Post the retirement of the famous spin quartet, Bedi-Prasanna-Chandrasekhar-Venkat Indian team were struggling in their spin department. Ravi Shastri used to contain one end and played the role of an all-rounder.
For other spinner’s spot, India had to depend on the bowlers like Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub. Globally there was a dearth of good spinners with Pakistani leg spinner Abdul Qadir being the notable one. For India Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was a leg-spinning sensation who had a great start to his career but fizzled out quickly. In 1988 India launched their new leg spinner, 19-year old Narendra Hirwani. After his heroic performance in recently concluded Australia tour as a part of U-19, the selectors put faith on him. A bespectacled Hirwani from Madhya Pradesh made on this day won his debut test match against West Indies with absolute brilliance and dominance.
It was a very strong West Indies team captained by Viv Richards and consisted of players like Richie Richardson, Desmond Haynes, and Carl Hooper. India were missing their regular captain Dilip Vengsarkar following an injury and Ravi Shastri got his only chance to lead India in a test match. It was the 4th test match of the series scheduled to be held in Chennai (then Madras). It is suggested that the pitch was underprepared, however, it was only Hirwani who could use the pitch and the conditions at its best. India had two more newcomers to accompany Hirwani in the all-rounders Raman and Ajay Sharma.
Despite a confident 69 from Arun Lal India were 156 for 5 when Kapil Dev walked in. Ajay Sharma (30) batted for two hours and added 113 for the sixth wicket. A rampant Kapil Dev added 109 off 124 balls and helped India to score 382 runs. Although conditions were of no help to pace bowlers, Courtney Walsh bowled superbly to take 3 important wickets of Indian side that included Srikanth, Amarnath, and Kapil Dev. West Indies team were all out for just 184 with only significant contribution from Viv Richards who produced some outstanding strokes to score 68 runs.
On his first day of test cricket as a bowler, Hirwani took 3 wickets. Once the openers were gone, Hirwani got the wickets of Richardson, Logie, and Hooper in the space of 34 runs. Not to forget that earlier his very over of test career was to Viv Richards and it was a maiden. On the third day, Hirwani got the prized scalp of Viv Richards when he deceived the master with a flipper. Richards played it towards the third man and was bowled. Narendra Hirwani got the dream wicket on his debut. Then Hirwani was on fire. He took all the remaining five wickets of West Indies to produce a brilliant figure of 18.3-3-61-8.
With a lead close to 200 runs India slowly built on it. Another debutant WV Raman played a matured innings to provide valuable runs along with Azharuddin and set a target of 416 for West Indies.
Hirwani started his magic early in the second innings and got both the openers before the score reached 25. Most of the West Indian players tried to hit out of the trouble but failed miserably to give Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More 5 stumpings in second innings. More’s performance was a good one in a difficult pitch and his collection of 5 stumpings in an innings and six in a match are still world records. Hirwani ran through the middle order and except some fight from Gus Logie and Clyde Butts rest of the players surrendered meekly. India won the match by 255 runs. There first test win over West Indies in close to ten years. Hirwani got another 8 wickets at the cost of 75 runs in the second innings (15.2-3-75-8)
His overall match figure of 16 for 136 was a world record improving on Australian Bob Massie’s 16 for 137 on debut. The record still holds in international cricket. However, Hirawani could not carry his good form in overseas tours and soon became irregular in the team. Once Anil Kumble rose through the ranks to take the position of India’s prime spinner, the chances for Hirwani was far and few between. But he continued to play domestic cricket and retired from first-class cricket in 2006.