Sportstar's all-time sports classics: From Chetan Sharma's hat-trick to Yuvraj Singh's six sixes

As the coronavirus continues to affect sporting events across the globe, we take a look at five classic matches from the past that are worth revisiting.

Yuvraj Singh raises his bat after smashing six sixes off Stuart Broad during India's 2007 T20 World Cup game against England in Durban.   -  REUTERS

The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations or postponements of most major leagues. In a time when there isn't much sporting action, we take a look at five classic matches that one can always revisit.

 

India vs New Zealand, World Cup 1987 (Chetan Sharma’s hat-trick)

While raising a child (he is four years old now), I have realised that one of the primary reasons a kid falls in love with sport is for the emotions involved in it. Perhaps that’s why my first memory of watching live sport on television - a Black & White, obviously, since colour TV was meant only for affluent in the mid-80s - involves raw emotions.

A majority of connoisseurs and fanatics would remember India’s league match against New Zealand during the 1987 World Cup as the one where legendary Sunil Gavaskar’s scored his lone ODI hundred - 88-ball 103 not out - to sail into the semifinals and keep its hopes of defending the title alive. Gavaskar had, for a change, outpaced K. Srikkanth - who was into his elements - in a 136-run opening partnership.

But I didn’t recall anything of it, until YouTube came to aid. What I do remember vividly is a six-and-a-half-year-old imitating Chetan Sharma’s celebration - after lying down on the floor with his hands up in the air, literally finding it difficult to believe his achievement - in his living room, “hall” as it is still referred to by a majority of Indians, on a Saturday afternoon. By the time Ewen Chatfield took guard after Sharma had bowled Ken Rutherford and Ian Smith off successive deliveries - loose shots, I must say now - my maternal uncle who got me hooked to the sport, especially cricket, had mentioned “hat-trick” almost half a dozen times. And yours truly was anticipating the moment as desperately as anyone else in the room.

 

 

And it did happen. Chatfield too played across the line to be bowled. It was the first hat-trick by an Indian in international cricket, first in a World Cup. But all that didn’t matter. Neither did what followed in the rest of the match. More than all the statistical milestones, for me, it was the first real moment when a child was hooked to sport, forever.

1990 Wimbledon Final

Millennials would find it hard to recall even the Sampras-Agassi rivalry, let alone one between two Europeans who were real masters of tennis in the late 1980s and ’90s. They played three Wimbledon finals on a trot.

While in the 1988 final, despite Boom Boom, oops Boris, Becker being a rank favourite, Stefan Edberg claimed the title. The following year, Becker avenged the loss but the final I cherish the most is the one in 1990, a thrilling five-setter.

 

 

Edberg raced to a 2-0 lead before Becker made a great comeback to stretch the match into the decider in a match that was a great exhibition of the “serve and volley” game that the grasscourt season was renowned for. But Edberg regained his mojo to lift the trophy and made a nine-year-old heave a sigh of relief. After all, more than Becker’s swagger, I was a fan of suave Edberg back then. 

New Zealand vs India, Auckland 1994

Seldom does scoreboard reveal the story of a match. This game in March 1994 is a perfect example of it. On a windy morning in Auckland, India’s pace trio of Kapil Dev, J. Srinath and Salil Ankola did the early damage before Rajesh Chauhan wound up the tail to bowl New Zealand out for 142 in the last over. And India won the match by seven wickets, well before the halfway mark.

But more than the result, the match will forever be remembered for Sachin Tendulkar’s maiden knock as an opener in India’s blues (navy blue and yellow, then). As one later read in Sportstar, the main source of anything and everything to do with sport for a youngster growing up in Pune - Navjot Singh Sidhu woke up with a stiff neck and Tendulkar - a month shy of turning 21 then - managed to convince India’s manager Ajit Wadekar to give him an opportunity to open the innings.

 

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Tendulkar showcased the world how to make optimum use of Powerplay - 15-over field restrictions, as it used to be referred to then - with a blitzkrieg to change the course of the way cricket would be played by the following generations. An innings of 49-ball 82 was virtually unheard of then and even in the T20 age would be deemed exceptional. Can’t have enough of it almost 26 years later.   

2005 Champions League final

Since the sport that I played competitively (table tennis) was far from being television-friendly, I turned to other disciplines while consuming it on TV. I wasn’t just a cricket and tennis fan, football was also right up there. So what if one had to make do with glimpses of Ruud Gullit’s brilliance in the weekly show World of Sport in the 1990s. I was confused whether to pick the 1994 World Cup final - yes, with Roberto Baggio’s missed penalty robbed Italy of the title or the 2005 Champions League final, before I settled for the latter.

Not just because Steven Gerrard’s genius had forced a loyal Chelsea fan (with Gullit and Gianfranco Zola having worn the Blues) to almost convert into a Merseysider but because of the sheer quality of football that was on display that evening in Istanbul.

 

 

AC Milan raced to a 3-0 lead by half-time to virtually seal the game and Liverpool’s streak of heartbreaks was set to continue. But then came Gerrard as his crazy header from the edge of the box into the goal started “nine minutes of madness” that saw Liverpool level the scoreline.

Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek’s distracting tactics in the penalty shootout then helped Liverpool stage an unbelievable comeback to emerge champions. The next evening, while planning a full page on the final for my then employer in Pune, I came up with one of the most memorable headlines of my career: “No Mersey for AC”.

India vs England, World T20, 2007

With T20 having settled in firmly on the cricket landscape, cricket journalists - especially those working for dailies - are accustomed to changing his/ her report (read writing a fresh one) during or just after the last over. But one of the first instances that one went through it would indeed remain as one of the most memorable in the list of “I-was-there” moments.

 

 

One had rewritten an entire report less than a fortnight earlier when India and Pakistan were involved in that famous bowl-out in the league stage of the inaugural World T20. A couple of weeks prior to that, one had also rewritten an “innings report” - a must in those days for day-night ODIs in England - after Dimitri Mascarenhas clobbered Yuvraj Singh for five consecutive sixes to end England innings on a high at the Oval.

 

After being at the receiving end, it was Yuvraj’s turn to return the favour to England. Yuvraj entered the crease with 20 balls remaining in India’s innings, faced 16 of those to score 58 runs. But it was the six balls he faced off Stuart Broad in the penultimate over of the innings that would emerge as stunning.

Egged by a sledge by Kevin Pietersen during the change of overs, Yuvraj decided to go aerial off Broad. And ever since he thumped the first one over cow corner out of Kingsmead, he kept on treating Broad with disdain. By the time he hoicked another over midwicket for his fifth consecutive six, the euphoria had firmly been built for a rarest of rare occurrence. And he didn’t disappoint by despatching the last one over wide long-on and achieve a remarkable feat of six sixes an over.

Six sixes in an over was as unthinkable in 2007 as was Chetan Sharma’s hat-trick in 1987. And his 12-ball fifty was as unbelievable as Tendulkar’s 49-ball 82 in 1994. To top it all, one was over the moon to be there and watch that in person, unlike the previous sporting memories.

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