BOB AND WEAVE
I had, so to say, a personal stake in the '79 Cup. For, a man I'd played some cricket with had been chosen to play for India. In April, I went to Ferozeshah Kotla to watch this fellow warm up for the battle. At the nets, I saw him take on a slew of local 'fast' bowlers, all bowling from 18 yards. In between deliveries, he would practise the duck, bending and moving his head from one side to the other. This was the 'stroke' he was most likely to play in India's first match against the West Indies.
The ducker duly got a duck in the Cup, but it's unfair to single him out. Gavaskar and Co failed too as India were bounced out for 190. Of these runs, Vishwanath made 75, an innings of great character. For weeks afterwards, we would remember the late-cuts and leg-glides. For the fans of '79 were far less demanding than the fans of '99. At least in the shorter version of the game, we were satisfied with an individual performance of merit. Certainly, we didn't expect our team to win. The West Indies passed India's score with one wicket down and overs to spare. We were then routed by New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
THE SHRINK'S VACATION
THE English no longer dominate cricket, but they do still dominate how it's written about and remembered. Consider how Mike Brearley is represented as the supreme tactician, the Cambridge scholar and sometime philosophy don who had a 'degree in people'. To read what's written about him by English journalists and cricket historians, one might get the impression that with the possible exception only of Don Bradman, Brearley was the greatest captain in cricket history. These pundits skilfully suppress the fact that Brearley was always 'unavailable' when the Windies played England, and that his victories against Pakistan and Australia came when those teams had been seriously depleted by Kerry Packer's cheque book. The only time Brea-rley led England against a full-strength Australia, his side lost three Tests in a row.
Turn now to his 'exploits' in the 1979 World Cup. Despite being a dour, defensive batsman, he insisted on opening the innings with that other strokeless wonder, Geoffrey Boycott. In the semi-final, Brearley played 35 overs for 53, his selfishness and conspicuous lack of batting ability nearly costing his side the match. Unbowed, he went out with Sir Geoffrey in the final, to 'lead' England's reply to the West Indies total of 286. The two B's stayed in the middle for 38 overs, crawling to 129. In between overs, Lloyd would whisper to his bowlers, "Keep them in, keep them in". All this while, Gower and Botham, fellows who could give the ball a tonk, were cooling their heels in the dressing room. Now if Brearley had any cricketing sense, he would have sent those two in early, and put himself down at number 11.
HOLDER LEFT HOLDING
IN the '79 final, as in '75, the Win-dies profited from a power duet. This time it was Viv Richards, not Lloyd, who made the ton, and Collis King, not Kanhai, who played 'second fiddle'. This last characterisation needs to be qualified, for King matched the Master Blaster stroke for stroke. Soon after the Cup, King went off to make his fortune, and lose his reputation, by playing in apartheid-tainted South Africa.
The '79 Cup was unquestionably the most one-sided of the lot. There was an inevitability about who'd exit early and who'd win the final. One of my classmates had predicted, "They are (Vanburn) Holder, and they will stay (Michael) Holding". This punster and precocious practitioner of Hinglish is now one of the best-paid copywriters in Mumbai's adworld. I bumped into him in an airport last month. He'd forgotten his line—but then, unlike the rest of us, he's too busy making money to watch cricket.
DON'T BET ON IT
HOW does Lloyd look back on the first two World Cups? Even the victims of his all-conquering Caribbean side might have some sympathy for the man. For he now manages a team with a mediocre Test record and an appalling one in instant cricket. I'm no betting man, but I'd suspect that for the '99 edition, Ladbroke's in London will offer the Windies the same odds as Bangladesh and Scotland—in the region of 500 to 1. Even so, Lloyd shall put his money on a team other than his own—or, better still, keep it in his pocket.