The inexplicable crawl

Sunil Gavaskar pulls England’s Geoff Arnold for three during the opening overs of the Indian innings in the inaugural match of the Prudential World Cup cricket tournament at Lord’s on June 7, 1975. The opener then got terribly bogged down, remaining unbeaten with just 36 off 174 balls.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Sunil Gavaskar’s snail-paced knock against England in the opener is still talked about. He made 36 not out and invited criticism and embarrassment. Hard to imagine why and how he got bogged down. True, it was only the first match and India hardly had any experience of one-day cricket, but there was no explanation for the slow batting. This haunted Gavaskar for a long time. The legendary batsman has said it many times that it was his worst innings. He wrote in his autobiography how he would shape to have a go at the ball, but end up playing a defensive shot.

True, as he confessed, it was not possible for India to chase 335 in 60 overs. But Gavaskar was not able to rotate the strike. “There was a complete mental block as far as I was concerned,” he wrote. It hardly helped Gavaskar or the team, and the spectators, when he was dropped thrice. He did admit that he felt “sorry” for the crowd, but he was right in pointing out that he did not play the 60 overs all by himself. The manager of the team later asked him for an explanation.

It was a sad chapter in an otherwise glorious career that Gavaskar, easily the best opening batsman India has seen, charted with his technical excellence, especially when playing overseas.

Thommo zings them

The fearsome Jeff Thomson causing injuries to two Sri Lankan batsmen at The Oval was a sore event of the World Cup. It was Sri Lanka’s debut in ODIs, but there was no sign of the team being a newcomer. Australia ran up an imposing 328 for five with Alan Turner hitting a century. Sri Lanka made a gallant chase and left Australia worried at one stage. The score stood at 150 for two when Duleep Mendis was hit on the head by Thomson and was taken to hospital. Then Sunil Wettimuny was struck on the right instep from a Thomson yorker and was forced to retire at 164.

Sri Lanka lost the match but won many hearts by performing well against an attack that also included Dennis Lillee, Max Walker and Ashley Mallet.

Vijay Lokapally