World Cup throwback: From spare ribs to a memorable Man of the Match award

Four World Cuppers reminisce on their time at cricket's biggest tournament.

Dilip Vengsarkar made his World Cup debut against the West Indies at Edgbaston, his overall fifth ODI match, made a run a ball seven runs before falling a victim to a fast bowler with a nickname`Whispering Death’, Michael Holding.   -  Thulasi Kakkat

Dilip Vengsarkar, India, 1979, 1983, 1987

Dilip Vengsarkar’s World Cup stories are a mixed bag. As a 23-year-old, he was picked for the 1979 World Cup which turned out to be his first visit to England. He had heard about freezing cold, overcast conditions, the ball moving around and also the bright English Summer on the flipside and so he was curious.

The tall and elegant driver of the ball had his World Cup debut against the West Indies at Edgbaston, his overall fifth ODI match, made a run a ball seven runs before falling a victim to a fast bowler with a nickname`Whispering Death’, Michael Holding.

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Afterwards in the second match against New Zealand at Headingley he faced only three balls in which he just opened his account with a single. It was a disastrous World Cup campaign for India in 1979, but the right-hander with the sobriquet ‘Colonel’ made 36 in his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka.

“It (the 1979 World Cup) was a 60-overs-a-side competition, and we played it like a Test match. We were perhaps naïve. We were not accustomed to playing this format. The West Indies had fast bowlers who were used to playing in the English county or club cricket. They had the advantage.

In our second match of the 1983 World Cup, batting against the West Indies pace pack of Andy Roberts, Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Winston Davis, I had made 32 when Marshall’s short ball took me out of the scene. The pitch was beautiful to bat on. I was disappointed with what happened. Me and Jimmy (Mohinder Amarnath) were batting. I was actually trying to glide a short ball; I missed it and the ball hit me on the chin. I required seven stitches. I was fit for the final, but the team was winning matches and they retained the winning combination. When we beat the West Indies in the previous ODI match in Berbice, we thought that if we could put them under pressure, putting up a good score, they could fall apart. Kapil Dev was leading the side. He was the star doing everything with the bat, ball and in the field. He was outstanding. The conditions also helped us. In England, line and length are important and we had Kapil, Roger (Binny), Madan (Lal) and Jimmy. When the wickets were slow, the spinners came into the picture, especially against England in the semifinal at the Oval.

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At home in the 1987 World Cup, a stomach bug forced me to sit out the semifinal against England. Me and my wife (Manali) ate Chinese food the previous night at the team hotel. We had spare ribs (pork ribs) and that was probably infected or stale. Returning to the room, I started vomiting and my wife also became sick; she had to be hospitalised. I spoke to the team manager Mansingh and a doctor gave came to the hotel at 2 a.m. to give me injections. I was drained out completely. I could have played the semifinal, but it would not have been fair on the team. Kapil told me to take it easy.

Mohammad Azharuddin, India, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1999

One of the fondest memories is getting the Man of the Match award against Australia in Delhi for my all-round performance (54 not out and three for 19), says Mohammad Azharuddin.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

 

I vividly remember the 1987 World Cup at home. I didn’t bat as well as I should have. But one of the fondest memories is getting the Man of the Match award against Australia in Delhi for my all-round performance (54 not out and three for 19). I had the privilege of being the non-striker (41 not out) when the great Sunny bhai (Sunil Gavaskar) scored his only ODI hundred in the Nagpur game against New Zealand and Chetan Sharma took a hat-trick in the same game. I remember playing my first World Cup match against Australia in Chennai. Everyone, including my captain Kapil paaji (Dev), was so supportive and encouraging. I was completely at home. It was a thriller as we lost that match by just one run.

Within five years, I was in the hot seat guiding the destiny of the Indian team at the 1992 World Cup in the round-robin format. Frankly, I never expected to lead the team and that I could do so in three editions was something I can never ever forget.

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In 1996, it was very disappointing the way we played in the semifinal. In the first instance, we should have restricted Sri Lanka to a 150-plus score for the wicket was not the ideal one for a World Cup match. I must say it was an under-prepared wicket because so many functions were said to have been held on the same ground before the big match. And, probably, the high-voltage game against Pakistan in the quarterfinal earlier in Bengaluru was telling on the players. Honestly, I have never played under so much pressure (than against Pakistan). That was the kind of collective effort we missed in the semifinal. If only we had repeated our showing against Pakistan, we would have gone on to win the World Cup. The 1999 World Cup in England was another disappointing experience for us. Once again, there were some exceptional performances by Sachin (Tendulkar), Saurav (Ganguly) and (Rahul) Dravid, but we failed to put in the desired team effort. There was nothing wrong with the team as it had exceptionally talented match-winners.

Sandeep Patil, India, 1983

Sandeep Patil was a player in 1983, understudy to Ajit Wadekar as coach in 1996, head coach of Kenya in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and the chairman of the BCCI senior national selection committee that picked the Indian team for the 2015 World Cup.   -  Vijay Lokapally

I was a player in 1983, understudy to Ajit Wadekar as coach in 1996, head coach of Kenya in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and the chairman of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) senior national selection committee that picked the Indian team for the 2015 World Cup. I enjoyed every role. The Indian team reached the semifinals in 1996 (losing to Sri Lanka in Kolkata) and in 2015 lost to Australia in the semifinals in Sydney. I got the opportunities, and I am thankful to the BCCI for that. Given the fact that India won the World Cup in 1983, it has to be on top of all my achievements.

(Before Kenya’s first match in the 2003 World Cup) there were only two South African reporters at the presser. This was before the match against South Africa at Potchefstroom. There were no spectators in the following matches. But cricket is a game of bat and ball and Kenya reached the semifinals. And it was funny; at Kingsmead (Durban), the room was full for the press conference. Kenya was playing India and the place was packed with most of them Indian journalists.

Carl Hooper, West Indies, 1987, 1992, 1999, 2003

My moment of glory in the World Cup came in 2003, when I captained the West Indies team, says Carl Hooper.   -  PTI

I have featured in four World Cups for the West Indies, but it has never been my favourite tournament. As a cricketer, I have always enjoyed featuring in the longer format, so Test cricket was more challenging and more competitive for me.

But then, one cannot ignore the fact that in the World Cup, you get to compete with some of the best players and talents. And that’s something every player looks forward to. I remember, when I played my first World Cup in India — in 1987 — I have fond memories.

I enjoyed the Indian culture, tradition and it was fun playing in the venues across the country. But when we played the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, I did not like it at all. It required immense travel and there were hardly any breaks in between. As a young cricketer then, I could not adjust to the conditions and did not quite enjoy it.

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But then, my moment of glory in the World Cup came in 2003, when I captained the West Indies team.

That, incidentally, was my last international assignment and I have good memories. I remember, we went to the tournament after a successful outing in India, and the boys were extremely motivated. For me, it was a special occasion as I was the flag-bearer of the West Indies and my family members were present in the stands to watch the opening ceremony. That’s one thing I will always cherish.

We started the tournament on a winning note, defeating home team South Africa by three runs. We started as underdogs, but all the players knew that they could make it big. But our campaign came to a halt as we lost to New Zealand and it was followed by a washout against Bangladesh. We had to win the game against Bangladesh to be in the contention for the next stage, but a slight drizzle that later turned into a medium shower saw us share points. Eventually, that took us out of the tournament.

As a captain, the game against Bangladesh was quite heart-breaking. After scoring 244-9, we had picked up two Bangladesh wickets for 32 runs and we were confident of sealing the deal. But the rain came!

That still hurts. I quit after the World Cup, but I was happy that next year — 2004 — almost the same West Indies team clinched the Champions Trophy in England. That was a great leveller for me!