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When Gavaskar’s unique protest tarnished the image of one-day cricket

When Gavaskar’s unique protest tarnished the image of one-day cricket

KARACHI: Sunil Gavaskar is universally known in the annals of cricket as among the finest opening batsmen and arguably the best ever produced by India. But even the legends are prone to dubious feat.

The inaugural World Cup recorded undoubtedly the most bizarre individual innings on a glorious sunny afternoon — which was the trend throughout the fortnight of that 1975 competition — and the first half of day one at Lord’s saw hosts England pile up 334-4 in perfect conditions with opener Dennis Amiss making 137 off 147 balls (18 boundaries).

The response from Gavaskar astounded everyone as the diminutive right-hander curiously enough opted to go slow, much to the chagrin of the crowd. By the end of the full 60 overs, he had merely crawled to unbeaten 36 while striking just a single boundary and consuming 174 deliveries as India plodded to only 132-3 and thumped by 202 runs.

That was how the England-India World Cup story unfolded. By the time 1983 tournament was played the one-day game also had evolved to the extent that India managed to clinch the title for the first time. On the way they had also upset England in the Old Trafford semi-final by a comfortable margin of six wickets with 32 balls to spare after the hosts had been dismissed for 213 in exactly 60 overs.

Gavaskar played in the first four World Cups and was hoping to finish his illustrious career with glory. But his dream — and that of holders India — was shattered when England extracted sweet revenge for their defeat of four years by handing the 1987 co-hosts a shock semi-final in Gavaskar’s hometown of Mumbai.

Graham Gooch employed the sweep stroke brilliantly to nullify the threat posed by spinners Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri. The opener struck 115 off 136 balls in an England tally of 254-6 in 50 overs. India’s reply abruptly ended at 219 in 45.3 overs with off-spinner Eddie Hemmings (4-52) and paceman Neil Foster (3-47) derailing them after Gavaskar had been cleaned up by seamer Phillip DeFreitas for just 4.

The next time these rivals met was in the preliminary-round fixture at the WACA Ground in Perth where England edged India by nine runs. Robin Smith’s 91 helped them post 236-9 before India were reduced to 227 all out in 49.2 overs.

When England hosted the 1999 World Cup, they failed to make the Super Six stage and one reason of that was their loss to India by 63 in the rain-affected pool match at Edgbaston. Saurav Ganguly starred with fine double of 40 and bowling spell of 3-27 in eight overs as England were restricted to 169 in 45.2 overs in seaming conditions after India had reached 232-8.

India continued their winning run in the 2003 World Cup. In the group fixture at Durban, left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra wrecked England. After totalling 250-9 in 50 overs, India bowled out England for 168 midway through the 46th over to seal an 82-run victory with Nehra grabbing 6-23 in 10 overs as England were again denied a Super Six spot.

The last World Cup encounter to feature England and India was awe-inspiring stuff as their epic pool clash at Bangalore concluded in a thrilling tie. Sachin Tendulkar hit a magnificent 115-ball 120 (10 fours and five sixes) to enable the eventual 2011 champions post 338 all out in 49.5 overs with paceman Tim Bresnan taking 5-48.

England were cruising towards a memorable win when they had moved to a commanding 280-2 in the 43rd over. Skipper Andrew Strauss led the huge chase with an inspirational and record-breaking knock of 158 off 145 balls (18 fours and one six) before paceman Zaheer Khan brought India back into the match with the wickets of Ian Bell and Strauss in successive balls after those had put on 170.

England, however, somehow hung on to level the scores as Graeme Swann scrambled a last-ball single off seamer Munaf Patel.

Head-to-head summary:

June 7, 1975 — Lord’s, England won by 202 runs

June 22, 1983 — Old Trafford, India won by six wickets

Nov 5, 1987 — Mumbai, England won by 35 runs

Feb 22, 1992 — Perth, England won by nine runs

May 29-30, 1999 — Edgbaston, India won by 63 runs

Feb 26, 2003 — Durban, India won by 82 runs

Feb 27, 2011 — Bangalore, match tied.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2019

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