On a learning curve

Even after these many years, i can still recall the manner in which Viv and Collis King struck the ball. King scored 86 from 66 balls.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

In 1979, we were still trying to understand the nuances of One-day cricket. We lost all our games, first against the West Indies and then against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. By G. R. Viswanath.

It was early days for India in One-day cricket and we were still coming to terms with the different nature of the game. It was the second World Cup in England and we were excited to be there.

I have some fine memories from the meet, especially my 75 (134b, 7x4) against the West Indies in our first match at Edgbaston. The innings gave me immense satisfaction and joy because it came against a strong bowling attack. Vivian Richards later said: “Vishy, I haven’t seen an innings like this before.”

The tribute, coming from one of the game’s greatest, ranks alongside other fine remarks I got from legends like Clive Lloyd and Greg Chappell. Lloyd called my 97 (not out) against the West Indies in Madras in 1975 as “the finest Test innings” he had ever seen. Greg described my 114 in Melbourne in 1981 as “the best among Melbourne hundreds” he had witnessed.

In 1979, we were still trying to understand the nuances of One-day cricket. We lost all our games, first against the West Indies and then against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Losing to Sri Lanka was terrible and I remember our captain, S. Venkataraghavan, was furious. He was so angry that he wanted us to practise again after the game, though I still don’t know what purpose it served. But he was the skipper and we had to follow his orders.

Despite the defeats we learnt a lot about ODIs in that tournament. As a batsman I gained a lot of confidence, particularly because of that 75 against the Windies. In India, too, there was an attitudinal change towards One-dayers. There were more one-day matches in our domestic structure and it helped. The lessons we learnt in 1979 surely helped us in 1983, when India won the World Cup, under the leadership of Kapil Dev.

Unfortunately, I was not a part of that squad as by then my international career was over. But Indian cricket began a new journey from that moment in 1983.

Going back to 1979, my enduring memory is the total domination by the champion, West Indies. They had won in 1975 and they won again in 1979. There was a huge gulf between the West Indies and the other teams. In terms of sheer ability, the West Indians were way above the rest. They had too many great players in the squad.

I remember Richards specifically; his innings (138 not out) in the final was unbelievable. Even after these many years, I can still recall the manner in which he and Collis King struck the ball. I distinctly remember the last ball bowled by England’s Mike Hendrick. The fast bowler was trying to bowl a yorker, but Viv just moved towards the off-stump and hit it for a six over square-leg. I had never seen anything like that before, and trust me that shot was the precursor of all the fancy shots of today.

— As told to K. C. Vijaya Kumar