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1987 – Gavaskar bids adieu
Partab Ramchand

By the time of the fourth World Cup in 1987, there was a considerable change in the scenario involving India. Not only were they the defending champions, but over the four years since that memorable day at Lord’s the Indians did not do anything to besmirch their newly acquired exalted status. The triumph in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985 confirmed this and they continued to perform creditably with the result that they were installed as one of the favourites. Not surprisingly for the tournament was being conducted in the sub-continent. And then with the tag of defending champions and with the nucleus of the triumphant 1983 side still intact the Indians did have a halo of sorts over them.

India were placed in group A with Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe and it was clear that a semi-final placing was theirs for the asking. But India were tipped to top the group and for the first time there was some sort of hype surrounding the team. The first match against Australia was a real thriller. After Australia led off with 270 for six in 50 overs, India at 207 for two seemed well on course for victory. But pace bowler Craig McDermott (4 for 56) brought about a collapse and wickets fell at regular intervals. When the last over started India needed six runs but they had only one wicket in hand. Maninder Singh took four runs off Steve Waugh but was bowled off the fifth ball and Australia snatched a one-run win.

And when they started their next match against New Zealand by being three down for 21, there was considerable speculation whether the Indians were crumbling under the intense pressure of high expectations. However, Kapil Dev with an unbeaten 72 led from the front and India were able to post a challenging total of 252 for seven in 50 overs. This was enough for them to win by 16 runs and thereafter the Indians never looked back.

They won five matches on the trot and were peaking at the right time. The batting with Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Sidhu, Vengsarkar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Kapil Dev around had clicked, while the bowling with Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma and Maninder Singh had performed admirably. Gavaskar in fact scored his first ODI century in 106 matches off just 85 balls against New Zealand, while in the same match Chetan Sharma became the first bowler to take a hat trick in the World Cup.Read moreread more

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With a record of five wins and one loss – the same as Australia – India took their expected place at the top of the group edging out their rivals on net run rate. This was important for it gave them the opportunity to play England at Bombay instead of travelling to Lahore to play Pakistan.

By now everyone was talking of an India-Pakistan final. Indeed it seemed there wasn’t any way in which the Indian juggernaut could be stopped. Even after Pakistan were beaten by Australia in a shock result, an Indian victory was taken for granted.

After all England had just about qualified with a record of four wins and two defeats. Put in to bat, England led off with 254 for five in 50 overs. Graham Gooch top-scored with a superbly compiled 115 during which he repeatedly swept Shastri and Maninder to the boundary leading one newspaper to give the strikingly imaginative headline Sweeping Beauty. He hit 11 fours off 136 balls. Skipper Mike Gatting (56) and Gooch added 117 runs for the third wicket in 19 overs.

Even in the face of such a competitive total, India were confident especially when they were 168 for four with Azharuddin and Kapil Dev firmly entrenched. They needed only 87 runs from 15 overs and with the required run-rate just under six an over, two well-settled batsmen at the crease and with plenty of batting to come (Shastri, Prabhakar, Kiran More) India seemed well on the path towards the final. At this stage, however, Kapil played an impetuous stroke heaving Eddie Hemmings to be caught by Gatting at deep mid-wicket. India’s subsequent tactics were positively panicky. From 204 for five, India slid sharply to 219 all out to go down by 35 runs. It was a defeat that numbed the nation and the post-mortem continued for a long time. The biggest casualty was Kapil Dev who lost the captaincy. It certainly was India’s best chance to win the World Cup and they squandered it.

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