At a time when Indias fielding standards were considered not as good as they are now -- the poor show by Virat Kohli's boys in the first ODI at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) notwithstanding -- Madan Lal was an exception in the 1970s.
Back in the 1970s, when diving catches were not said to be as frequent as they are now, Madan Lal pulled off a stunner at fine leg to dismiss Peter Toohey at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in the fourth Test during India's 1977-78 tour of Australia.
India were on the verge of winning that Sydney Test in January 1978, but Toohey was putting up a strong resistance to ensure Aussies don't lose by an innings. But Madan Lal, who was playing as a substitute in that fourth Test, after being benched following below-par show with the bat in the first two Tests, grabbed a stunner.
"I was struggling with the bat and not getting runs. Though I got wickets, nine wickets (including a fifer) in the first two Test matches, India needed someone who could score runs for them. And I was sitting out (in the third and fourth Tests) and I said to myself, 'I have messed up the batting'. I thought I should do something with which I can get to play Tests again in my life. So, I grabbed at the chance I got. When you have something in mind, then you know, these things happen," says Madan Lal who is now part of BCCI's Cricket Advisory Committee.
Madan Lal says he had a safe pair of hands and hardly dropped catches. "I have a record of not dropping any catch. I have hardly dropped any catch because I had a safe pair of hands. My arm was also very good," he said.
Madan Lal says he must have run several yards before realising that the ball was too far. He went all out and dived to take the catch.
"Karsan Ghavri bowled a bouncer and the ball was about 10-15 yards away. I ran quite hard, watching the ball. I had my eyes fixed on the ball which, I realised, was dipping. After running 10 yards or so, I realised I can't get there and will have to go flat out. I dived. The ball landed on my palms," he recalls.
"I must have run 10-15 yards. It was a good catch. It was two-three yards away, when I realised that the ball was out of reach. So, I went for a full-length dive. We won the Test match."
India won that Test by an innings and two runs to level the series. However, they lost the final Test to lose the series 2-3. Australia had won the first two Tests but India came back to win the next two.
Madan Lal's former Delhi Ranji Trophy teammate Venkat Sundaram, who played quite a few games together, vouches for his ability as a fielder and catcher.
"He was excellent in the outfield, and could throw straight to the wicket-keeper from the boundary without relay. There were very few players in India who could do that. I think in one of the World Cups (probably 1975) Keith Boyce was rated as the best fielder and Madan was close second to him. He had strong arms, a strong back and was very athletic which was needed in the outfield," recalls Sundaram.