Charged up ‘Church'

Adam Gilchrist hammered thirteen 4s and eight 6s, leaving the opposition dazed in the 2007 World Cup final at Barbados. It was savagery of the most lyrical variety. Kumar Sangakkara best summed up his team's sentiments when he said: “It was just heartbreaking to watch, but glorious at the same time”. Over to Arun Venugopal.

An act of brilliance in front of billions, a courageous solo effort on the biggest stage always puts an individual on an elevated pedestal. Every cricketer worth his salt waits for the World Cup to etch out his own name in the books of history but only a few succeed. Over the years, only a handful of batsmen have left their mark in the quadrennial event. Sportstar pays tribute to a few of the greatest World Cup innings.

Adam Gilchrist (149) — Australia vs. West Indies, 2007 WC final, Barbados:

“I have nothing to declare except my genius”, Oscar Wilde once said. Adam Gilchrist would probably flash boyish grins by the dozen than stake verbal claim for exalted pedestals. But then, genius, like catharsis, finds immaculate expression at the vertex of extraordinary conflict. Gilchrist chose the final of the 2007 World Cup to offer an unsullied glimpse of his inner core.

A rain-curtailed encounter was far from ideal for a summit clash. But then Gilly's mind would absorb none of those irritants. After Ponting won the toss and opted to bat, Gilchrist strode out to the middle lapping up the enormity of the occasion. Two quiet overs were a booby trap that the Sri Lankans had walked into. A nonchalant flick for four bore no warning of the fusillade to follow. Vaas' next ball was smacked over long on for six. Gilchrist's engine was purring with ecstasy. A few tucks and several hoicks later, the Western Australian had reached his third half-century in consecutive World Cup finals.

Muralitharan's deployment to net the big fish was countered with remarkable nimble-wittedness. Gilchrist milked him to ensure that there was no stranglehold. However, Dilshan's unsuspecting tweakers saw the southpaw galloping down the track to launch projectiles over the bowler's head. ‘Church' reached his century off 72 balls leaving Hayden way behind. Gilly's bravura act was such a hit with Bajans and Aussie supporters alike that there were boos whenever he turned over the strike.

The now legendary squash ball-in-the-glove method was used by Gilly, on the advice of his batting guru Bob Meuleman, to hit the ball straighter. And that's exactly what he did till he finally got out for 149 off 104 deliveries.

Gilchrist had hammered thirteen 4s and eight 6s leaving the opposition dazed. It was savagery of the most lyrical variety. Kumar Sangakkara best summed his team's sentiments when he said: “It was just heartbreaking to watch, but glorious at the same time”.

Steve Waugh (120 not out) — Australia vs. South Africa, 1999, Leeds:

Context is often the greatest revealer of character. The good survive relentless onslaughts of pressure while the mediocre are stripped off their garb of lies. Only in the greatest is the incandescence of fortitude visible. Such men consistently shape and alter microcosms. On June 13, 1999, horizons were stretched and newer sub-plots were constructed by one of the foremost practitioners of mental toughness — Stephen Rodger Waugh.

A must-win game against South Africa for a birth in the last four ensued after Australia had blown hot and cold for most part of the tournament. Winning the toss, South Africa cruised to 271. A false start followed by two more setbacks resulted in Australia searching for miracles. At 48 for 3, Steve Waugh marched in armed with his trusted Gunn & Moore. The Fuhrer of the team had the reputation for being a soldier well-versed with the grammar of trench warfare. Waugh senior dodged a bullet early as he played a rising delivery from Allan Donald wide of the man at leg gully. Like most astute statesmen, he put a premium on recovery and consolidation. Along with Ponting, the veteran forged a partnership built on cautious batting and aggressive running.

A drop by Gibbs when Waugh was on 56 resulted in a taunt, the veracity of the alleged comment is debated till day. Once peace prevailed, Tugga indulged in cavalier-like strokes. He stunned Donald with a drive over cover and slog-swept Elworthy. Predictably, there was no emotion from the iceman on scoring his second ton. The air was punched only when the game was sealed.

The Aussie skipper's epochal knock ensured that the ‘choker' tag was embossed on the Proteas. He would go on to haunt them with another nerveless win in the semi-finals setting the stage for a second World Cup title. Waugh, the soldier had powered General Waugh.

Aravinda de Silva (107 not out) — Sri Lanka vs. Australia, 1996 WC final, Lahore:

The Sri Lankan team which clinched the World Cup in 1996 was a classic embodiment of a concoction of virtues essential for success in sport. Unbridled passion, consistency of purpose as a group, and visionary leadership were fleshed out with clinical performances on the field. Arjuna Ranatunga's team had specialists for different jobs. Players were expected to work in consonance with the larger strategy that revolved around chasing totals.

Aravinda de Silva was the nucleus in the middle order shepherding many a successful pursuit. When Ranatunga put the Australians into bat, history was against the Asian side. No team had won a World Cup final batting second till then. The Sri Lankans punted on their ability to calibrate meticulous run chases. The Australians were restricted to 241, not a tall order but yet a tricky affair. Sri Lanka lost two crucial wickets of Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana, both of whom were integral to the forceful start that was mandated.

Coming in at number four, de Silva started positively with an elegant on drive. Crisp leg glances were complemented by fluid drives on the off. The seasoned campaigner showed that his ‘Mad Max' days were well behind him and continued to excel in shot selection. The stylish de Silva feasted on the errant Aussie bowling with some gorgeous cut and pull strokes. He ensured that the talismanic Warne was kept at bay. Along with Asanka Gurusinha, he added 125 for the third wicket navigating a steady pursuit. Cleverly pinched singles and twos also added to Australia's heartburn.

After Gurusinha's departure, de Silva joined hands with Ranatunga to smoothen the path to victory. The 124-ball unbeaten knock was the right hander's second match-winning performance in a row.

Kapil Dev (175 not out) — India vs. Zimbabwe, 1983, Tunbridge Wells:

The beauty of team sport lies in the element of drama that unfolds due to the luminosity of individual excellence. Sometimes a lightning-quick pass or a powerful drag flick could turn turtle the entire course of a match or even a tournament. Such enactments bestow a touch of immortality to everything associated with the contest. In 1983, Tunbridge Wells was aggrandised with the honour, thanks in no small measure to Kapil Dev Nikhanj.

A Group-B match between India and Zimbabwe had no preordination of greatness attached to it. Initially, it seemed to be a lopsided encounter heading for a conclusion by lunchtime. Fiery spells by Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran sent half the Indian side back to the hut. Gavaskar and Srikkanth were dismissed for nought. Amarnath, Sandeep Patil, and Yashpal Sharma didn't spend too much time at the crease either. The scorecard read 17 for five and the Indian captain walked out to face the music.

A short boundary on one side of the ground enabled Kapil to flex his muscles. That both Rawson and Curran were taken off the attack at the same time gave him the necessary respite. Kapil rallied the tail around him in a counterpunching exercise of the highest pedigree and brought up his century in 72 balls.

A change of bat resulted in more DEVastation as the ‘Haryana hurricane' forced each of their bowlers into tapping out. The all-rounder's unbeaten knock included six sixes and 16 fours. He had batted for a minute longer than three hours. Interestingly, this match was not televised. However, an Indian fan had recorded Kapil's innings and sold it to the latter for a hefty sum. India's victory by 31 runs proved to be vital for their qualification to the semi-finals. The skipper's performance tapped into the nascent zeal of his mates. The team acquired a raw self-belief, something which saw them win the ultimate prize.

Clive Lloyd (102) — West Indies vs. Australia, 1975 WC final, Lords:

The World Cup in 1975 took place at a time when the lines between Test and limited overs cricket were blurred. The inaugural edition was witness to Gavaskar's infamous 36 not out while he batted out the allotted 60 overs. Field placements were also in confirmation with well entrenched norms of Test cricket. There weren't many who felt the need for a distinct approach to this format of the game.

It was then that the final between Australia and West Indies at Lords proved to be a fantastic advertisement of the One-day game. Ian Chappell won the toss and asked the Windies to take first strike. The Aussie struck three quick blows and created panic in the West Indies ranks. Skipper Clive Lloyd took charge and aligned with the classy Rohan Kanhai to put the innings back on course. He took up the gauntlet with aplomb and clawed into the psyche of the Kangaroos.

The ‘Super Cat' blasted Lillee and Thomson to all parts of the ground. Even Gary Gilmour who took five wickets wasn't able to put the lid on Lloyd's batting excesses. The southpaw struck 12 fours and two sixes as he notched up a century. He eventually got out for 102 in 85 balls. Lloyd's innings pioneered the way One-day cricket would be played in the years to follow. A brazen display of aerial shots opened a new set of opportunities for batsmen.

His belligerent knock paved the way for a score of 291, which eventually proved to be a match-winning total. A last wicket stand between Lillee and Thomson led to a thrilling finale. However, when Thomson became the fifth batsman to be run out, the need for top class fielding in limited overs cricket was underscored. When Lloyd held aloft the World Cup, an era of West Indian domination was underway.