If you’ve won the biggest prize available in your sport, it’s obvious that people would consider it your greatest achievement.
If that victory was one of the greatest against-the-odds triumph in the history of sport, and one that proved be an epochal moment in your country’s existence, that consideration turns into a given, almost.
But for Mohinder Amarnath – Man of the Final when India defeated West Indies to win the 1983 World Cup and be crowned world champions for the first time – the 25th of June in the summer of 1983, isn’t his best memory on a cricket field.
Instead, the one event unsurpassed in terms of fulfillment for ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath, as he’s fondly known to Indian cricket, is when it all began for him, nearly 50 years ago.
The last Test of Australia’s five-match series in India in the winter of 1969 was held at Chennai’s iconic MA Chidambaram Stadium, popularly known as Chepauk, from 24-28 December. It wasn’t a particularly happy occasion for the Indian team – a 77-run loss meant Australia took the series 3-1, in what would be their last Test series win on Indian soil for another 35 years.
But for a 19-year-old all-rounder from Patiala in Punjab, Christmas 1969 came with the best gift imaginable: Mohinder Amarnath became India’s 125th Test player.
“It was my dream to become a Test cricketer, to play for India. I remember I was an 18/19-year-old boy, nervous playing Test cricket in front of a huge crowd in Madras at the Chepauk ground. I had an absolutely sleepless night, like anybody else when you start your career.”Mohinder Amarnath
In conversation with The Quint, Amarnath – still one of only two players to have been Man of the Match in both the semi-final and the final of the same World Cup – relived the entirety of those five days in Chennai, where he would take the first steps of a storied career in Indian cricket.
Amarnath would go on to score 4378 runs over the course of 69 Tests, with 11 centuries – five of which came in a purple 11-game spell of away Tests in Pakistan and West Indies in 1982/83. On his maiden appearance though, he batted at number eight and needed to wait until the second evening for his contribution.
(This podcast was first published on 21 December 2018. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Amarnath’s birthday on 24 September.)