Our sports Reporter
GUWAHATI: The year was 1985. Vivian Alexander Richards, the all time great batsman of world cricket, destroyed England’s bowlers to complete a Test century in just 56 balls.
Two years later (1987-88), the cricket world witnessed another same innings, but this time it was on the opposite side of the globe. The match was a first class game and the venue was NFRSA Stadium, Maligaon.
Prolific run-scorer of Assam, Rajesh Borah, a diehard fan of Vivian Richards, took exactly the same number of balls to score a first class hundred playing for Assam. The opponent was Tripura. The innings, which created a new record in Ranji Trophy (fastest hundred), lasted till 2016, before Delhi-batsman Rishabh Pant wrote it in his name. Rajesh also has the distinction of scoring the second fastest double hundred in domestic cricket.
Recalling the record breaking moment on Wednesday afternoon, Rajesh looked a little bit nostalgic. He said: “It was the most satisfactory innings of my career. Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t even comprehend that I had scored a century.”
Here is the interaction of Rajesh with The Sentinel.
The Sentinel (TS): You would perhaps never forget the moment.
Rajesh: Yes. It’s true. Actually the track was fantastic to bat. There was a good curator at the NFRSA Stadium during that time and we called him Tilak mali. On the eve of the match day, he came to me and told - “Rajesh bhai, the pitch is a batting paradise and would suite your batting. Go and score a century.” I knew the pitch would behave exactly the same because pitch-reading capacity of Tilak was fantastic.”
TS: Tell us about the early stage of your innings.
Rajesh: Possibly I went to bat at number four because generally that was my batting position in the team. When I faced the first ball, the first thing that came to my mind was the tip given by Tilak. It was really a batting paradise and the rest happened quickly. The bowlers of Tripura didn’t have any clue on how to stop me. I took just 56 balls to score a hundred and when I got out, the scoreboard read 156 against my name.
TS: When did you feel that the day was yours.
Rajesh: Actually I didn’t think too much on that day. Once I played a couple of deliveries and the ball touched the sweetest part of the bat, I decided to attack the opponent bowlers. Runs were flowing from my bat through boundaries and sixes at regular interval. Only thing I can remember was Munna Kakoty, my teammate, shouting from outside the rope, encouraging me to continue my good show. I hit 12 sixes in the innings and narrowly lost the chance to achieve the record of most sixes in an innings.
TS: The most memorable shot in the innings.
Rajesh: It was a six. The bowler was Aloke Saha and I pulled him straight over the fence. The shot was so sweetly timed that the ball crossed the wall of stadium and dropped on the railway tracks.
TS: Your playing style was like Vivian Richards and the legend was also your idol. Have you ever tried to follow his batting style?
Rajesh: It would have been the most satisfying thing for me if I could follow his style. Richards is a legend and no one can play like him. I was very much encouraged by his batting style, particularly the way he dominated the bowlers. The interesting thing is that the bat I used to post my record knock was the same brand of bat that was used by Viv Richards. He played with a SS Turbo bat. I was very much eager to collect one SS Turbo bat and one of acquaintance – Soumen Sarma – brought it for me from abroad before the season.
TS: Did the innings bring any major changes to your career?
Rajesh: The innings gave me an identity. Thereafter, whenever I went to play in other States, cricket lovers and even cricket administrators started giving me special attention. Later, even Indian captain Azharuddin, whenever we met, wanted to know from me how I was performing with my bat.