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A Cup that brought him little cheer

By Bikash Mohapatra
July 09, 2009 20:04 IST
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What is the first thing you remember when there is mention of Sunil Gavaskar in the World Cup?

For those who are eternal positivists and simply don't want to read/hear anything negative about Indian cricket in general, and Gavaskar in particular, it has to be his rather uncharacteristic 103 not out against New Zealand at the Vidharba Cricket Association (VCA) ground in Nagpur in 1987, his first and only one-day century.

For those who are a tad more realistic, it will be his painstaking unbeaten 36 (off 174 balls) against England at Lord's in 1975, an innings which, some argue, was in response to his annoyance with the promotion of S Venkataraghavan as captain, though Gavaskar later attributed it to his failure to adjust to the pace of the game.

Or, maybe, it was his failure in the 1987 semi-final, again against England, in a match that turned out to be the final one-dayer of his otherwise illustrious career.

Gavaskar, after the above-mentioned century against the Kiwis in the previous match, belied all expectations in a match that mattered more, managing only four.

Whatever the case, Gavaskar and the World Cup didn't quite make a good pair, the fact that he was a member of the 1983 Cup-winning Indian squad notwithstanding.

There are figures that corroborate this argument.

In 19 matches in four World Cup appearances, Gavaskar amassed 561 runs (@ 35.06).

Take the 1987 edition -- his best in the competition by far, where, in the twilight of his career, he amassed 300 runs averaging over 50 -- out of the equation and that number shrinks to 261 runs (@ 26.10) in 12 matches.

Even in India's 1983-winning campaign, where the entire team contributed, Gavaskar's performance stuck out like a sore thumb.

His run sequence made for a poor reading: 19, 4, 0, 9, 25 and 2.

And the tournament also witnessed him suffer the ignominy of being dropped from the squad for a couple of matches.

After scoring 19 against the West Indies and just four against Zimbabwe in India's opening two matches, Gavaskar was made to sit out the next two, against Australia and the West Indies respectively.

Gavaskar being dropped had hitherto been unheard of. But it actually happened at the sport's biggest stage.

The number of matches could have been more had Ravi Shastri, asked to open the innings in his place, not failed in both the matches.

However, India lost both the games and Gavaskar was drafted back in the squad for India's fifth match against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells (yes, the one where Kapil scored 175 not out).

He responded with a second-ball duck.

He was fortunate to make the semi-final eleven, considering he totaled just 32 runs in the run-up to that stage.

However, he scored a paltry 25 against England and fared even worse in the final, making just two.

But, to his credit, his fielding in the slips helped him contribute in some way to that triumph.

Some argue that the dropping of Gavaskar had to do with the fact that there were ego clashes between him and the incumbent skipper (Kapil Dev) while others attribute it to his form with the bat.

However, the fact remains that Gavaskar was dropped for two matches in the tournament and failed to succeed with the bat even when he was reinstated.

On the positive side, he happens to be a member of the side that surprisingly won the World Cup.

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Bikash Mohapatra