Where they went wrong...

Magic moment...Gordon Greenidge has no clue to this beauty from Balwinder Singh Sandhu in the 1983 World Cup final.-PICS: THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

The world stood up to acknowledge a sporting achievement not so much because the victor came from a thus far unaccomplished region of cricket but because the West Indies was truly beaten and that too twice in the space of 17 days. By R. Mohan.

The tactical brilliance of India that raised a blend of simple elements into a unique fighting force turned form and projections — ordained by one-day records, expert opinion and bookmakers’ advisers — upside down. The world stood up to acknowledge a sporting achievement not so much because the victor came from a thus far unaccomplished region of cricket but because the West Indies was truly beaten and that too twice in the space of 17 days.

The win and defeat did not dispel the theory about the invincibility of pace. The West Indian pace battery had done its job only to be let down by its batsmen, who came up against a determined medium pace attack that epitomised the virtue of economy and accuracy. In the space of one day the impossible came down to the region of the improbable and further down to the eminently possible and finally to the region of certainty.

The basic premise that the semifinal line-up would be West Indies v Pakistan or New Zealand and England v Australia was not based on cricketing logic but on wishful thinking. It was wrong to presume that Australia would be unstoppable in Group B. Its record in one-day cricket outside Australia has been too poor. Without Greg Chappell, the steadying influence in batting was non-existent.

Shockers

The two shock results in the opening round of the league gave Group B a completely new angle. The basic Australian weakness of hitting the ball in the air when under pressure of batting second against a target of any magnitude, undid the side on two important occasions. The first, at Lord’s, when the West Indies total looked reachable at a particular juncture. The second and more crucial, at Chelmsford, where County sides struggle to bowl any team out twice for a win, saw the Australian batting bottom out.

Pace as represented by Rodney Hogg and Geoff Lawson could be brilliant at times but not consistent enough in attack when it came to the crunch — in a knockout situation. India had one more win and still needed another to keep its predicted appointment with the semifinal. The nerveless way in which the bowling and fielding operated at Chelmsford and in the semifinal was to give the side a raison d’etre and a newfound belief in its own talent.

Trumps fail

New Zealand’s brilliance in one-day cricket was absent because its batting was too reliant on Glenn Turner, Bruce Edgar and John Wright’s form. The former was in indifferent mood and the other two were not associated in the type of partnerships that used to lend so much weight to New Zealand’s previous performances.

Zaheer Abbas on way to his brilliant hundred against New Zealand at Trent Bridge. `Zed' was one of the few Pakistanis to come out with flying colours.-

Sri Lanka did Pakistan a favour by downing New Zealand for its only win. Sri Lankan bowling, despite the degree of a success that Asantha De Mel and D. S. de Silva enjoyed, could not keep any side down to a manageable total. And so, the batting successes in chasing stiff targets did not bring the desired results. For once, the bowling raised its level to keep New Zealand to under 200 and the Sri Lanka win was made possible. Pakistan found itself in a knockout situation and the consistency of Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan gave its bowling, sadly one of the weakest in the competition, the margin with which to extract a win and that despite the threatening propositions to which a ninth wicket stand blossomed. Jeremy Coney, the man for the hour, made the one vital tactical blunder of taking a single off the first ball of the final over. In a desperate effort to change the strike again, the inevitable happened — a run out. It was a case of ‘so near and yet so far’ for New Zealand.

A house divided

Pakistan’s batting proved no match for West Indian firepower at The Oval. The side was divided by the time it reached the final stages and for the first time one heard of a batsman with the macho touch withdrawing from a great occasion because of influenza! The batting order was changed to protect Zaheer from swing but he succumbed nevertheless and unlike India, Pakistan could not contain the West Indians from attaining a modest target.

England was undone by its own batting approach. The two most consistent openers of the World Cup, Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare, had given the side the expected ascendency against the Indian bowling but the rest of the batting did not reach the heights of efficiency which had been such a feature of England’s serene march to the last four.

David Gower disappointed his side at a very vital moment. The crucial break for India was the running out of Allan Lamb. After that, England switched to grafting methods which were not particularly successful against Kirti Azad’s leg-side attack. The low point of England’s batting came when lan Botham hung around for six overs to make eight taking the bowling on his front pads.

No effort was made to get at the bowling and England’s total was more than a ray of hope to India. The task was met with meticulous planning on the very venue where India had tamed English bowling in last summer’s tour. The statistical honour of India beating England in England for the first time in a One-day International was incidental. On this occasion, India’s showing was an extension of its overall form.

Fantastic fielding

Zimbabwe took fielding to dizzy heights. But the overall weaknesses in batting could not be covered up completely and a fine side had to be content with one spectacular win. Another could have been its but for Kapil Dev’s stupendous innings in the face of grave adversity. Ever since Zimbabwe changed course to political normality, its cricketers have lost in the sense that they have been cut off from the Currie Cup.

Denied the edge of competition, the number of young cricketers of a reasonable standard has dwindled. Those with experience in Currie Cup cricket were more accomplished, men like Duncan Fletcher and Kevin Curran. There are limitations to Zimbabwe as there were limitations to the side’s capabilities in the World Cup.

However, for the sheer joy of watching cricketers take fielding to unimagined heights, the Zimbabweans were worth their place in the big league.

(This article was published in The Sportstar, dated July 9, 1983)