A bold declaration by captain Michael Tissera enabled Ceylon to score a thrilling four-wicket win over India in the third and final rain-affected Test at Ahmedabad. This was the tourists’ sensational triumph against an experienced side. The third cricket Test match between Ceylon and India, played on January 3, 4, and 5, 1965, at the picturesque Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, was sensational. However, bad weather played a big hand in the entire proceedings of the most intriguing match.
On the first day of the match (January 2, 1965), the play was completely washed out by torrential rains never before seen in Ahmedabad at this time of the year. However, on January 3, the scheduled second day, the gloomy rain clouds completely vanished and glorious sunshine made the play possible just after the tea interval at 3:20 p.m. The Indian skipper, Mansoor Ali Khan Nawab of Pataudi, called the coin correctly but, most surprisingly, decided that India should bat first on a rain-soaked, dry-dressed surface. Mansoor Ali Khan wear a cream shirt and grey slacks. Michael Tissera looked worn out after six weeks’ non-stop travel.
We gained tremendously from the tour,’ he told local media. ‘Four-day cricket really toughened our chaps, but sad to say, the benefits will all be lost when we return to our one-and-a-half-day games. For all that had been achieved, Ceylon’s cricketers had an arduous road ahead. Still, Michael Tissera’s honest assessment could not hide the fact that this was the greatest moment in Sri Lanka’s cricket history. Fifty-four years later, I told him that his declaration was a masterstroke. ‘I don’t know about that,’ he modestly replied. “There was only one day left, so we thought, “What’s the point in batting? Let’s declare and see where we go.” We decided overnight and had a chat with the others and they all agreed.’ His reluctance to take credit for his own decision reveals plenty.
It is easy to see why he was such a popular and successful leader. Beyond being shrewd and egalitarian, Michael Tissera possessed a fearless streak that stood Sri Lanka in high stead. He could have easily declined Pataudi’s offer to play on the second day. This was safe in the knowledge that taking time out of the game would improve Ceylon’s chances of a draw. In declaring, he risked humiliation and mauling by the press. But as in so many of Sri Lanka’s proudest cricketing moments, risk brought reward. R. Saxena played a gusty 63, not out in the first inning.
It was Michael Tissera’s bravery that opened up a whole new world in 1965. In many ways, he set a course for others to follow. He said, I’m continually struck by how much victory depends on fate. The result of cricket in Sri Lanka could have been different. Cricket depends so much on luck, and you can only take it when it comes your way. Over the next few years, Michael Tissera and his team would learn there was plenty of rough to accompany along with the smooth.