Dilip Vengsarkar – Lord of Lord’s : Nicknamed ‘Colonel’, Dilip Balwant Vengsarkar is also known as the ‘Lord of Lord’s’ for being the first overseas player to notch up three centuries at the “Mecca of Cricket’.
Vengsarkar, who made his Test debut in the first of the three-Test series against New Zealand, played at Eden Park, Auckland, between 24th and 28th January, 1976, under the captaincy of Sunil Gavaskar, started off as an opening batsman.
Accompanying Gavaskar as his opening partner, Vengsarkar literally failed in both the innings, scoring only 7 runs in the first innings and 6 runs in the second. He could score only 83 runs in 6 innings in the series.
Subsequently he started batting at No 3 or No 4.
Dilip scored his maiden Test century, an unbeaten 157* runs in the second innings of the drawn third Test against West Indies played at Eden Gardens, Kolkata (then Calcutta), between 29th December, 1978 and 3rd January, 1979. In the process he also put up an unbroken second-wicket partnership of a mammoth 344* runs alongwith Gavaskar (182*).
The ‘Colonel’ scored his first overseas Test century, his career-third, at Lord’s in the second innings of the second Test played between 2nd and 7th August, 1979.
Having scored a DUCK after facing 12 deliveries in the first innings, Vengsarkar came into his elements and displayed his batting valour and notched up 103 runs with 13 fours in an innings that lasted 353 minutes.
In the process he added very crucial 210 runs alongwith Vishwanath (113) for the third wicket. This knock of Dilip and the partnership with Vishwanath, were very important for the team, given the fact that Indians were skittled out for a mere 96 runs in the first innings and the hosts took a huge lead of 323 runs.
The match-saving partnership between Vengsakar and Vishwanath enabled India to draw the match.
Vengsarkar’s second century at the ‘Mecca of Cricket’ came in the second innings of the first of the three-Test series, played between 10th and 15th June, 1982.
Once again failing to score big in the first innings (2 runs), Vengsarkar played a very key role in the second knock. Made to follow-on, batsmen like Gavaskar (24), Ghulam Parkar (1), Ravi Shastri (23), Vishwanath (3), failing to score, Vengsarkar shouldered the responsibility of ‘steadying the ship’.
He was involved in a 60-run partnership with Shastri (23) for the third-wicket and another 142-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Yashpal Sharma (37).
Vengsakar’s cameo coupled with a rearguard action by Kapil Dev (89) and his 66-run ninth-wicket partnership with Madan Lal (15) enabled India to set up a small target of 65 runs for England which they achieved easily and went 1-0 up in the series.
Unfortunately the 334-minute innings played by Vengsarkar, which realised 157 runs studded with 21 hits to the fence, could not help India avoid a defeat. This was his sixth Test century.
The third century for the ‘Colonel’ at Lord’s came in the first innings of the first of the three-Test series played between 5th and 10th June, 1986.
Electing to field, India bolstered by a fine bowling performance from Chetan Sharma (32-10-64-5) and ably supported by Roger Binny (18.2-4-55-3), restricted England to 294 runs in the first innings.
Vengsarkar joined Mohinder Amarnath in the middle after India lost the wickets of Srikkanth (20) and Gavaskar (34), in that order, with 90 runs on the board.
The duo (Vengsarkar and Amarnath) added 71 runs for the third wicket, when Amarnath (69) fell to Phil Edmonds, caught by Derek Pringle.
Thereafter Dilip was involved in a fourth-wicket partnership of 71 runs alongwith Mohd Azharuddin (33). His ninth and the tenth wicket partnership with Kiran More (25) and Maninder Singh (6) realised 39 runs and 38 runs respectively, enabling India to put up 341 runs, taking a vital lead of 47 runs.
Vengsarkar spent 326 minutes at the crease and at the end of the innings, remained unbeaten on a well made 126* runs aided by 16 fours. This was his tenth Test century.
India made ‘short-work’ of England in the second knock and had a target of 134 runs to win the match. This they achieved, losing 5 wickets and went 1-0 up in the series.
This effort of Dilip Vengsarkar came on a winning cause for the team.
In a career spanning 16 years, Vengsarkar featured in 116 Test matches (185 innings, unbeaten 22 times) and accumulated 6,868 runs at average of 42.13 with 166 being his individual best. He had 17 centuries and 35 half centuries to his credit. Of these tons, only two of them came on a losing cause.
The West Indian legendary speedster, Late Malcolm Marshall who had an on-field ‘love-hate’ relationship with Vengsarkar, had a separate chapter on him (Dilip) in his book ‘Marshall Arts’, wherein he wrote, “Dilip Vengsarkar is one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket and proof of his quality came in 1986 when he became the first overseas player to score three Test centuries at Lord”s not even Bradman could match that.”
Vengsarkar rightly qualifies to be termed as Lord of Lord’s, for his exemplary batting exploits at the iconic venue.
Incidentally Dilip Vengsarkar celebrated his 61st birthday on 6 April.