Chauhan tested positive for Covid-19 on July 12, and was admitted to hospital immediately. Subsequent reports said that Chauhan had recovered, but his health took a turn for the worse on Friday night, and he had to be put on ventilator.
Overall, in a 179-match first-class career that went on till 1984-85, Chauhan scored 11,143 runs at an average of 40.22, with 59 half-centuries and 21 centuries. But while 16 of the 59 came in Test cricket, he finished with a zero in the centuries’ column in the format, despite coming close on many occasions: he got to 80-plus seven times, on two of those occasions getting to 93 and 97. He held a dubious record – most Test runs without scoring a century – for many years before being topped by Shane Warne.
That record notwithstanding, Chauhan forged an immensely successful partnership with Gavaskar, the two putting on 3010 runs in 59 innings together, which was an Indian record till Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir went past the tally. The Gavaskar-Chauhan combine averaged 53.75 (superior to Sehwag-Gambhir’s 52.52) and had ten century stands including a best of 213, which came in the second innings against England at The Oval in August 1979, Chauhan scoring 80 even as Gavaskar went on to score 221 and India reached 429 for 8 in a chase of 438.
But the most memorable image of Chauhan the international cricketer might still be from the time he was forced to walk off the MCG along with Gavaskar, his captain then, when the latter was left feeling hard-done-by by the umpire’s decision to give him lbw off Dennis Lillee. It appeared that Gavaskar, already unhappy with the verdict, took umbrage when Lillee had a word or two to say to him as he walked off, and Gavaskar turned back, took Chauhan with him, and walked off, suggesting for a little while that India were forfeiting the game.
Chauhan, a gritty but occasionally dour batsman, wasn’t quite as successful in the shorter formats, averaging 24.68 in a 26-match List A career, and 21.85 in the seven ODIs he played.
Chauhan served as the sports minister of Uttar Pradesh till last year and was a two-time member of parliament, and a former president of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association. Chauhan had also served in various other capacities at the association, and was also the manager of the Indian cricket team on their tour of Australia in 2008.
“I am deeply anguished to learn of the passing away of Shri Chetan Chauhan,” BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said in a press release..”I have spent so much time with him when he was the 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. 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.”
Chauhan was born in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, but began his first-class career in the 1967-68 season for Maharashtra, having moved to Pune for studies. He continued to play, and score heavily, for Maharashtra and West Zone before shifting to Delhi in 1975-76, by when he had made his Test debut – the ODI debut would come a couple of seasons later.