There's something about an innings of 175.
There's an almost incandescent quality about it. There's an almost epic feel to it. 'Milestone numbers' have an ethereal feel. Of these, however, 100, 150 and 200 are boring.
A batsman getting out on one of these scores almost suggests he got distracted by his achievement and gave his wicket away. 125 is too small. Anything over 200 is generally too much to hope for.
175 is perfect.
In limited over cricket, crossing this threshold means greatness which only a few have achieved.
Of course, 175 is on everyone's tongue today because of Chris Gayle's incredible innings. As much as we might say that T20 cricket is batsman-oriented, it takes a certain amount of talent to pillage 17 sixes. Ending up on 175 had a nice, round feel to it.
There have been three other innings of 175. Each of these three can be rated much higher than many innings numerically greater. These are, in chronological order:
1. Kapil Dev vs Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, 1983
Not enough can ever be written of this innings, mainly because there is no video footage of it. Tragic it is, that so many mediocre games are provided to us, and the greatest ODI innings by an Indian, probably will never be seen by anybody apart from the lucky few who turned up.
To be sure, India was never a fancied team in the 1983 World Cup, having had an abysmal World Cup record. However, a few wins left them still in contention, but they needed to win their next game against Zimbabwe.
An easy task, one might think, given that the Africans were making their World Cup debut. Well, the Indian top order would believe otherwise, as they were soon reduced to 17/5. Think about it. 17 for 5.
With World Cup dreams fast fading, India's Greatest All-rounder (sorry Agarkar fans!) stepped up to score a magnificent 175, with Syed Kirmani for company. This became the highest score by a batsman in an ODI. In those days, there were 60 overs in an ODI game, and Kapil reached his century in the 49th (which shows that it was indeed a measured innings, not just all brutal murder).
Of course, he demolished the bowling after that, scoring 75 runs in 11 overs, taking India to a massive (at the time!) 266. He also had the excellent figures of 11-1-32-1, making the Man Of The Match adjudicator's job pretty easy.
Kapil was 24, a newly-appointed captain who not many people thought was fit to be the leader. He proved all of them wrong. He had a few more tricks up his sleeve, including the catch that would change the course of the final - and indeed, cricket consumption in India, and eventually, the world.
But it all started with that 175 at Tunbridge Wells. Too bad nobody had a video.
2. Herschelle Gibbs vs Australia, Johannesburg, 2006
In what would turn out to be the greatest ODI of all time, Ricky Ponting scored a magnificent 164, taking his team past 400 for the first time in ODI cricket history.
He would probably think that since nobody had crossed 400 in 2348 prior ODIs, it would be a safe bet that it would be a while till the next one was scored. Boy, was he proved wrong!
It is alleged that during the break, Jacques Kallis went to his dejected teammates and said, “Hey, why are you guys so depressed? They fell 16 runs short – it’s a 450 wicket!”.
Whether or not this story is true – something definitely motivated Herschelle Gibbs during the break. Forever threatening to flirt with greatness, Gibbs finally had his moment.
With an inspired Graeme Smith setting the tone with 90, Gibbs launched himself into Australia’s hapless bowling. He paced himself superbly, never going berserk for the sake of it. In fact, while he was at the crease, no over went for 20+, which is a stunning stat!
Despite this, he scorched 21 fours and 7 sixes. A few hiccups later, Mark Boucher steered South Africa to a famous victory. For Gibbs it was – and remains – his greatest ever moment. Watch video
3. Sachin Tendulkar vs Australia, Hyderabad, 2009
Let’s put aside all the flak that Sachin is getting these days. This is in fact being published on the Master’s 40th birthday. Rewind into history to see some absolute gems. There was the 143 at Sharjah, and 134 (which was exactly 15 years ago). And then, there was this innings in Hyderabad. It was an innocuous setting, one would think.
To put this innings in context, one must appreciate that over the 2000s, India became less dependant on Tendulkar as they were in the late 90s. A slew of new talent – Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir, along with the peaking of the legends Dravid and Laxman – meant that India had enough batting muscle were the Mumbai Maestro to get out.
So given that, when Australia set an imposing target of 351, and it was only Tendulkar who was braving the storm, it was an almost romantic throwback to 1998, when Tendulkar braved his back and the heat to score a magnificent 136 against Pakistan in Chennai, in vain.
Here too, here was a lone soldier. He played shots that had his worst critics over the last few years, baying for his retirement (from 2008 itself!), applauding. His shots were of sublime, genius quality. More than that, it was how he gripped the attention of the nation. More than anybody else.
I can bet that even today, if Tendulkar were to score a century in the class of this Hyderabad masterpiece, the entire country would forget its temporary hatred towards him and place him on a pedestal again.
In the end, Tendulkar did hole out – and India lost. And that was an almost necessary thing – if India had won, the romance would go out of it. The aura of Tendulkar grows larger when we say that his two greatest ODI innings – 143 and 175, each against Australia – were in losing causes – that the rest of the team couldn’t match his genius and wasted his efforts. Watch video
175. Can’t wait for the next one.