New Delhi: Born in 1940, Dilip Sardesai went on to establish a reputation of being one of the best batsmen of his time against spin bowling. The right-hander was the only Goan to play for India in his day and is widely considered one of the greatest batsmen against spin. In a career that spanned more than 10 years, Sardesai scored more than 10,000 First Class runs playing for the Mumbai Ranji team and India.
Known as Indian cricket’s Renaissance Man, Sardesai was part of most of India’s prominent early victories in Test cricket. He made his debut against England, a team he would take particular pleasure in scoring against in his career, even before he had played a single domestic match for Mumbai. BS Chandrashekhar’s spells were the standout feature in India’s famous win over England at the Oval that also gave them the first series win in the country, but it was Sardesai’s 54 and 40 that set the scene for the carnage that followed.
But the series before that was the one that established him as one of the greats of Indian cricket and saved his career at the same time. India were touring the Carribean, seeking a first-ever win against the West Indies, then led by Sir Gary Sobers. Sardesai scored 212 in the first innings, an innings that proved pivotal in forcing West Indies to follow-on. It also made him the first Indian to score a double century overseas. That match was a draw but India won the second match that was played in Port of Spain. This time, Sardesai scored 112 as India batted second and helped his team get a strong lead.
Sardesai was known for his batting against spin but in that particular series, he showed his proficiency against pace as well.
That series proved to be a launch pad for Sunil Gavaskar. He was making his debut and went on to become the highest scorer with 774 runs in the five Tests. Sardesai was the second highest with 642 runs. “He showed us how to play fast bowling and in doing so gave us the confidence we needed to beat the West Indies,” said Gavaskar in 2007. “One of his great strengths was that he was always very positive and he spread that through the team. He was a great influence on me as a player and someone I always looked up to.”
Sardesai’s last Test was in 1972 against England in Delhi. He died at the age of 66 on July 2, 2007.