Kapil’s pyrotechnics

Brave heart… India captain Kapil Dev during his epic innings of 175 not out against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. The knock on a windy, bone-chilling day rescued India from ignominy.-PIC: THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

It’s almost 32 years since Tunbridge Wells became famous for a champion knock played by Kapil Dev. Unlike the famous garden town of Canterbury (Kent County), Tunbridge Wells was among the new venues for the third edition of the World Cup (the other new venues were Swansea, Worcester, Bristol, Southampton, Taunton, Leicester City, Derby and Chelmsford). The Indian captain’s remarkable 175 not out on a windy, bone-chilling day rescued his team from ignominy after beginning the campaign with a victory against West Indies, the two-time champion, at Old Trafford and Zimbabwe in the first league match at Leicester.

Later in the championship, having been outplayed by Australia (by 162 runs at Nottingham) and West Indies (by 66 runs at The Oval), a third straight loss would have virtually eliminated India from the competition. Well into mid-June, the conditions were far from sunny and bright to bring cheer to the Indian batsmen. Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran exploited the overcast conditions well, as India lost wickets in a clutch after Sunil Gavaskar fell leg-before to Rawson off the second ball of the match. Soon Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma followed with India’s total a dismal 17 for five.

Thankfully, Roger Binny (22 off 48 balls) survived the difficult conditions to lift India’s total to 77. However, Ravi Shastri’s dismissal a run later didn’t help India’s cause.

Kapil Dev, though, looked mean and stood firm amidst the ruins. And drawing inspiration from their captain, Madan Lal (17 off 39 balls) and Syed Kirmani (24 off 56 balls) played crucial roles in India’s brilliant rearguard action.

Kapil Dev truly was a brave heart. He faced 138 balls and despatched 16 of them to the ropes and six over it. Thanks to his knock, India posted 266 for eight in 60 overs, and defended it after subduing the strong-arm tactics of Curran.

The Fletcher shocker

The tournament started on expected lines on June 9, with England scoring a 106-run win against New Zealand at The Oval and Pakistan brushing aside the challenge of Sri Lanka by 50 runs at Swansea. However, while these two teams were relishing their wins, the third match of the day at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire, produced a sensational result, with Zimbabwe outwitting the 1975 finalist, Australia, by 13 runs. The scores: Zimbabwe 239 for six (60 overs) and Australia 226 for seven (60 overs). It’s another matter that even the fourth match of the day produced a stunning result (West Indies was beaten in a World Cup for the first time, and the team that vanquished it was India). But the feat achieved by Duncan Fletcher’s boys mirrored the African team’s ambitions and drive to make a massive impact on the World Cup stage.

Fletcher himself put up a doughty fight, scoring an unbeaten 69. He then sealed the match with a magnificent four for 42 in 11 overs of seam bowling.

Davis, the destroyer

The tall West Indian fast bowler, Winston Davis, despatched seven Australian batsmen for 51 runs at Leeds to hand his team a whopping 101-run victory in a group match. It was the best bowling effort in a World Cup for many years until the Australians, Glenn McGrath (7 for 15 against Namibia at Potchefstroom in 2003) and Andy Bichel (7 for 20 against England at Port Elizabeth in 2003), made it a unique three-man seven-wicket club in the quadrennial championship.

A thrilling finish

It was a result that drew much attention. England, cruising at 177 for two with Graeme Fowler and David Gower in command, was stopped in its tracks at Edgbaston by one of the finest exponents of seam and swing bowling, Richard Hadlee (3-32 off 10 overs), and Lance Cairns (3-44 off 11 overs). After restricting England to 234 (55.2 overs), New Zealand (238 for eight) scored a memorable victory with just one ball remaining in the match.

Sweet revenge

After a humiliating 162-run defeat to Australia at Nottingham (June 13), India had a sweet revenge in the return match at Chelmsford. Batting first, India made 247 with Yashpal Sharma (40) the top scorer. India seemed determined to make the semi-finals, as Balwinder Singh Sandhu removed Trevor Chappell, the tormentor in Nottingham, for 2. Then, Roger Binny (4-29 off 8 overs) and Madan Lal (4-20 off 8.2) combined well to cause Australia’s doom. Once Binny sent back Graeme Wood and Graham Yallop, Australia’s chase disintegrated and it crumbled for 158 in under 39 overs.

G. Viswanath