The basics: India made their Test debut on June 25, 1932 against England and lost by 158 runs. But the undercurrent of events until the first ball was bowled at Lord's baffles modern observers.
Back then with India under British rule, there was a custom that only royalty could become captain. Three Maharajas backed out before finally CK Nayudu -- a player of considerable repute, but neither king nor prince -- was given the baton.
On the eve of the match, however, there was a protest. The rest of the team didn't want to be captained by Nayudu, the son of a barrister and a man who brought legitimacy to the position having previously played in England. He would later be recognised by Wisden as one of their cricketers of the year. At the time though, until a monarch -- Maharaja of Patiala -- ordered the players to fall in line, India's first-ever Test match was under threat of not happening at all.
It added to the theatre that once they were on the field Mohammad Nissar, one of the fastest bowlers in the country's history, and Amar Singh, who "came off the pitch like the crack of doom" according to the legendary Wally Hammond, had England at 19 for 3.
The equally legendary Douglas Jardine, who was tipped to captain India, ended up captaining their opposition and with fifties in each innings played a vital part in their defeat.
First Test centurion
Lala Amarnath was born a simple street urchin and became an icon of Indian cricket. He had immense skill as a batsman, the power in his forearms and wrists so profound that his cover drives wouldn't even require a follow-through to hurtle to the boundary. No wonder that when he scored his country's first Test century the women at the Gymkhana ground in Mumbai flung their jewellery at his feet and kings lined up to grant him favour.
Remarkably, he was playing his first Test. And when he made those seminal 118 runs in India's first Test at home, against England, he was trying to stave off an innings defeat. Wisden Cricketers Almanack recounts him scoring "83 in 78 minutes, hooking new-ball bowlers Stan Nichols and Nobby Clark with confidence and going down the pitch to hit Hedley Verity". Amarnath would himself say he batted "as if possessed by a mysterious power".
England did win, of course. But India had gained a hero who would become captain, later a coach, selector, manager, broadcaster and also give two more international cricketers -- one of whom helped win the World Cup in 1983.
First Test triple-centurion
"If you try to hit a six, I will hit you on the bum," said his idol. Virender Sehwag did try to hit a six and all an exasperated Sachin Tendulkar could do was embrace his partner. What option did he have? The ball was lost somewhere in the stands beyond midwicket and Sehwag had become India's first triple-centurion in Test cricket.
In honour of India's first visit to Pakistan in 15 years, Multan had laid down a strip of road instead of a cricket pitch. The tourists won the toss and Sehwag exemplified the reasons behind his candidacy to be one of cricket's modern masters. He went to his hundred caning Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler in the world, for six. The triple was achieved by lofting Saqlain Mushtaq, possibly the greatest Pakistan offspinner of all time. It was only three months since he had attempted something similar and was dismissed for 195 against Australia in Melbourne.
"I have never changed my thinking, I have never changed my batting style," Sehwag said in 2009. "I have batted the way I batted in local tournaments and then first-class cricket, and I have applied the same approach in international cricket. I love to hit fours and sixes."
Sehwag's innings was then the fastest triple-hundred Test history. Six months later, Matthew Hayden usurped the record by the narrowest of margins -- two balls. In 2007-08, Sehwag smacked South Africa around to reclaim the throne. His 319 in Chennai was not only the fastest triple-hundred in 139 years of Test history but also the highest score by an Indian.
First Test win and first 10-wicket haul in a match
Many an Indian captain has pined for an allrounder. MS Dhoni would've named a half-worthy candidate his heir and Virat Kohli copes by sacrificing a batsman for a fifth bowler. Imagine their euphoria if they could captain a talent like Vinoo Mankad? An opener and left-arm spinner of the highest quality and improbable stamina, he was man capable of winning a match on his own. And it was him who made a 29-year dream come to life. Seems rather stunning now that India took that long to play 25 Tests; they've packed more than half of that into a single season in 2016-17.
There was one similarity to now and then. A "second-string" England side, according to Wisden, found itself in a whole lot of trouble on a pitch that assisted a little bit of turn. Mankad picked up 8 for 55 in 38.5 overs in the first innings and followed up with 4 for 53 in 30.3 overs. Such was his ability to vary his pace and flight that he had five batsmen stumped. India had never beaten England until then. With Mankad at the fore, they won by an innings and eight runs. Among the other protagonists was Pankaj Roy, who is part-owner of the second-highest opening stand in Test cricket, and Polly Umrigar, one of the greats of Indian cricket.
And so was Mankad. John Woodcock wrote he was India's first great allrounder. In the ensuing tour of England, when he took a five-for and hit 184 at Lord's, Mankad was in the middle of 18 of the 24 hours the match lasted. He was 35 at the time.
First series win overseas
"They batted too slow."
"They were a little desperate."
"It was pretty dismal."
India were in Dunedin. Frigid conditions overhead and a soggy pitch underfoot. You've seen this story before. Your stomach is already churning at having to relive another horror of a Test match overseas. After all, those comments above paint the team in fairly grim light. Except in 1968, things were a little different.
It was Ajit Wadekar, who struck twin fifties, who said, "They batted too slow and couldn't execute their strokes easily."
It was Erapalli Prasanna, who took six wickets in the second innings, who said, "They were a little desperate. Most of their batsmen tried to score fast in order to set a stiff target, but failed."
It was New Zealand's Bruce Murray who said, "It was pretty dismal. Many of us had never played such sustained and good spin bowling."
And it was India who were celebrating a win by five wickets. Their first one overseas. Ramakant Desai had to put aside a fractured jaw to help pull it off. That was in late February. By early March, they had moved on to a first series win overseas. One that showcased their bouncebackability too. New Zealand had made them follow-on and beat them in the second Test. India responded by winning the third and the fourth, and were toasting a 3-1 victory. Wadekar and Prasanna were integral to that outcome with 328 runs at an average of 46.85 and 24 wickets at an average of 18.79 respectively.
First time at No. 1
What did you expect would happen after three back-to-back series wins overseas? New Zealand were spun out. West Indies were humbled. And England were blown away -- both in their own and then in Indian conditions. Ajit Wadekar became the first captain from his country to have led a No. 1-ranked team. And he had a bit of fun in the process.
Before the first Test of the series in the Caribbean, India had never enjoyed the privilege of a first-innings lead against West Indies. Having secured one that amounted to 170 runs, which in those days was more than enough, Wadekar "strutted into the West Indies dressing-room and loudly proclaimed: 'Hey Garry [Sobers], West Indies have to follow-on.' They were stunned into silence."
Fade to black. Open at The Oval's Balcony. Wadekar beaming at a sea of Indian supporters having just led India to their first Test win in England. He had gone to sleep after being dismissed in the chase of 173. "I was nudged awake by Ken Barrington, the England manager, who told me that we had won. I said to him that I always knew we'd win."
India returned home to a ticker-tape parade. "We went from the airport to Brabourne stadium," Bhagwath Chandrasekhar recalled in 2011, "and some of those cheers still echo inside my head even today." He had taken eight wickets in the match at The Oval -- many with his 'Mill Reef' quicker ball, named after a derby winning horse from that summer.
When England came to India in 1972-73 and were beaten 2-1, Chandra outdid himself with eight wickets in an innings. With a final tally of 35 over five games, he had become one of India's finest match-winners and in the process cemented their place as the No. 1 team in the world.