Mercurial, majestic, dominant and even magical are often the adjectives used to describe great batsmen and their exploits. But, Chetan Chauhan, however, was never associated with these words. The one that you would find being frequently used to provide a description for what he was like with the bat in hand facing the ferocious fast bowlers in the hostile conditions of the 70s’ and 80s’ is “courageous.”
Born in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh on July 21, 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 — 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, he does not have a single international century to his name. He had a 93 and a 97, but luck did now 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.
After retiring, Chauhan became a selector from North Zone and was later elected to Parliament on a BJP ticket. On Sunday, April 16, 2020, Chauhan died aged 73 at Medanta hospital in Gurugram.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has expressed grief on the passing away of Chetan Chauhan, saying the former player was not only a tough opening batsman but was a person with a tremendous sense of humour and had a tremendous attachment to Indian cricket.
Chauhan was admitted to a hospital after being tested positive for COVID-19 and breathed his last on Sunday.
“I am deeply anguished to learn of the passing away of Chetan Chauhan. I have spent so much time with him when he was Indian cricket team’s manager. Not only was he a tough opening batsman but was a person with a tremendous sense of humour and had a tremendous attachment to Indian cricket,” said Ganguly in a BCCI statement.
“This year needs to be forgotten as it has taken a lot of dear people away. He will always remain with us. May God give strength to his family to overcome this loss.”
A gritty opener, Chauhan played 40 Test matches and seven ODIs for India from 1969 to 1981. He was Sunil Gavaskar’s opening partner and the two shared many vital stands, including 10 century partnerships.
It was at The Oval in 1979 that the two put on a courageous display, stitching together an opening partnership of 213 runs, which came in the second innings. Together they put 3,010 runs in 59 innings, an Indian record then before Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir went past the mark.
BCCI Secretary Jay Shah said: “The news of Chetan Chauhan ji’s untimely death has deeply pained me. In him, the nation has not only lost a fine cricketer today but also a great human being. His contribution to Indian cricket will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”
Chauhan continued his domination in first-class cricket and amassed over 11,000 runs from 179 games, representing Maharashtra and Delhi.
Arun Singh Dhumal, BCCI Treasurer, said: “We have lost a senior member of our fraternity today. He had been working hard to encourage not just cricket but other sports disciplines in his capacity first as a Member of Parliament and later as a cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government. I extend my condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief.”
After his retirement, Chauhan served as President of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) and was also its vice-president, secretary and chief selector. He was appointed as manager of the Indian cricket team that toured Australia in 2007-08.
In 1980-81, he was bestowed with the prestigious Arjuna Award.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led condolence messages for former India cricketer and UP Minister Chetan Chauhan who passed away on Sunday due to kidney failure after he tested positive for coronavirus.
“Shri Chetan Chauhan Ji distinguished himself as a wonderful cricketer and later as a diligent political leader. He made effective contributions to public service and strengthening the BJP in UP. Anguished by his passing away. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti,” Modi said in a tweet.
National President of BJP Jagat Prakash Nadda also tweeted in hindi: “Shri Chetan Chauhan ji made invaluable contribution to strengthen the BJP organization in Uttar Pradesh. He was also a BJP MP twice. You were the inspiration of millions of youth. From sports to the political world, he created a distinct identity. Their departure is a big loss for us.”
The cricket fraternity also mourned the demise of Chauhan who played 40 Tests between 1969 and 1978 and scored 2,084 runs at an average of 31.57 with 97 being his highest score. He also played in seven ODIs, scoring 153 runs from them.
“Saddened to hear about the demise of Chetan Bhai. He always had encouraging things to say to me & shared plenty of stories from his cricketing days with the Indian team. May his soul Rest in Peace,” said Sachin Tendulkar.
“Shocked to hear about the passing of Shri. Chetan Chauhan ji. May his soul rest in peace and my thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Indian captain Virat Kohli.
“My deep condolences to Chetan Chauhan’s family and well wishers on his passing. Om Shanti !” tweeted former India opener Virender Sehwag.
“Saddened to hear about the demise of Chetan Chauhan ji. His contribution to the game as well as to administration will always be remembered! May god give strength to his family & loved ones!” tweeted Gautam Gambhir.
Former India captain and legendary spinner Anil Kumble added in a tweet: “Saddened to hear the passing of Chetan Chauhan. Fondly remember our conversations on the 2007/8 tour of Australia. Heartfelt condolences to his family.”
“Sad to hear about the demise of Chetan Chauhan sir, was a fine opening batsmen and forged some great partnerships with Sunny bhai. #COVID19India #ChetanChauhan My deepest condolences to his family and friends. RIP,” R Ashwin said in a tweet.
“Sad to learn about the demise of #ChetanChauhan . My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti !” said Indian batting great VVS Laxman in a tweet.
India’s Test vice captain Ajinkya Rahane tweeted: “Saddened to know about Chetan Chauhan ji passing away. My condolences to his family.”
He and Sunil Gavaskar formed a successful opening partnership, scoring over 3,000 runs together with 10 century stands in numerous Tests in the 1970s.
Chauhan played Ranji Trophy for Maharashtra and Delhi and was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1981.