New Delhi : Mercurial, majestic, dominant and even magical are often the adjectives used to describe great batsmen and their exploits. But, Chetan Chauhan, however, was never associated with these words. The one that you would find being frequently used to provide a description for what he was like with the bat in hand facing the ferocious fast bowlers in the hostile conditions of the 70s’ and 80s’ is “courageous.”
Born in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh on July 21, 1947, Chauhan played 40 Tests, scored 2,084 runs at an average of 31.57 and was involved in 10 century partnerships while opening the innings with Sunil Gavaskar — a record for India that was only surpassed in the next century by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag who put up 11 between them.
And yet, he does not have a single international century to his name. He had a 93 and a 97, but luck did now allow him to cross over into three figures. This in itself was a record — Chauhan was the first player in Test history to score over 2,000 career runs without scoring a single century.
He made his debut in a Test against New Zealand at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai and was soon labeled a strokeless wonder in his early days. However, it was not that Chauhan could not play shots, as was evidenced by the quickfire 46 off 61 balls he made against the bowling of Imran Khan and Sikander Bakht in the 1980 Chennai Test against Pakistan to lead India to a 10-wicket win.
The resilience he showed in the face of hostile bowling is a prized commodity today for teams that are serious about making it big in the Test arena. Cheteshwar Pujara only got his due in the 2018/19 series in Australia after years of fighting off those that kept an eye on his strike-rate and his poor numbers in limited overs cricket more than his swelling tally of runs in Tests.
Chauhan did not accumulate hundreds and double hundreds quite like Pujara. But he had a major hand in almost everything that India did well during the Gavaskar years, holding one end up astutely while his illustrious opening partner kept the scoreboard ticking at the other. The epitome of this partnership came when India gave England an almighty scare in the 1979 Oval Test.
Chauhan and Gavaskar put up 213 for the opening wicket while India were chasing a rather unrealistic target of 438. Chauhan contributed 80 in the stand before falling to Bob Willis. Gavaskar went on to score 221 and India ended up getting to 429/8 before the match was declared a draw.
He has the numbers in domestic cricket however, beginning his first class career in the 1967/68 season with Maharashtra. He played a total of 179 First Class matches and scored 11,143 runs at an average of 40.22, with 59 half-centuries and 21 centuries. 16 of these 59 fifties came in Tests.
After retiring, Chauhan became a selector from North Zone and was later elected to Parliament on a BJP ticket. On Sunday, August 16, 2020, Chauhan died aged 73 at Medanta hospital in Gurugram.