A grand start

VIVEK BENDRE

Cricket had never before seen a tournament of this magnitude. Football, hockey, and most other disciplines had their world championships, and cricket was the latest to jump on the bandwagon. The tournament was a grand success, scripted by some thrilling contests and astonishing performances. By Aunshuman Gaekwad.

The first World Cup witnessed some magnificent exhibition of cricket. The eight best teams in the world came together in England and the conditions and facilities in the island nation were perfect for top-notch cricket.

Cricket had never before seen a tournament of this magnitude. Football, hockey, and most other disciplines had their world championships, and cricket was the latest to jump on the bandwagon. The tournament was a grand success, scripted by some thrilling contests and astonishing performances.

West Indies, with its star-studded line-up, started the tournament as the favourite. Most of its players had prior experience of playing in England and the team benefitted from it. Deservingly, the Clive Lloyd-led side won the championship, though Australia and Pakistan mounted spirited challenges.

The West Indies was placed in the group of death, with Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while England, New Zealand, India and East Africa formed the other group. The first ball of the World Cup was bowled by Madan Lal to Geoffery Boycott on June 7 and the tournament concluded on June 21, with Lloyd lifting the trophy on the balcony of the iconic Lord’s cricket ground. I played in the 1975 and also the 1979 edition. We did not play well in the first match of the 1975 meet, losing to England by 202 runs. The margin of defeat was an embarrassment and Sunil Gavaskar’s innings of 36 not out from 60 overs was unbecoming of One-day cricket. Even Sunny was not able to fathom the reasons behind his snail-paced knock, but the scars remained for long.

The final was a classic and Clive Lloyd's century, till date, is considered as one of the best limited-over knocks.-THE HINDU ARCHIVES

For me, and many more, it was a tournament that gave cricket many new stars. Vivian Richards was easily the greatest of the lot. His three run-outs in the final against Australia emphasised the importance of fielding in limited-overs cricket and his breathtaking work impressed the spectators and critics. There were other scintillating moments too.

Bishan Singh Bedi’s magical figures of 12-8-6-1 helped India beat East Africa. I have fond memories from the match against New Zealnd, where I was the second highest scorer (37) for India, behind Abid Ali’s 70. But Glenn Turner’s unbeaten 114 took the match away from us.

I was hardly surprised when West Indies won the Cup. The final was a classic and Lloyd’s century, till date, is considered as one of the best limited-overs knocks. His 102 off 85 balls was a demonstration of skilful batting against an attack that included Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

Earlier, Australia’s left-arm paceman Gary Gilmour returned with figures of 6/14 in the semi-finals against England. However, for me, the match of the tournament was played between West Indies and Pakistan.

In a heroic effort, Deryck Murray took West Indies to glory from a precarious state (166 for eight in pursuit of 267), to win the game with two balls to spare. He frustrated Pakistan by forging partnerships with Vanburn Holder and Andy Roberts.

The last pair added 64 runs. The atmosphere at Edgbaston was exhilarating.

— As told to Vijay Lokapally