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The World As A Cup

Cricket writer Raju Bharatan looks at the first ever World Cup tournament

The World As A Cup
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IT was at Lord's that the World Cup was first held aloft by West Indies captain Clive Lloyd on June 21, 1975. And 24 years on, it is to Lord's that the action returns for the June 20, 1999 final. Could it be the grand finale that propels the resplendently resurgent Brian Lara to the pinnacle of greatness?

The '75 Prudential Trophy, lifted by Lloyd as the glistening symbol of Black supremacy, was 181/2 inches high and contained 891/2 ounces of sterling silver. The Cup has changed several times since but, as the TV screen repeatedly relives the magic of Lloyd lording it over the Aussies—50 off 52 balls, 100 off 82 balls, and finally dismissed for 102 off the 85th delivery he faced—one realises that the green grass at Lord's has lost none of its lustre. The 1975 Cup final drew a record crowd of 26,000 (predominantly Caribbean) and sections of it kept running on to the field as and when they felt like. Nobody complained—they had after all contributed substantially to the then world-record gate earning for a one-dayer—£66,400.

Yet, at the end of the dizzying day, what was in it for the winners? Peanuts, by today's standards. The Windies, as champions, had to settle for Rs 72,000 (£4,000). Australia, as next best, for Rs 36,000 (£2,000). And New Zealand and England, as the two conquered semi-final-ists, were left with Rs 18,000 (£1,000) each. Clive Lloyd, as Man of the Match, took home Rs 3,600 (£200) for that splendid century, described as "one of the greatest innings ever played at Lord's".

For Indian fans, the most abiding—and embarrassing—moment of the tournament was opening bat Sunil Gavaskar crawling to an inexplicable 36 not out in 60 overs against Mike Denness' England. Replying to England's mammoth 334 for 4, the Indians managed a meagre 132 for 3. The villain of the piece later wrote in Sunny Days: "As I waited for the bowler to run up and bowl, my mind used to be made up to have a shy at the ball, but as soon as the ball was delivered, my feet would move to a position for a defensive shot." While the knock understandably did Gavaskar's reputation no good, the fact that he remained not out propped up his average. Sunny finished second in the '75 World Cup averages at 113.00!

Sarfraz Nawaz, inspired by Asif Iqbal's handing over the captaincy to Majid Khan for the match against the eventual champs, had the Windies on the mat, running through the top order in just 22 balls while giving just 10 runs. The swarthy medium-pacer scalped Gordon Greenidge (4), Roy Fredericks (12) and Alvin Kallicharan (15) in that superb spell, but the spotlight remained on Imran Khan, a strapping 22-year-old in his first World Cup. With characteristic brazenness, Sarfraz summed up the Imran 'sex symbol' persona thus: "If he rubs the ball on his trouser-front, the Pakistani girls get charged. If he rubs it on his trouser-back, the Pathans get charged!"

The '75 final is remembered for the five run-outs that undid the spirited Australian run chase. As the fleet-footed, sharp-throwing Caribbeans caught Alan Turner (40), Ian Chappell (62), Greg Chappell (15), Max Walker (7) and Jeff Thomson (21) short of the crease, the Aussies found themselves 17 shy of the 292 target. Vivian Richards alone ran out three of them, two direct hits from the outfield. His victims included the mighty Chappell brothers—Ian and Greg. So there it was in black and white: the World was Clive Lloyd's Cup.

Sir Garfield Sobers and his Australian wife, Prudence, viewed it all with 'mixed' feelings. "Prudence Sobers Gary" was my punchline at the time. Sir Gary, in fact, was among the 14 picked to represent the West Indies. He was 38 and suffering from a niggling injury, so he passed up the opportunity of rounding off his eventful career in a blaze of glory. Sobers wrote in his autobiography, Twenty Years at the Top: "I would have loved to play. It would have been a fitting climax to my career. But I told Clyde Walcott I had pulled a muscle and, though it might have healed in the intervening two weeks, I did not believe it was worth taking the risk."

His place in the squad was taken by Rohan Kanhai, who came to the Prudential World Cup immediately after hitting Sarfraz Nawaz for 28 runs in a single over—4, 6, 4, 2, 6, 6—in going from 91 to 119 for Warwickshire in a county game against Northants. Kanhai didn't let his team down on the big day—he notched up a 50 to go with Lloyd's classic one-day century and the West Indies won a famous victory.

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