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The prodigals return
The Rediff Team |
January 06, 2003
The 1975 World Cup was a success. The Packer revolution had taken the one day game several steps forward in terms of viewer interest. And yet, international cricket didn't seem ready, yet, to buy into the new format in a big way.
This is evident from the number of ODIs played between June 21, 1975 and June 9, 1979 -- the last day of the first WC and the first day of the second. In terms of numbers, England topped with 17 games over the four years; Pakistan and Australia played ten apiece; the West Indies played seven; India and New Zealand played five apiece.
Most bilateral tours during this period did not factor ODIs into the matrix -- India, which has topped the table in terms of ODIs played for the last several years, did not play a single ODI during the tour of West Indies, nor the home series against England; and the ODIs India did play in course of its tour of Australia were labeled unofficial.
While teams like the Windies, Australia and Pakistan benefited immensely from its Packer stars, honed in the crucible of high level competition, rejoining the official teams, India thus remained a rag-tag outfit in the shorter version.
The second World Cup got off to a start on June 9, 1979, with a series of inconsequential, even uninteresting, games on opening day.
In its inaugural game against the West Indies at Birmingham, India failed to play out the allotted 60 overs, being bowled out for 190 thanks largely to a brilliant 75 by G R Vishwanath, in the face of a fiery bowling attack led by Michael Holding (4/33). A first wicket stand of 138, powered by Gordon Greenidge with an unbeaten 106, swept the Indians aside as the defending champions cruised to a 9-wicket win.
On the same day, New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka by the same margin, at Trent Bridge. Like India, Sri Lanka (the reigning ICC Trophy champions) were swept aside for 189 inside the allotted overs, and Glenn Turner with an unbeaten 83 partnered Howarth (63 not out) to take the Kiwis past the target in the 48th over.
At Leeds, Canada managed to bat out the overs against Pakistan, but put only 139/9 on the board -- a target Pakistan effortlessly surpassed for the loss of just two wickets.
Perhaps the tightest of opening day games was the one between Australia and England. The former were comfortably poised on 97/1 at lunch but in the remaining 24 overs, managed to add only 62 for the loss of eight wickets, thanks to some good England fielding and pathetic calling and running. In reply, Rodney Hogg and Allan Hurst produced a searing opening spell, reducing England to 5/2 before Graham Gooch and captain Mike Brearley steadied ship, and piloted the side to a six wicket win.
From an Indian point of view, that was a good thing, too -- the team for sure didn't look likely to earn any points through actual play. In its next outing, against New Zealand, India managed only 182 in 55.5 overs, with Sunil Gavaskar playing some handsome shots to top score with 55. The Kiwis then cruised past the target in the 57th over for the loss of just two wickets. Trivia buffs might want to remember that Lance Cairns, father of current Kiwi all-rounder Chris, was one of the bowling stars in this game with 3/36 and with the bat, the man who led the Kiwi response was a certain John Geoffrey Wright (48), who teamed with Bruce Edgar (84 not out) in a 100-run opening stand that set up the win.
Elsewhere, Pakistan smashed Australia at Nottingham. A powerful batting performance led by Majid Khan and Asif Iqbal, 61 apiece, and the young Javed Miandad (46) saw Pakistan accumulate 286/7 in the allotted 70 overs. In a rain-interrupted game that extended into the reserve day, Australia were bowled out for 197 in the 58th over, with Sikhandar Bakht proving destroyer in chief with 3/34.
For those with an interest in cricket history, this game could well have played an important part in the evolution of one-day strategy -- the Pakistanis kept wickets in hand till the end and then launched into a burst of hurricane hitting, smashing 86 off the last ten and putting the ‘slog overs' concept on the map.
Canada for its part provided an early example of why minnows should not be playing at this level -- Bob Willis with 4/11 and Chris Old with 4/8 bundled them out for 45, and England went on to win by 8 wickets in an incredibly one sided game.
The thrills of the one-day game at its best finally came on view in the third round, as the top teams met each other.
New Zealand inserted the Windies at Nottingham and, thanks largely to Greenidge and Clive Lloyd, the batting side put 244 on the board. Facing the West Indies battery of quicks led by Andy Roberts (3/43), the Kiwis batted steadily without ever managing to up the tempo, and at the end of the allotted 60 overs had managed only 212/9 (Richard Hadlee 42).
England versus Pakistan, at Headingley, was equally razor-edged. Greeted by a greentop and overcast skies, Asif Iqbal chose to insert the opposition despite being without the services of Sarfaraz Nawaz -- and Imran Khan and Sikandhar Bakht bowled superbly to take out two wickets before the England score had even entered double digits.
England, 98/4 at lunch after 35 overs, had to endure further misery as Majid Khan bowled his off spinners with venom to reduce them to 118/8. The two Bobs, Taylor and Willis, then produced some late order resistance to help England on to 169/9 in the allotted overs.
Pakistan for its part started smoothly and at one point were 25 for no loss before Hendricks and Botham paired up to trigger a collapse, reducing the batting side to 34/6. This set the stage for a brilliant contest between skipper Iqbal and the English bowlers, with Asif employing all his mastery to push the score along to 115/7 before becoming the eighth batsman to be dismissed, for 51, the highest individual score in the game. Eventually, Pakistan folded for 155 -- 14 short of the target. An interesting sidelight was Brearley's use of Geoffrey Boycott as a bowler -- the opener, focusing on keeping the ball on the stumps as slow and low as he could manage, not only arrested runs but also took out the last two wickets to seal the win.
If these two third round games were tense, the other two were noted for their one-sided nature. The Canada versus Australia game was noteworthy only for an unusually belligerent onslaught by Glenroy Sealy, the Canadian opener, who blasted four fours in Rodney Hogg's first over, and took another ten off his second, smashing him out of the attack. That, however, was that for the game – Canada duly folded for 105, a target Australia surpassed easily to seal a seven wicket win.
Joining Canada at the bottom of the table -- with zero points from three outings -- were the Indians who, in their last encounter, went down tamely to Sri Lanka in a game notable only for the fact that the Lankans gave an early intimation of the kind of team they would evolve into in time.
Batting first, Sri Lanka made 238 for five in classic one day style, Wettimuny playing the anchoring opener's role; Roy Dias, the precursor of Aravinda D'Silva, stroking brilliantly in the middle and Duleep Mendis, foreshadowing Aravinda D'Silva, blasting a rapid 64 at the end. In reply, India against tight line and length bowling and good fielding managed a mere 191.
The semifinal lineup thus was England versus New Zealand, and Pakistan versus the West Indies.