Across streets and mohallas, World Cup conversations are in full swing. Everyday we lend our ears to those passionate voices. Today’s topic: Batsmen, apart from Gavaskar’s infamous 60-over 36*, who hurt their team’s fortunes with a dead bat
Open and shut
Sunil Wettimuny played just three ODIs for Sri Lanka, but managed to carve out a reputation for himself as a plodder. In the inaugural edition in 1975, the opener scored 53 off 102 at a strike rate of 51.96 with the team chasing Australia’s humungous 328. He returned to the pavilion retired hurt when Lanka were 164, but by then the damage was already done, considering his side eventually lost the game by 52 runs despite losing just four wickets. Wettimuny, it seemed, did not learn his lesson. Drafted into the side for the Cup in 1979, he scored made an equally defensive half century against India. This time, however, the side managed to win the game. That was not enough to save his career, though, as it turned out to be his last innings for the national side.
Crawler lists are incomplete without a mention of legendary English opener Geoffrey Boycott. In the final of the 1979 Cup, Boycott had company in tying the English chase down. West Indies made 286 batting first, and England hit back with a century-plus opening stand. Hit back, that is, if we don’t nitpick with the details. Mike Brearley and Boycott made 129 runs over 38 overs with Boycott taking seventeen overs to reach double figures. Michael Holding, it seemed, did England a favour by removing the pair in quick succession. Needless to say, England lost the final by 92 runs.
Not what the doc ordered
Ravi Shastri, along with Kris Srikkanth, constituted a by-then creaky opening partnership in Australia 1992. While Srikkanth couldn’t buy a run during the tournament, Shastri conserved his wicket seemingly at the expense of everything else. In their opening game, India was chasing England’s 236 but Shastri’s 57 off 112 balls, rounded off by a comical run out after being dropped by the bowler, made the target appear much larger. Nine runs too large, as it turned out. Shastri retired before the end of the year, paving the way for the era of Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order.
Slow and unsteady
That the Inzamam of 2007 was not the destroyer of 1992 was expected. What happened in the opening game against host West Indies underlined how much the free-spirited cricketer was weighed down by captaincy and, perhaps, the storm that was gathering around Pakistan cricket during the following years. Chasing 241 against the hosts, Pakistan were 39/3 in 11 overs and Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf were expected to lead their side to victory against a team that were not serious contenders. The pair could add just 60 runs in 18 overs, Pakistan losing the game by 54 runs. Inzamam’s 41 off 93 balls against arch rivals India in the Super 6’s of 1999 was another such World Cup blot.