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Chetan Chauhan: The man who chose resilience over flamboyance

The former cricketer turned politician has passed away at the age of 73.

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Chetan Chauhan, a former cricketer turned politician, has passed away due to kidney failure after he tested positive for coronavirus.

The legend was never associated with cliched adjectives like ‘mercurial’, ‘majestic’, and ‘dominant’ that are often used to describe great batsmen. Instead, the word frequently used to describe him with the bat in hand, facing ferocious fast bowlers in the hostile conditions of the 70’s and 80’s, is “courageous.”

Born in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh on 21 July 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. It was 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, Chauhan does not have a single international century to his name. He had a 93 and a 97, but luck did not 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.

Chauhan played the Ranji Trophy for Maharashtra and Delhi, and was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1981.

After retiring, he became a selector from North Zone and was later elected to Parliament on a BJP ticket.

On 16 August 2020, at the age of 73 years, Chauhan passed away in Gurugram. He is the second minister of the Yogi Adityanath government in UP to have succumbed to the coronavirus this month.

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