A tribute to “gutsy” and “fighter cricketer”

Former India Test opener Chetan Chauhan, who was known for his batting passed away at the age of 73 on Sunday. The former cricketer, who had tested positive for Covid-19 last month, was admitted to the hospital but his condition worsened after he suffered multiple organ failure. For a generation that didn't watch Chauhan, he was one of the first Indian international cricketers to wear a helmet which he believed helped his game. A strong back-foot player, who could ride the bounce, Chauhan's finest phase was between 1977 to 1981 when he was a regular with Sunil Gavaskar at the top of the order. Yet the most endearing memory for all YouTubers will be how Gavaskar called him to leave the ground in Melbourne after being unhappy with Dennis Lillee's boorish behaviour during India's famous victory. Was Gavaskar out or not out sir? Journalists would often ask him and he would start laughing.
From his first Test match in 1969 to UP Sports Minister in 2017, Chetan Chauhan had come a long way. And yet, he will always be remembered for what he was in between: Sunil Gavaskar’s courageous opening partner, Delhi cricket official, and manager of the Indian team that got embroiled in the “monkeygate” controversy in Australia.
On the cricket pitch, by his own assessment in the past, Chauhan was not a master technician like his good friend Gavaskar. Neither did he possess the supple wrists of the legendary Gundappa Vishwanath nor the languid strokes that made Dilip Vengsarkar such a treat to watch. Instead, he made up through sheer guts and conviction that helped him blunt some of the sharpest bowling attacks around the world during the 1970s and early 80s.
But for all the courage, there were heartbreaks, too. In his 40 Test innings, he could never get a three-digit score. Out of his 16 fifties, he has two scores of 90s and five in the 80s. But then, Chauhan’s career was well beyond statistics. It was about precious runs for which he had to toil hard. Like the 88 he scored against a menacing Jeff Thompson on a fast-as-lightning track in Perth in 1977.
After retirement, Chauhan didn’t distance himself from the game. A fitness enthusiast, old-timers at Feroz Shah Kotla recall his regular morning walks while he served the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) in several capacities. Long after he had quit the game in the mid-80s, Chauhan shifted to politics, getting elected twice as Member of Parliament from Almorah in UP on a BJP ticket. In 2016, he was appointed to head the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), which triggered a controversy over his suitability for the post. He was replaced a year later when he joined the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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