CHENNAI: A couple of days ago, a message popped up on a WhatsApp group of the 1983 World Cup-winning team members. The sender requested them to pray for the recovery of Chetan Chauhan, who was admitted to hospital after testing COVID-19 positive and suffering multi-organ failure.
Like others, former wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani extended his wishes and hopes for the best. Little did he know that his former teammate, who had played several gritty innings for India, would lose this battle. "It's tragic. It's a big loss for us and Indian cricket," Kirmani told this daily.
Speaking on his memories of Chauhan, the 70-year-old recalled the famous incident during third Test in Melbourne involving Sunil Gavaskar and Chauhan in 1981. "From what we could see from the dressing room, Gavaskar was looking to walk off the ground for being given out wrongly. Chauhan's body language suggested otherwise and I pushed our team manager Shahid Durrani to go in and sort out the issue," recalled Kirmani.
Chauhan made 85 and shared an opening stand of 165 with Gavaskar as India registered a remarkable win to level the three-match series. Madan Lal was at a loss of words after learning about the demise of his former Delhi and India teammate. "It's very sad. I cannot imagine he is no more," the former all-rounder said.
He was in regular touch with Chauhan and had spoken to him about a month ago. "We kept talking to each other on how to help Delhi cricket One thing I specifically remember is his cool demeanour. He never lost his cool no matter what the situation was. There were times when I used to get angry but he never lost composure," he added.
Chauhan will always be remembered as the best opening partner Gavaskar ever had. Despite playing 40 Tests, he never scored a century. Kirmani and Lal felt he was unfortunate in this regard. "He played some good innings against quality pace attacks in overseas Tests but could not reach that three-figure mark. But it doesn't matter, as we know he was the perfect foil for Gavaskar and helped the team win matches," said Lal, who also heads BCCI's Cricket Advisory Committee.
Even after retirement, Chauhan remained associated with the game. He served as the manager of the Indian team on a few occasions. He also served as president, vice-president, secretary and selection committee chief of the Delhi and District Cricket Association.
"He never went into retirement mode. He kept himself engaged in something or the other. After he forayed into politics, our frequency of meetings decreased considerably, but we stayed in touch. He was a very good human being and always ready to help," signed off Lal.