India's 1985 Benson & Henson World Series Championship winning team. (From left, standing): Manoj Prabhakar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Ashok Malhotra, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Ravi Shastri, Kris Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar. Seated (from left) are: Sadanand Vishwanath, Chetan Sharma and Madan Lal. Image Credit: GN Archives

Dubai: Ian Chappell, the legendary Australian skipper and someone known to be quite frugal with words of praise, said the Indian spinners - and not the lionhearted allrounder Kapil Dev alone - were the key to India’s epic triumph in the 1985 Benson & Hedges World Series Championship.

“I thought the English condition would suit India more than Australia because they had Kapil Dev but not much of support in pace bowling... But probably the big surprise to me was the inspired selection of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. He bowled beautifully and particularly in the final,” said the eldest of the Chappell brothers, who led the Aussie version of ‘Invincibles’ in the early Seventies.

“The other thing about that tournament that sticks in my mind was although (Sunil) Gavaskar didn’t suit much to one-day cricket, he really seemed to revel in captaining that side. He enjoyed leading that side and he used his spin bowlers shrewdly,” Chappell said.

Ravi Shastri, India’s head coach and Man of the Series in that tournament (cricket lovers still cherish his ride with teammates around Melbourne in his Audi), was also singled out for special praise by the eldest of the Chappell brothers.

Ravi Shastri has a shrewd cricketing brain. The other thing about him is that it is a very aggressive cricket brain. If he is the captain he is trying to take wickets

- Ian Chappell

“Ravi Shastri has a shrewd cricketing brain. The other thing about him is that it is a very aggressive cricket brain. If he is the captain he is trying to take wickets. This was one of the things about the 1985 India side. It was not a matter of containing the opposition for them,” Chappell said on Shastri at a promotional interview of the web series ‘The Blue Revolution’ - a series that revisits India’s landmark victory.

Holding court on a variety of subjects - right from the bowlers who troubled him during his playing days to the concept of ‘The Hundred’ planned by the England Cricket Board - Chappell recalled that the legendary Indian spinner Erapalli Prasanna was the best spinner he has ever played against.

The 76-year-old candidly said: “Prasanna was the best opposition spinner I have played against. I really loved batting against him. Your brain was just worn out if you had a decent inning against India because he was just whirling away the whole time, trying to work out how to get you out. Prasanna was, I mean, his performances in Australia, under Australian conditions, and also bearing in mind India didn’t have the pace bowling in 67-68 that they got now,” Chappell said.

He further added that Prasanna used his engineering background to good effect by employing “stuff that he learnt’’ as an engineer. “Prasanna was coming on with Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson opening the batting in a couple of Tests in that series. So Prasanna coming on with Australia none of hundred, none for plenty and he got 25 wickets in four Test matches in that series, that’s a hell of a performance,” Chappell said.

A resident of Bengaluru, Prasanna took a break from cricket for a while to finish his engineering degree at Mysore’s National Institute of Engineering and then returned to the sport. “His knowledge of spin bowling, I mean, he combined his engineering background with spin bowling and he came up with things, you know. I have spoken to Shane Warne at length about spin bowling, and he is fascinating to listen to, so is Muttiah Muralitharan. Murali is very good to listen to. But I have never had the conversations with anyone else I had with Prasanna because he had the added bonus of being an engineer,” Chappell signed off.