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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ODI 2932 at Rajkot ~ the hard path that India traversed along in Oneday Cricket

Dear Cricket lovers,

All newspapers are screaming about the win at Rajkot in ODI 2932 which saw 824 runs being scored in 100 overs of high octane indiscriminate harassment the bowlers had, culminating in a nail biting last ball finish at Madhavrao Scindia stadium. The details of the Indian win, scintillating Sehwag and brilliant Dilshan are available everywhere and this article has almost nothing about it.

The city of Rajkot in Gujarat is located on the banks of Aji river and Niari river. Rajkot was the capital of Saurashtra State from 1948, then merged into Bombay State in 1956, again merged into Gujarat State on 1st May 1960. This stadium earlier known as Municipal Ground / Race course ground is sort of happy hunting ground though statistically, we have won 6 out of 11 matches involving the home team. Yesterdays numbers were mind boggling and records went tumbling. India piled up massive 414 for 7. In olden days, a score of 250+ was considered match winning and most teams would have given up their chase but not today.

The total of 414 is the highest for India but only the fifth highest, the first being 443/9 made by Lankans against Netherlands at Amstelveen; there are 8 scores of above 400 and Indians have registered it twice. Despite bowling well, Zaheer still ended up becoming the top in runs conceded by any Indian bowler giving one more than what Javagal had given in 2003 WC final and way above Karsan Ghavri in 1975 WC. Team India breached the 300 mark first in 1996 at Sharjah against Pakistan and have done it 56 times now including the two 400+; infact they have amassed more than 300 – 8 times in year 2009 itself.

In earlier days, there were no batting powerplays and teams generally crawled through their allotted overs even in Prudential World cups which were 60 overs formats. Some of you may not know that matches in England were 55 over affairs earlier – these tall scores were not to be seen even in those days. Even the slog overs were not so heard of.

The balance from ball to bat shifted when cricket was played at neutral venue – specifically the desert of Sharjah. Uptil then the fearsome West Indian were only played in back foot. Remember one match at Sharjah when Chikka hooked Marshall for a six and then square drove him for a four next delivery – expectations ran very high, we were charged, ordering everyone inside the room not to shift even a bit – air of tension, wily Malcolm charged in head down like a matador – middle and off went for a walk beating Jeff Dujon restoring the pride. That year also saw Imran smacking Joel Garner for 22 runs including 3 sixes in a single over. Probably that day initiated the downfall of Windies, domination of bat over ball and cricket was never the same thereafter.

Now a days every batsman throws his bat and we see tall scores. During the middle phase we had the fielding restrictions in first 15 overs ; in the 1996 overs Lankans redefined the handling of this first 15, with Sanath and little Kallu drawing blood out of all bowlers and turning two fast bowlers (Defreitas and Majoj Prabhakars) into bowling spin at the end of their overs and ending their careers.

For the regular followers of One dayers from its advent in 1971 and from the Indians first match in 1974, the way the game is played has undergone paradigm shifts. When we have so high scoring encounters and when 400 is not good enough, here is something of a match which those over 40 years of age who would like to forget but would remain haunting their memories.
The first WC was sponsored by Prudential Assurance and in the opening game on June 7, 1975, England the hosts played India at the mecca of cricket – the Lords. The format was that of two groups of four countries each and even a defeat theoretically, the team could progress to the semis. India were in the group consisting of England, Newzealand and East Africa (which later became Zimbabwe)

It was sort of ideal settings, a lung opener of a prestigious Tournament, that too inaugural one – great ground of Lords at London, glorious sunshine in a summer – packed grounds by their standards – for a second forget Eden Gardens or Chepauk milling crowds.

Indians were not accustomed to playing one days and were captained by the famous offie Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan – though was not popular choice amongst the players. England battled and piled up 334 losing 4 in 60 overs, the highest at that time. Dennis Amiss led with 137. Karsan Ghavri conceded 83 in his 11. Then came the Indian challenge or factually the lack of it. Sunil Manohar Gavaskar widely admitted for his technique against fast bowling and he played them admirably without helmet for most days, opened alongside Eknath Solkar. Indians lost Solkar,Gaekwad and Vishie and finished at 132/3 in 60 overs. Sunny carried his bat through scoring a snail-like 36 of 174 balls with a solitary hit to the fence. It was reported that there were incidents of crowd running into the ground requesting Gava to come out even. Till date this strategy remains a blot in his otherwise brilliant career. Frustration was writ large on Indian fans and the dejected fans could hardly fathom out the plan, it at all there was one. It was indeed a perverse moment of self inflicted shame, India lost by 202 runs.

Rumours abounded, the most popular being that Gavaskar was unhappy with the team selection, especially the decision to ditch the team's reliance on spinners as also with the captaincy issue. Late in his career, he once revealed that he had actually been caught behind off the second ball of the innings……… but nobody appealed. The same WC also saw a belligerent century of 85 balls by Clive Lloyds ensuring their win over the mighty Aussies. By and large those were not very happy days for Indian cricket lovers as a solitary win would come once in a while.

Things are far different now a days !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With regards – S Sampathkumar


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