Two kings rule the day

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

England, which had high hopes of winning the World Cup in 1979, was laid low by a fantastic partnership between West Indies' Vivian Richards and Collis King, in the final. Here `king' Richards, who made an unbeaten 138, congratulates King for his sensational 66-ball 86.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

THE 1979 World Cup was marked by some difficult conditions for the batsmen. Just two centuries in 15 matches indicated the domination established by the bowlers and it was not surprising that two of the most devastating batsmen in the history of the game should have achieved the distinction.

Gordon Greenidge's unbeaten 106 in the Cup opener against India might have promised a batting feast but it took Vivian Richards to produce an innings which added to the lustre of West Indies' reputation with Clive Lloyd once again holding the Prudential Trophy aloft on the Lord's balcony.

Richards was in a mood to finish the opposition on that eventful day at the Lord's. The weather gods had been kind and it was a typically perfect day for a good game of cricket. The English had high hopes of winning the Cup and the start was encouraging too — West Indies 99 for four with Lloyd back in the dressing room. This was beyond the English dream and just one man now stood between transforming that dream into a reality — Richards. At the end of the day, the English failed to make a match of it, as they were laid low by a fantastic partnership between Richards and Collis King.

Richards was in great form as he savaged the English attack but it was King who actually directed the West Indian revival with an innings of awesome power. It was the ease with which King smashed the ball around that stood out and Richards was reduced to being an admiring partner at the other end, a rare experience for the great Antiguan.

England paid the penalty for taking the field with one bowler short, a move which was exploited fully by King and Richards. The young King lost no time in putting the attack in its place and his strokeplay took the wind out of the English bowlers. Three sensational sixes and 10 fours adorned King's 66-ball knock, which indeed belonged to a special category.

The fact that he dominated the proceedings and snatched the focus away from the illustrious Richards spoke for King's masterly performance. True, Richards extended his class for a thrilling 138 but King's assault came at a time when the team was tottering. One more wicket at that stage would have pushed the West Indies back but King did not allow any such thing to happen.

The century established Richards as the premier batsman of international cricket, no doubt, but King was very special that day. His was a selfless performance and one, which was developed on total commitment. He had been assigned the task to go after the bowlers and King applied himself to the job in a disciplined and skilful manner. His 86 may have paled in terms of quantity when compared to Richards but in quality it was second to none.

To have shared the stage with Richards and made his presence known was King's grand achievement that day. It was a knock, which placed the West Indies in a sound position and to him goes the credit of producing the best innings of the tournament. Collis King had pushed the original King into the background with an innings, which even Richards would have been proud to emulate.