When Vishy and Chandra ran West Indies ragged, 1975
During that innings the wicket was a bit fiery and Andy [Roberts] was in his element. I had already played Andy and that attack [during the series], but most of them looked a yard or two quicker on that pitch. I can easily say it was one of the quickest tracks India has ever produced. Before I realised, we were six wickets down, and there was probably Karsan Ghavri at the other end. I had scored about 30, and then I thought about playing my shots to get as many runs as possible because I knew the wicket was going to help the spinners a bit later.
I was watching Andy bowl from the non-striker's end. Even after bowling for a while he was able to bowl with the same venom because he always had some sort of [expression] when he was charging in; [looking at his eyes] you could make out he was really there. When he was coming in to bowl to me, the same face [expression] I saw from the other side two-three balls earlier wasn't there; instead of really going through, he was just [releasing] the ball when he was bowling at me.
I watched him for another over or so, and realised he wasn't going to go full throttle at me. He wanted to finish it off, and knew there was no point going all out against a settled batsman. So, I thought, 'Let me take a chance with Andy', and then I played some unbelievable shots against him; It was just one of those days that just happens in one's career.
Everything came off the middle of the blade. I was even keeping the bouncers down; mostly I would never hook, and [instead would] tap which meant I was coming inside the line and watching the ball throughout. On one occasion, when the bounce from Roberts was more than I expected, I just stood up and flicked it.
The timing was so perfect it went like a rocket towards square leg. Immediately after playing, I just looked at Roberts and he went like this (shrug of appreciation). I will never forget that shot and also his reaction. Against Keith Boyce, I went back and hit a straight drive past him; I could see [Clive]Lloyd-y shaking his head [in disbelief].
For the last three wickets, we somehow managed partnerships. Bishan [Bedi] was a little plumpy, so running sharp singles was out of my reach, or for that matter, his reach! In the end, when Chandra [BS Chandrasekhar] got out, we had a nearly 30 runs partnership. We could have been run out umpteen times, but Chandra told me, 'even if you get run out I am not bothered, but I don't want to face [the West Indies quicks]. 'Aarane ball ondhu run thogonbidappa, saaku' (just take a single off the last ball, that's enough).
So we would take singles tapping the ball to Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd, and they never hit the stumps. [Alvin] Kallicharan - he and I are good mates even now - said, 'it can't happen like this in Test cricket. If I had had three-four chances I'd have hit at least one, but I don't know how these people are missing'. I said our running between the wickets was too confusing for them.
Then, off the third ball in one of Andy's overs, I didn't want to take a run after I played my best shot- the square cut. Boyce was at third man, and he was a terrific fielder with a beautiful throw. When I played that shot, I thought it was four, but I could see Boyce had started running. Chandra came halfway [for the second] and didn't know what to do after Boyce fielded, so he shouted, 'come back, come back [for the second]', but I thought it was a boundary and didn't run fast. By that time, Boyce had already picked the ball up, and I thought there was no chance for a second run; I shouted, 'Chandra, go back.'
That meant he had to face three balls, so I went up to him and said the first one would be a mild bouncer - those days they didn't bounce tailenders - and the second one would be a yorker; I told him [what] the three balls would be. The first ball was not a bouncer, the second one was overpitched and he tried to defend, and the third was a beautiful delivery - he had to play it and Lloyd took the edge.
Chandra really felt bad that I missed out on a hundred. He almost started crying when he came back into the dressing room, and said, 'I am very, very sorry, Vishy. I couldn't play three balls.' I said, 'Forget it. We enjoyed that partnership. Can anyone run like that with Richards and all these people?' Later on, though, he said, 'it was because of you I got out. Because you told me he would bowl like this [and he didn't bowl that way].' It was [all in] good fun. That [he would make it up with his bowling] was expected from him. He was a champion bowler and I think the greatest match-winner I have come across.
I heard from Raj Singh [Dungarpur] that [MAK] Pataudi was asking people to watch my innings. He is not [much of]a watcher, but when I was on 20 or something, I believe he said, 'This lad is going to do something brilliant. I don't want to miss this innings.' The Madras crowd is the best even now, because they are very knowledgeable and they appreciate good cricket even from the opponents. I can't forget this innings because even now the people - especially when I go to Chennai - talk about the 97. I won't say this is the greatest innings - but I will probably rate it as one of the best among other big knocks I played, but we won the game so it always stays with you throughout.
As told to Arun Venugopal