Super cat's superb innings

The World Cup has produced some brilliant individual performances. K. C. Vijaya Kumar takes a look at some of them.

The World Cup has often unearthed heroes, added fresh impetus to emerging players and revealed some cricketers in a new light. The most coveted Cup and its attendant blend of key matches, extra pressure and out-of-the-box strategies often means that the players who sparkle the most have to dig deep within themselves and come up with the right response — measured at times, rapid sometimes and pure reflex during the crunch.

Clive Lloyd inscribed his name in big bold letters in the annals of World Cup history as his 102 in the inaugural edition's final in 1975 against Australia, reiterated his nickname ‘Super Cat'.

The West Indies skipper was critical to his team's championship success and he lived up to the expectations and was ably aided by Vivian Richards, who often triggers memories of his gum-chewing, forearm-flexing swagger at the crease. But in the 1975 edition in England, Richards the fielder provided the decisive edge to the West Indies.

In the final against Australia, Richards effected the run-outs of Allan Turner and the Chappell brothers — Ian and Greg. A legendary player had made a mark and the halo quadrupled in 1979 when in the final at Lord's against England, Richards slammed a 138 and along with Collis King's 86, ensured that England never had a chance.

Even in the 1983 final, India's grip around the cup became firm only after skipper Kapil Dev caught Richards on 33.

Like Richards, Kapil was an inspirational presence and the manner in which he marshalled his team to win the cup in 1983 is the stuff of legend. His unbeaten 175 at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe has acquired mythical proportions over the years, accentuated by the fact that the BBC crew went on strike and robbed us of sheer viewing pleasure.

Kapil also proved that the sum is bigger than the parts with the likes of K. Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Syed Kirmani combining well to help him win the Cup.

Teams often are formed in tandem with the World Cup years and in 1987, Australian skipper Allan Border formed a gritty team with young players like David Boon, Geoff Marsh, Steve Waugh and Craig McDermott performing well to partially offset the vacuum left by the retirements of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh.

The '87 edition in the Indian sub-continent also pointed out new strategies like Graham Gooch's ‘sweep-them-to-distraction' theme against wilting Indian spinners in the semi-final at Mumbai. The tournament is also notable for the second wind it gifted Navjot Singh Sidhu, who stunningly discarded his ‘strokeless-wonder' tag and became ‘sixer Sidhu.'

A lone individual's pursuit to convert a squabbling bunch of talented players into a world-beating unit reaped rich rewards in 1992 when the World Cup moved to Australia and New Zealand.

Imran Khan, primarily shone as skipper and batsman while helping Pakistan win the biggest prize. A senior like Javed Miandad and a rookie like Inzamam ul Haq chipped in along with Wasim Akram and history was made. The mini-battle between an emerging Sachin Tendulkar and an ageing Ian Botham was another alluring spectacle of the tournament's fifth edition.

The tournament next travelled to the Indian sub-continent and co-host Sri Lanka emerged as the champion in 1996. Captain Arjuna Ranatunga found his heroes in Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan as three diverse individuals with distinctive styles, shone bright. An island nation briefly forgot its internal strife and Colombo was wide awake all night while Ranatunga's men covered themselves in glory at Lahore.

Tendulkar meanwhile continued to embrace pathos as his 90 failed to pause Australia's triumph at Mumbai while Shane Warne uncorked some magic against a stunned West Indian team.