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Saturday, April 2, 2011

India's best chance to lift WC 2011 - some history and interesting trivia

India and Srilanka have been in the Finals twice before and it is the third time for both the teams. Incidentally both the teams are led by  Wicket-keepers – Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kumara Sangakkara.   Do you know who was the Indian wicket keeper when the teams first met in 1979 ?  Have you heard of One day internationals being played for more than a day (3 days !!!!)

For the Semis – I harped on the fact that India has beaten Pak in all their 4 previous encounters in WC and hence most like to win.  The other logic was Kiwis had reached the Semi finals stage 5 times earlier and they lost as they are won’t to.  But statistics are not always a pointer – it is the winnability or the most probable chance which puts India ahead of Sri Lanka [at least for people like us].    Over the last three years, we have played each other on 33 occasions and India has won 18 times.

The Indo Lankan ties have not generated so much of heat but have been closely contested ones.  India has won 67 of the 128 matches, lost 50 and no result in 11. The highest is 414 and the nadir was a team total of 54.


Sri Lanka
In India

Quite often one recalls the tense SF in 1996 which India lost – coming as it did in the wake of a win over Pak in QF.  Some remember the drama of Vinod Kambli whilst others grieve the unruly behavior of crowds at Eden Gardens when Match referee Clive Lloyd took the teams off for 15 minutes and then awarded the game to Lanka.  

It was  ODI 1081 played on 13th Mar 1996 – Azhar and Ranatunga were the captains.  Ranatunga today on TV told that it was a toss that he liked to lose as he could not read the pitch;  Azhar won and put the Lions in.    Lankans had somewhat an easy entry with two walkovers with Australia and WI refusing to travel to Ceylon on security grounds.  Little Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya provided electrifying starts compelling Phil Defreitas and later Manoj Prabhakar to turn spinners midway….  Both the openers were gone in the first over itself but mad max Arvinda de Silva played a great innings – his 50 had 11 fours and came off 32 deliveries.  He finally scored 66.

Azhar’s decision back fired and Lankans set a target of  252.   Sachin opened with Sidhu.  With Manjrekar, Sachin forayed a good partnership and Indians were  98/1 when Tendulkar was stumped off Jayasuriya.   Azhar, Manjrekar, Srinath, Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, Ashish Kapoor followed and soon Indians were tottering at 120/8 losing 7 wickets for 22 runs.    Vinod Kambli struggled for 29 balls making 10 runs and never looked scoring anything comfortably.  The crowds went berserk and when match was awarded, walking off the field, tears came rolling…..

What rankles in mind is the ODI 68 the first match when India played Ceylon who were yet to get International status.  This was played at Old Trafford, Manchester.  Srinivasan Venkatraghavan, a genius, won the toss and put Lankans in.  They were without their captain Anura Tenekoon and Bandula Warnapura  captained.  A grand partnership was there between  Wettimuny and Dias [known for his wristy strokes.  Then came Mendis  -  Louis Rohan Duleep Mendis, a stylish right hander in the mould of Gundappa Vishwanath.  He scored century in each innings of a Test at Chepauk much later.  A confident left handed school boy SP Pasqual added 52 runs with him.  At 17, he became the youngest cricketer to play in a WC when he made his debut against NZ at Trent Bridge.  He played only 2 matches and migrated to US to obtain a masters in Political Science..

Surinder Khanna was the Indian wicket keeper.    Very curiously this was not One dayer in its true sense – you can call it only a limited overs match at best.  It was a late start on 16th June 1979  - no match on Sunday and Indians had to wait until 18th June 1979 to make their chase.   Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad combined to have a good opening stand of 60 and at lunch Indians were 117 for 2.  Leggie Somachandra Desilva bowled well dismissing Vengsarkar, Brijesh Patel and Mohinder Amarnath and  Opatha polished the tail off.

The WC and the test series against England that followed were rank bad for Venkat, as he reportedly heard the news of his removal whilst on air, returning back.  The quality off spinner who was accurate and penetrative probably never got his due as he was side lined by another class offie Erapalli Prasanna.  Probably those were days when the selectors or the Captain never thought of playing both.  Besides there were also Bishan Bedi and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.  He added some useful runs as a tail ender, was a smart fielder and a very shrewd Captain – sad that he was never backed by the Selectors and there were always reports of players not fully backing him.


He remained supremely fit throughout his playing days lasting from 1965 to 1983 and later became a highly respectable Umpire.  Some of you know might have heard of MJ Gopalan Trophy – a bi-annual cricket tournament that was played between Ceylon and Madras, inaugurated in 1952  to celebrate 25 years of MJ as a cricketer and hockey player.  It was regular fixture until 1983 and Tamilnadu had won the trophy many a times.  In 1958, TN  won the 3 day match by first innings lead and in 1973, Tamilnadu won by 3 runs thanks to 10 wicket haul of Venkat. 

Now these apart, the Indian middle order which has not exactly clicked has good chances of clicking against the Lankans and it is time for Dhoni to come good.  Perhaps a gamble of playing Yusuf Pathan in place of Gambhir may not be a bad idea as Yusuf is more likely to succeed against the islanders.  Ashwin should play and perhaps Sreesanth for Munaf may not be a bad idea either.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.  

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