December 10, 2019
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Day Of Conquest

Gavaskar, erasing memories of his '75 whimper, went out with a bang

Day Of Conquest
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ALTHOUGH quite a few hat-tricks have been performed in one-day internationals, India's Chetan Sharma is the only one to do so in a World Cup. He achieved the remarkable feat against New Zealand at Nagpur in the Group A match of the Reliance World Cup on October 31, 1987. It was Sharma's maiden World Cup and only his third match of the competition—he had played the last two and missed the earlier three league games due to injury. In the World Cup charity match against Pakistan in New Delhi, the spunky all-rounder had chipped a bone in his left thumb while fielding off his own bowling. This was a few weeks before the Indians were to meet the Kiwis for the second time in the tournament, having earlier beaten them by 16 runs in the first encounter.

Batting first on what was a placid wicket, the Kiwis were never allowed to take wing by the Indian bowlers who bowled a good line, though Kapil Dev proved just a bit expensive, having given away 24 runs in his six overs without any success. John Wright, looking set to play a major innings, was assuming ominous proportions. But India was lucky to run him out with his individual score on 35. The other opener, P. Horne, was bowled by Prabhakar for 18 and before the classy Martin Crowe could prove dangerous, Mohammed Azharuddin had him caught by wicket-keeper Chandrakant Pandit for 21. As was his wont, Ken Rutherford dropped anchor. While at the other end Maninder Singh got rid of Jeff Crowe for 24 and Ravi Shastri consumed Dipak Patel who was beginning to clobber the attack. Patel scored a useful 40.

The drama started in Sharma's sixth over. He had gone wicketless in his first spell. Bowling a yard quicker than usual, Sharma deceived Rutherford with a straighter ball. The Kiwi with a long nose played well across the line and the ball uprooted his middle-stump. It was the fourth delivery of the eventful over. Rutherford went for 26, and New Zealand were 182 for 6. Sharma's fifth ball was so fast than Ian Smith just did not know what hit him and his off-stump. New Zealand 182 for 7. Ewan Chatfield, too poor a batsman to trouble the bowlers unnecessarily, was so nervous that he was completely flummoxed by the sixth ball—a slower one that took his leg-stump. New Zealand 182 for 8.

It was, by all accounts an inspired burst of seam bowling. Sharma had clean-bowled three batsmen in three consecutive deliveries, becoming the only Indian to perform a hat-trick in any type of international cricket. It was a proud moment for a committed cricketer and a fit-ting reward for his perseverance.

Although Martin Snedden and Willie Watson tried to repair the damage by adding 39 runs for the ninth wicket—before the former was run out for 23—Sharma's hat-trick did go a long way in restricting New Zealand to 221 for 9 in 50 overs. Sharma finished with figures of 10-2-51-3. "I am obviously thrilled. But more than my personal landmark I am glad it helped my team do well. I was very eager to prove myself by performing noticeably after that injury," said an ecstatic Sharma. Veteran cricket writer R. Mohan noted: "The captain kept his faith in him while the very professional physio, Dr Ali Irani, worked on cutting his recovery time. Chetan, irrespective of what his true merits as a bowler may be, is certainly a fighter."

Buoyed by Sharma's destructive bowling, Indian openers Sunil Gavaskar and K. Srikkanth made a mockery of the target and put on 136 runs for the first wicket before the latter was out for 75. India scored 224 runs for the loss of one wicket in only 32.1 overs and won the match comfortably by nine wickets. Gavaskar remained unbeaten on 103 and Azharuddin on 41. Sharma and Gava-skar, who helped India enter the semi-finals in style, shared the Man of the Match award between them. It was a wise decision by the adjudicator Syed Mushtaq Ali.

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