Karsan Ghavri: We were clueless in 1975, 1979 World Cups

The left-arm seamer said the first two World Cup in England were a learning process for the Indian team.

Karsan Ghavri says the West Indies were great entertainers, and players like Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharan, Gordon Greenidge and Vivian Richards played for the public who came to watch them.   -  M. Moorthy

Karsan Ghavri played in the first two World Cups (60 overs a side) in England in 1975 and 1979. “We went through the learning process in both. We had no idea and were clueless about the format,” the left-arm seamer said in an interview with Sportstar.

You were among the lucky ones to play the first World Cup match at Lord’s in London in 1975. What were your thoughts before going to England?

Well, to be honest, we did not know how to play a 60-over game. We were not prepared for it, physically or mentally. There was no planning, no strategy and game plan at all. We had no idea about field placements for specific batsmen or who will open the innings for us.

England made 334 for four against India at Lord’s and it was not a particularly good match for you as a bowler. You bowled 11 overs for 83 runs with a maiden over, and you did not play in the next two matches against East Africa and New Zealand...

Yes, I bowled badly and hence I was not picked for the second and third match. I gave away the highest number of runs against England. I think I bowled the wrong line for the field set by our captain (S. Venkatraghavan). The field was set on the off-side and I was bowling middle and leg. Venky directed his anger at me, and on the field itself he talked to me about the wrong line I was bowling. He also pointed to the scoreboard and said how fast it was moving. After expressing so much anger, he changed the field. He set a leg-side field, but I bowled on the off-side.

READ: World Cup throwback: From spare ribs to a memorable Man of the Match award

What was your general impression about the 1975 World Cup. All of you must have been very curious.

There was so much excitement around the competition. It was great, but we had no clue how to play the One-Day format. We played the Deodhar and Wills Trophy tournaments, but these were only three or four games in a year. We did not play One-Day games frequently.

The team was asked to stay back to see the final...

It was a good holiday for all us, and also for the other teams that did not make the knockouts. And the West Indies and Australia played exciting and competitive cricket in the final. The West Indies supporters were in big numbers, just like the Indian support we find these days for India’s matches. The West Indies supporters were crazy about their players. They had players like (Clive) Lloyd, (Alvin) Kallicharan, (Gordon) Greenidge and (Rohan) Kanhai; they had a battery of fast bowlers.

What else do you remember of the 1975 World Cup?

I remember a team picture being shot at the great cricket ground Lord’s. That was memorable for me. Then the queen invited all the teams for dinner. That was a great honour and I will not forget that. We were instructed not to give a conventional handshake to the queen, but just three or four fingers. But Pakistan’s Sarfraz Nawaz held the queen’s hand with both hands! The next day all the newspapers ran this picture on the front page. When we asked him why he did that, when the instructions were to give three or four fingers, Sarfraz said: ‘Publicity ke liye aisa kuch karna padtha hai.’

Joel Garner was 6’7” tall, so he was delivering from a height of 10ft, recalls Karsan Ghavri.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

You were picked for the 1979 World Cup, and you bowled well in the first two matches against the West Indies (10-2-25-0) and New Zealand (10-1-34-0). S. Venkatraghavan was the captain...

Probably I had picked up lessons for the first World Cup match against England. As you keep playing that format, you tend to learn a lot with it. That’s the game of cricket. Unfortunately, we did not win a game in 1979. We lost to Sri Lanka, too.

Yes, the captain was the same and his language was the same! Thankfully he did not show his anger. When you did things wrong, it was difficult to face Venkat. He was like Gabbar Singh. I hope he takes this in good humour. The first two World Cups were a learning process for everyone.

READ: Lights, camera, cricket: World Cup in fan Saiyami Kher's travel plan

Two important events happened in the first match against the West Indies. India made 190 that observers did not expect against the West Indies fast bowlers and Gundappa Viswanath made 75.

I batted briefly with G. R.Viswanath; I made 12. Joel Garner was 6’7” tall and he had a long hand. So he was delivering from 10ft height. GRV, being small-made, had to really look up at the delivery point. After facing him, GRV developed neck trouble. But his 75 at Edgbaston was sheer magic; he made the game look easy. It was absolutely remarkable to see him drive the likes of (Andy) Roberts and (Michael) Holding. It was beautiful and a treat to watch.

But it’s better to stay at the non-striker’s end when Roberts, Holding, Garner and (Colin) Croft are in action. When the greats are in action, you pick up a lot of things just seeing them. And watching these four, you know how to bowl to a particular field.

Your recall of the 1975 and 1979 competitions...

England and the West Indies were familiar with the format. England because of the Sunday League one-day tournaments there, and the West Indies because their players were active players for clubs and counties in England. So England and the West Indies knew how to go about playing limited-over matches.

The West Indies were great entertainers, players like Lloyd, Kallicharan, Greenidge and (Vivian) Richards. They played for the public who came to watch them. The partnership between Richards and (Collis) King in the 1979 final was sparkling, like white wine. Richards made the game too easy; he did not allow the bowlers to dominate him. He always said: The pitch is my kingdom and I have to rule it. He proved it in the final.

After India was eliminated, did the team discuss anything about the matches?

No, no, no…not at all. As I said before, we did not plan anything. We flopped in both World Cups, but the competitions helped the Indian players learn about the One-Day format.