last wicket in the last ball of the last over of the match. Then came the first Test and defeat and humilation and Vengsarkar was recalled. Visas rushed throught, tickets bought, bags packed, and he rushed off to the southern hemisphere to rescue the team and Indian cricket. As I said, a story from a schoolboyâ€™s cricket book.
And if I may continue the story:
Bishan Singh Bedi was at the airport as Vengsarkar arrived. He heaved a sigh of relief, slapped him on the back and took him straight to the ground, where the team was practising. Vengsarkar changed into cricket whites, put on pads, gloves, picked up a bat, and got his rhythm back at the nets, as first Kapil Dev and then others bowled to him.
That night he went to bed early to work out his jet fatigue. Next morning, the team was at the ground. Azharuddin won the toss and elected to bat before a very small crowd, most of the people, disappointed with Indiaâ€™s performance, having kept away.
W. V. Raman was out first ball to Hadlee; Manjrekar, who went in next, was out the second ball. Hedlee was on to a hat-trick. In came Vengsarker, there was no question of who should play No. 4 any more. The first ball he turned neatly to the square-leg boundary, the second ball he lifted over Hadleeâ€™s head for a straight six.
Wicket kept falling at the other end, regularly, except for young Tendulkar, who, under Vengsarkerâ€™s guidance, played carefully and well. Soom Vengsarkar was on to his century and going stonger than ever. By the time the last man was out, he was 207 not out.
New Zealand threatened to match Indiaâ€™s score, the opening pair had put a hundred runs on the board and was unseparated. Then Azharuddin consulted Vengsarkar, who readjusted the field, brought three men in, put two men on the boubdry, moved the cover slightly more square, placed himself in the gully, rearranged the bowlers. Wickets started tumbling. Vengsarkar got anouther double century in the second innings, and, New Zealand, hopelessly out of the game, collapsed.
For the third and final Test, the crowds were back at the ground. India won, thanks to aother grand display by their master batsman. And they won the one-day series, Vengsarkar propping up the innings and doing the bulk of the scoring.
When the team retuned home, there was a red-carpet welcome for Vengsarkar. The President of India presented the Padma Bhushan, that Nikhil Chakravartty had refused, to him.
And, when the team for England was selected, Vengsarkar was appointed captain, and Ravi Shastri vice-captain.