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Vol. XXIX No. 10, September 1-15, 2019

When VB overshadowed Srikkanth

by Partab Ramchand

First Class Cricketer V.B. Chandrasekhar passed away in August. This is a trubute to him.

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Krish Srikkanth’s swashbuckling approach made his partner look pedestrian but if there was one exception it was V.B. Chandrasekhar. He was the only batsman who could match Srikkanth in daredevilry and on many occasions outscored him when the two opened for Tamil Nadu. And at the MAC stadium on October 5, 1988 Srikkanth was forced to play second fiddle and in fact was little more than a spectator at the other end as VB blazed forth with the kind of strokes that were of the mind boggling and eye rubbing variety. The occasion was the Irani trophy game between Ranji Trophy champions Tamil Nadu and the Rest of India. ROI had led off by getting 433 in their first innings and Tamil Nadu in reply were all out for 226. By now the pitch was aiding spin and ROI in their second innings were shot out for 132. This left Tamil Nadu with a tough victory target of 340 on a turning track and with bowlers of the calibre of Narendra Hirwani and Gopal Sharma on duty for ROI.

One way to approach this sort of target is to grind your way out but with Srikkanth and VB at the crease there was never any chance of Tamil Nadu adopting his tactic. They just went hammer and tongs at the bowling and for the first few overs they were level pegging as far as the scoring was concerned. Then VB struck the purple patch that ultimately not just ensured a remarkable victory for Tamil Nadu but in the process also enabled him to reach the fastest hundred ever scored by an Indian in first class cricket. He left Srikkanth way behind and used his willow like a sword to rattle the bowlers. Hirwani returning to the scene where he took a world record 16 wickets for 136 runs on his Test debut against West Indies in January that year was treated harshly and went for 82 runs in his 17 overs. Sharma fared better in that he took six wickets but he too was not spared by VB and conceded 133 runs in 33 overs.

VB just went along his merry way getting his 100 of just 56 balls with eight sixes and eight fours. Ultimately he was out for 119 off 78 balls hitting three more fours and totally dominating the first wicket partnership of 154 with Srikkanth who was in his 30s when VB was out. Thanks in the main to VB’s pyrotechnics Tamil Nadu were able to register an unexpected three wicket victory.

There was only one selector N.S. Tamhane who was present to watch VB at his dazzling best but so awe struck was he that he told reporters he would strongly recommend the batsman for higher honours to his other co-selectors. Sure enough by the time December rolled around VB was opening the innings for India against New Zealand at Vishakapatnam – with Srikkanth. It is another matter that his international career didn’t really take off but that one innings still remains very much part of Indian cricketing folklore.

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