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1975 - Gavaskar’s infamous 36 and a unique win
By Partab Ramchand

Indian administrators were tardy in their approach towards encouraging the limited-overs game. The initial thinking was that it was a fad that would not last long. Also there were doubts as to whether the Indian cricket fan, weaned on Test cricket for years, would take to the shorter version of the game. While the Gillette Cup was launched in England in 1963, it was not until 1973 that the BCCI constituted the first one-day domestic tournament, the Deodhar Trophy.

The unimaginative approach was reflected in how the Indian cricketers tackled the intricacies of the one-day game. India had played just two ODIs in England in 1974 before taking part in the inaugural World Cup in England the following year. Today’s hype surrounding the Indian team was nowhere in evidence; interest in their campaign was lukewarm. Test matches were still uppermost in the minds of the Indian cricket fan, though, it was hoped that placed in an easier group, India with some luck might make it to the semi-finals.

Easier group was right, for while West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were bunched together in group B, India were alongside England, New Zealand and East Africa in group A. East Africa would be a piece of cake, while England it was conceded would be too strong for India. So the crucial game for India would be the one against New Zealand. Read moreread more

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Conventional wisdom had it that the ideal bowling line-up in one-day cricket was four seamers and one spinner. But India should have been the exception to this rule given their traditional spin strength. The team management, however, stuck to convention while picking the team for the opening game against England with disastrous results.

The four-man seam attack of Karsan Ghavri, Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal and Abid Ali was treated rather harshly and the result was that England rattled up 334 for four in 60 overs. The lone spinner in skipper S Venkatraghavan was the most economical among the bowlers. England made merry with opening batsman Dennis Amiss getting 137 off 147 balls with 18 hits to the fence. He put on 176 runs for the second wicket with Keith Fletcher. In the final stages, Chris Old piled on the agony by clouting an unbeaten 51 off 30 balls with four fours and two sixes.

The Indian reply was limp made unforgettable in a hideous sort of way by Sunil Gavaskar’s infamous 36 not out in 60 overs. He played 174 balls hitting but a solitary boundary and India finished at a highly unsatisfactory 132 for two off 60 overs. The Indian reply left a bad taste in the mouth and as Tony Lewis wrote at the time ``It was a perverse moment of self-inflicted shame’’.

Following this nightmarish start, the Indians looked forward to a romp against East Africa. And romp they did becoming the first team in ODIs to notch up a ten-wicket victory.

Batting first, East Africa were bowled out for 120 in 55.3 overs. Realising the folly of playing a lone spinner, the team management replaced Ghavri with Bishan Bedi. And the classy left-arm spinner took little time in displaying his skill. Bowling his full quota, Bedi finished with the still-mesmerising figures of 12-8-6-1. Gavaskar (65) and Farokh Engineer (54) then carried on the good work by figuring in an unbroken partnership of 123 in 29.5 overs and setting the seal on India’s overwhelming superiority.

So it all boiled down to the needle match between India and New Zealand to spot the second semi-finalist, England having already qualified. And it turned out to be a well-contested game.

India’s top order crumbled but Abid Ali, playing what turned out to be his last match for India, came up with a gallant 70 to take the score from 101 for six to 230 all out in 60 overs. The veteran all-rounder faced 98 balls and hit five fours and a six and shared two fruitful partnerships of 55 for the seventh wicket with Madan Lal (20) and 60 for the ninth wicket with Venkatraghavan (26 not out).

New Zealand lost three wickets for 70, but Glenn Turner and Brian Hastings (34) began the rescue act with a stand of 65 for the fourth wicket. Ken Wadsworth (22) then helped Turner add a further 50 runs for the fifth wicket and this in turn was followed by a 39-run sixth wicket partnership between Turner and Richard Hadlee (15). Despite the efforts of Bedi, who again put in a splendid performance (12-6-28-1), New Zealand squeaked home with four wickets and seven balls to spare thanks in the main to Turner who got an unbeaten 114 his second unbeaten century of the competition thus ending India’s challenge.

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