In little over a week, the 12th World Cup will begin in England. For fans it’s a cricket festival. For players it’s all about the glory. The 10 nation will play against each other to win the most prestigious trophy in cricket.
India has mixed memories with the tournament – from being winners twice to some heartbreaking performances. But between happiness and sorrow, there were some other moments too that perhaps not many remember.
Let’s look back on one of the most controversial innings played by an Indian in the very first World Cup Match.
In 1975, chasing 335 against England in their opening match India managed to score only 132 for 3 in 60 overs (yes you read it correctly, thanks mainly to Sunil Gavaskar who scored just 36*off 174 balls).
One of the commentator during the match wanted Indian captain S Venkataraghavan to pull off Gavaskar from the pitch.
The Indian team manager GS Ramchand was so angry that he openly criticized Gavaskar in post match statement “I do not agree with his tactics, but he will not be disciplined”.
Two days later he told the Daily Express:
“It was the most disgraceful and selfish performance I have ever seen… his excuse [to me] was, the wicket was too slow to play shots but that was a stupid thing to say after England had scored 334. The entire party is upset about it. Our national pride is too important to be thrown away like this.”
However, many missed the point that it was not Gavaskar alone who was crawling in the entire Indian innings. If you look at the scorecard, 3 batsmen along with Gavaskar played with strike rate in 20s.
Only Viswanath had some decent strike rate. But only Gavaskar took all the criticism because of him being India’s best batsman. Believe it or not, even one spectator pleaded to Brijesh Patel to score quickly in one of the several pitch invasion during the match.
Several years later Gavaskar admitted that this was the worst innings of his life:
“It is something that even now I really can’t explain. If you looked back at it, you’d actually see in the first few overs some shots which I’d never want to see again – cross-batted slogs. I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of playing non-cricketing shots and I just got into a mental rut after that. There were occasions I felt like moving away from the stumps so I would be bowled. This was the only way to get away from the mental agony from which I was suffering. I couldn’t force the pace and I couldn’t get out.”
Gavaskar also revealed that he was caught behind off the second ball of the innings. “I keep tossing and turning around about it now. I asked myself, ‘Why the hell did I not walk the second ball? I was caught behind and would have been out for zero. But nobody appealed. I had flashed outside the off stump… it was just such a faint nick that nobody appealed. The bowler went ‘ah’ and the keeper, Alan Knott, who was standing some way back, did the same. There was no real appeal, no proper ‘how’s that?’ That little moment of hesitation got me so much flak all these years.”
Gavaskar compensated in the next match by scoring 65* off 86 (strike rate of 75.58) against the associate country East Africa, helped the team to win the match by 10 wickets. Gavaskar’s lone century in ODIs came in his last World Cup (1987) when he smashed 100 off just 85 balls against New Zealand at Nagpur.
|India against England (target 335)||R||BF||4s||6s||SR|
|S Gavaskar||not out||36||174||1||0||20.69|
|E Solkar||c Lever b Arnold||8||34||0||0||23.53|
|A Gaekwad||c †Knott b Lever||22||46||2||0||47.83|
|G Viswanath||c Fletcher b Old||37||59||5||0||62.71|
|B Patel||not out||16||57||0||0||28.07|
|Extras||(lb 3, w 1, nb 9)||13|
|Total||3 wickets (60.0 overs @ 2.20 rpo)||132|