| BISHAN: A master in both versions
As the eighth World Cup draws near, I am reminded of the first one-day International match that India played in the summer of 1974. It was a dismal summer for us in England. After we lost the three-Test series squarely under Ajit Wadekar, we played two one-day games against England for the Prudential Trophy at Leeds.
In the first match on July 14, 1974, batting first, we scored a praiseworthy 265 with Wadekar (67), Brijesh Patel (82) and Farokh Engineer (32) being the principal scorers after Sunil Gavaskar (28) and Sudhir Naik (18) gave India a good start.
However, we did not last the full quota of 55 overs. The innings came to an end in 53rd over as sheer inexperience saw us losing five wickets in 13 deliveries. Our inexperience was much more visible when England started their reply against a defensive field setting. England chased the target without much ado, making the required runs in 51 overs.
In the second match, India’s decision to pack the side with batsmen proved disastrous as our innings folded up for a mere 171 runs. From 40 for one, India collapsed to 94 for six, before Gundappa Viswanath (32) and Ashok Mankad (44) got together to improve things a bit. England, who were better equipped as an one-day team, coasted to victory in the 49th over.
Inside 12 months we were back in England for the inaugural World Cup in 1975. We were considered novices at that time. Farokh Engineer, Bishan Bedi and myself had the experience of having played in the English counties and one-day games. But experience at the one-day level for other Indian team members was very limited. Thus, the team was basically picked on domestic performance in the Deodhar Trophy one-day tournament introduced in 1974.
One can agree that the Indian players at that point of time were short on experience, which was mainly due to lack of international exposure in the shorter version of the game.
The format was also against us, because we had only three matches before the semi-finals. We were pitted against England, New Zealand and East Africa. We had talent, but there was not much of preparation. Except myself and Bishan, who is a master in both types of cricket, others did not bowl to their potential.
However, reality was harsh. In the opening match at Lord’s, England took the first strike and raced to 334 for four in 60 overs. Dennis Amiss (137), Keith Fletcher (68) and Chris Old (51 off only 28 deliveries) dominated the proceedings. All the medium pacers came in for severe punishment and they were carted all over. However, Bishan, who bowled well, and myself (12 overs for 41 runs) revealed that quality spinners can always hold their own in any type of the game.
Faced with such a daunting task, our reply was pathetic. Just 132 runs came from 60 overs. This was the match which ruffled the feathers of one of India’s greatest opening batsmen. The anti-climax was the batting performance of Sunil Gavaskar who batted through the 60 overs to make 36 runs.
I dare say that despite reminders he did injustice to the viewing public. The wicket was pretty good and I do not know what was going on in his mind. He never paid heed to the reminders sent to him. Endless debate can go on as to what others did, but the fact remains that India were comprehensively outplayed in every department of the game by England.
In the following game we registered our first victory in limited-overs cricket. Actually it was a mismatch. East Africa had no clue whatsoever to the guiles of Bishan, who gave away just six runs from 12 overs with one wicket. This remains one of the most economical bowling in limited-overs game.
In this match, Farokh opened with Gavaskar and India raced to a 10-wicket victory by scoring 123 runs in 30 overs. Actually, Gavaskar scored 64 runs as against Farokh’s 54 and I must say that his batting practice against England was not wasted.
However, the euphoria of our emphatic win over East Africa evaporated as New Zealand managed to defeat us in the next match, which sealed our chances of progressing further. We did post a respectable total of 230 in 60 overs with Aunshuman Gaekward (57) and Abid Ali (70) being the main contributors.
However, the experienced Glenn Turner, who slammed a superb 171 against East Africa joining Gavaskar in carrying the bat, came up with yet another batting feat. He made an unbeaten 114 to guide his team to a four-wicket victory with only seven balls to spare.
Bishan proved his abilities once again conceding only 28 runs in 12 overs as compared to my figures of 39 runs in 12 overs. The other bowlers failed to check the flow of runs yet again.
As captain of the team, I had to take the brunt. Nevertheless, I had played enough cricket at higher levels and knew what winning and losing was. We got on the wrong foot in the first match. We needed to beat New Zealand but our progress was halted by Turner who was in tremendous form. New Zealand could win only in the last but one over as they had the experience to carry them through, which our team lacked.
As I said earlier, I am not blaming my players because we lost. I am blaming them because they lacked the application and temperament that goes with one-day games. And, there was no proper planning to pace up the innings for the first 15 overs, the next and so on. But that sort of mental attitude was not there. (PTI)