Headingley has special place in the hearts of India.
After all, Headingley Yorkshire is where India’s most famous cricket son Sachin Tendulkar made his debut and, in the process, was the first ever overseas player to play for the county.
This was back in 1992. In 1986, Kapil Dev’s boys continued their glory years from 1983 to 1986 and won the second Test at the ground, after winning the inaugural Test at the Legendary Lord’s. Indians are ready for an encore 35 years later; they won the previous Test at the Lord’s and are headed to Headingley.
Architects of the 1986 win were from the same team that won India its biggest prize – 1983 cricket World Cup and upstaged hockey as India’s favourite sport, in Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Roger Binny and Madan Lal among others.
Cricket after the pinnacles in 1986 went through an entire cycle of game becoming bigger and then becoming tainted with the match fixing scandal of 90s to be clawing back again with Sourav Ganguly at the helm and ably supported by Sachin, Rahul, Kumble, and some of the no nonsense cricketers who not just played hard but played fair while maintaining the sanctity of the Gentlemen’s game.
Last time India played in Headingley was better and that was 19 years back in 2002. Reminiscing that Test made me write this article.
That was the only Test in the history of Indian cricket where the legendary big three – Sachin, Rahul and Sourav – all scored centuries. These triumvirate played lot of cricket together before hanging their whites and it was rather strange that this was the only instance that all three of them decided to make merry at the same time and crossed the three-digit milestone in the same innings.
Thanks to that superlative effort, Indians posted a huge total for the star-studded English batting and boy, they missed the mark in both the innings to make the non-Indian wicket keepers pad up again.
2002 Test was another instance where Sourav who has always been able to speak his mind and make his own decisions had gone into the Test with both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh as his offensive weapons despite Headingley being the graveyard of the spinners among the English wickets and in the past 25 years, hardly any spinner from either of the teams walking away with more than one wicket.
Sourav was to be proved right here since his tweakers walked away with eleven wickets in the test. Sourav had played to his team’s strengths and not worried about the wicket. But then again, Sourav was like Chappeli, (who played by his own conviction but very fair and hard unlike his two brothers).
The Indian triumvirate had a Test to remember and though Mr Dependable Rahul Dravid walked away with MoM hardware, the wounds were inflicted on the Brits by the Indian team and there were three 150+ partnerships in Indian batting which meant a rather balanced outing.
Likewise, for bowling, spoils were shared by the spinners and seamers and made the Englishmen follow on in their own backyard. Not just did they make England follow-on, they wrapped it up in the second innings while shutting the door on rallying by Naseer Hussain’s team, with Husain himself chipping in with his own hundred to match his opposing number.
Yorkshire has been a relatively conservative among the English counties and was the last one to open their doors to overseas players but their contribution to the ECB and cricket team has always been of the high order. Names like Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Vaughan and even current captain Joe Root is calling Yorkshire home.
Can Virat Kohli’s inspired band make it the third time for Indians at Headingley in the third Test of the ongoing series?
They have the momentum; they have the weapons and are leading the series despite rain robbing them in the first Test.
The biggest thorn in their side – Joe Root who may look for changing his team’s fortunes on his home ground and with England bringing David Malan to face the shining red cherry, things may get better. For Virat Kohli’s men, this could well be the knockout punch they need to deliver to wrest control of this series.