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Indian cricket and June 25th

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Kapil_Dev_India_West_Indies_World_Cup_Final_Cricket‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom…it was the epoch of belief…’ wrote Charles Dickens in The Tale of Two Cities. We seem to be revisiting that now, in the present-day world. Just as everything seemed to be going wonderfully for Indian cricket, something snaps. Not all seems hunky dory anymore.

The Indian team’s dismal performance in the finals of the Champions Trophy-2017, can of course, as this writer remarked in his previous piece, be attributed to the Pakistani resurgence. But some questions are surely being raised and these go far beyond just the performance of the players on the given day.

The Indian team left for the West Indies with Kumble staying behind for the ICC meeting in London. Considering he has now stepped down as coach, perhaps this was a while coming.

(Let us briefly dwell on the good news that Afghanistan and Ireland have got Test-cricket status. Kudos to Lalchand Rajput, the head coach of the Afghan team…he would surely be delighted.)

Then, there is the 25th of June. On the 25th of June, 2017, India will clash against the West Indies, at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago in an ODI-match. It was on this very day, 34 years ago, another Indian team clashed against another West Indian team in another venue – the Mecca of cricket in England – in the final of the third Prudential World Cup.

Kapil’s Devils versus Lloyds’ Calypso-Kings. Underdogs or dark horses who had nothing to lose (just as Pakistan had nothing to lose in the finals of the Champions Trophy a week ago) versus defending champions looking at a hat-trick of wins. The latter perhaps were over-confident, and dark horses became tigers to contend with on that English summer evening.

Viv Richards topscored for the West Indians (scoring 23% of the team’s total), while Kris Srikkanth did that for the Indians (with 20% of the total). Andy Roberts and Madanlal Sharma (the fastest offspinner Gordon Greenidge has ever batted against) bagged three wickets for their respective teams. Never-say die go-getter Kapil Dev on the pitch and a shy and modest Kapil Dev after the match…and of course several other memorable moments are recorded in the mind’s eye, to be passed on to cricket lovers. Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu…Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh…that was unity in diversity showing what it could achieve!

If that makes June 25th a memorable day for India in ODI cricket, we need to go further back in time to 1932, to another June 25th. To the same venue at which Kapil Dev lifted the third Prudential World Cup trophy. To the beginning of Indian Test cricket. When India made its Test debut, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies were already on the scene. India was the sixth nation to enter the fray.

Led by Colonel CK Nayudu, Mohammed Nissar, Amar Singh, Jahangir Khan, PE Palia, Naoomal Jaoomal, Wazir Ali, JG Navle, SMH Colah, Lall Singh and Nazir Ali took on Douglas Jardine’s eleven. The Englishmen batted first, and Mohammed Nissar was at his very best bowling Herbert Sutcliffe first followed immediately by Percy Holmes. He went on to bag 5 wickets with Douglas Jardine top-scoring with 79. Yes, the same Jardine whom we now associate with Bodyline bowling!

While the English captain top-scored for his team, CK Nayudu did likewise for the Indians, and Bowes bagged 4 wickets for the Englishmen. In their second innings, Jardine got the most runs again (this time a few more than what he had got in the first innings) and Jahangir Khan sent four Englishmen back to the pavilion. India, chasing 336 runs, folded for 187….158 runs short of the target; Wally Hammond bagging three wickets.

Interestingly, only Mohammed Nissar of India bagged five wickets in that Test match. Does this somehow seem a bit similar to the numbers we got to see on the 18th of June in the Champions Trophy final? With the difference that in 1932, the margin was smaller than the total; while on 18th June, 2017, it was the other way round. Often, psychologically, it is a good thing to lose by a margin which is smaller than the total you manage to reach before the 10th wicket falls.

Of course, India may have played many more matches on June 25th, between 1932 and 1983 and between 1983 and now. But these two, we would all agree, stand out in memory. The coincidence is striking indeed.

Till 2007, I remembered June 25th for these two facts. After that year, it is special to me, as it happens to be my wife’s birthday! Many things to celebrate on this day then…when it is bright for over 20 hours of the day higher up in the northern hemisphere from where I am penning this piece…and this puts me in a vantage position to follow the India-WI match in the Caribbean!

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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