Monday, January 31, 2011

The XI: Lesser Names with Unexpected World Cup Performances

The World Cup looms, and suddenly the number of experts in India has exceeded the number of households. Everyone has started making lists of their own, whether a Southern Hemisphere World XI or the names of Trinamool Congress people going for a dharna to ensure that the India vs England match actually happens at the Eden Gardens.

I tried to find a list that no one has used till date. And then I thought of the little men: men whose names are rarely uttered when great players are discussed, but whose performances, one or more, are bound to come up whenever World Cup performances are discussed. Those men who had a single day of glory (which, incidentally, is a day of glory more than Fardeen Khan has ever had) and then disappeared into oblivion.

The list, then, in chronological order:
1. Gary John Gilmour, 6/14 and 28* vs England, 18.6.1975. (scorecard here)
Gilmour had played two ODIs, coming into the world cup, both against a nondescript New Zealand side. On a green Headingley track, though, the selectors decided to drop Ashley Mallett, the only specialist spinner of the side, and pick our hero - a somewhat burly, lazy guy whose main claim to fame was his ability to swing the ball. It wasn't only that - after Ian Chappell put Australia and Lillee bowled an over, Gilmour was asked to have a go from the other end - ahead of Max Walker and Jeff Thomson.

Mayhem followed. Gilmour swung the ball brilliantly under a cloud cover, and ran through the England top order. He took the first six England wickets - and left them reeling at 36/6. His wickets included Amiss, Wood, Greig, Hayes, Fletcher and Knott, and he finished with 12-6-14-6.

Once Gilmour was through with his spell, the Englishmen breathed somewhat normally, and some sanity was restored: they managed to amble to an honourable 93, Mike Denness top-scoring with a painstaking 27.

A good day's work for Gilmour, they thought. Only that it wasn't over yet.

The fact that they were bowled out too soon actually came to England's advantage. Using the gloomy surroundings, Arnold, Snow and Old ran through the top-order of their antipodean rivals: they were 39/6 in no time: they had lost McCosker, Turner, the Chappells, Edwards and Marsh, and all seemed over when Gilmour joined Walters.

Things changed immediately. What seemed a matter of survival for the others turned out to be a rather easy affair for Gilmour. He walked out and started playing his strokes. Soon he went past Walters, and before anyone knew, Australia reached the 94 without losing another wicket. Gilmour remained unbeaten on 28 from 28 balls, and was the highest scorer in the match as well.

Gilmour played in the final as well, taking five wickets. Despite playing only two matches he emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. However, injuries prevailed, and his career became restricted to a single match after the tournament. His final career read 5 ODIs, 42 runs, 16 wickets.

2. Dandeniyage Somachandra de Silva, 3/29 vs India, 16,18.6.1979. (scorecard here)
Long before Aravinda had been massacring Prasad and co. with the bat and Asoka had been tormenting Ganguly with his dreaded finger, another de Silva had defeated us with his leg-breaks. This was in 1979, before Sri Lanka had actually attained a test-playing status: the spell ensured that India's performance over the first two world cups consisted of a single victory, that too over East Africa.

Slow 50s by Wettimuny and Dias and a quickfire one by Mendis lifted Sri Lanka to 238, Amarnath taking three wickets. An asking rate of less than four (it was a 60-over match, remember) should not have troubled a line-up consisting of Gavaskar, Gaekwad, Amarnath, Vengsarkar, Viswanath, Brijesh Patel and Kapil Dev. Or that't what everyone thought.

Things started off quite rosily: a good opening partnership, and despite the loss of two wickets, 119/2 seemed to be a reasonable score. And then, strangely, Viswanath got run out. And how things changed.

de Silva clean bowled Brijesh. And had Vengsarkar out, caught (by Stanley de Silva - did I ever mention the de Silva clan's plot against India?). And then he clean bowled Amarnath as well. And he didn't concede runs either. And he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry that year. Okay, not the last bit.

India crashed to 191, which meant an embarrassing defeat by 47 runs.

de Silva continued playing ODIs till 1985 (an age of 43, no less). He did play 41 ODIs in which he took 32 wickets at an average of 49. Incidentally, this was the only occasion when he took three wickets in a match.

3. Collis Llewellyn King, 86 vs England, 20.6.1979. (scorecard here)
Quite a few people I knew has described King's assault as the most brutal they've ever seen. Let me put things into perspective first. One, it was a world cup final. Two, West Indies was reeling at 99/4 (losing Greenidge, Haynes, Kallicharran and Lloyd). Three, Viv was batting at the other end. Four, Viv himself playing his strokes with care, rather cautiously.

What do you do? Protect your wicket and give The King the strike, correct?

Nyaaaaaah.

King decided to outdo The King that day. They added 139 for the 5th wicket, out of which King scored 86, off 66 balls. He hit ten fours and three sixes, which meant that 58 runs were scored in boundaries alone. The strokeplay was savage.

Mind you, Richards ended up scoring 138* that day, off 157 deliveries - still one of the most memorable performances in a World Cup Final. But this man, for an hour and a quarter, did something unheard-of, before or after: he eclipsed The King.

Collis King played in 18 ODIs in all, and scored 280 runs at an average of 23. His second-highest score was, believe it or not, 34.

4. Duncan Andrew Gwynne Fletcher, 69* and 4/42 vs Australia, 9.6.1983. (scorecard here)
Imagine the drama: Zimbabwe are about to play their first one-day international match. We're all about the elebele status these teams are given in big tournaments: in Kolkata street cricket teams (or players) of such stature are called dudh-bhat (milk and rice - a direct reference to toddlers).

Indeed, they started off being 94/5 against Australia, well, not the world champions but always a good team nevertheless. This is when their captain decided to take things in his own hands.

He scored a crisp, unbeaten 69 off 84 balls. Remember, the Australian attack comprised of Lillee, Thomson, Lawson and Hogg, and yet 239 was reached.

Fletcher's job didn't end there, though: Wood and Wessels were cruising along, and the first partnership added 61. Fletcher came on to bowl second-change. He had a long spell, and pretty soon he removed the first four Australian wickets (Wood, Hughes, Hookes and Yallop). The miserly John Traicos (playing international cricket thirteen years after his appearance for South Africa) held things tight, and Fletcher marshalled his team quite efficiently in the field.

Australia succumbed to a 13-run shock defeat in the hands of the babies of the tournament,

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's status meant that Fletcher's career was restricted to a single world cup - six matches. They included a 71* against the formidable West Indies, once again lifting his side from 57/4 to 217. He later had a decent stint as the coach of England.

5. Michael Robert John Veletta, 45* vs England, 8.11.1987. (scorecard here)
They don't make them any more: burly moustachioed hard-hitting batsmen from Australia. This was one born in Perth, so he was destined to be a character.

Veletta came into the World Cup Final following a 39-ball 43 against Zimbabwe and a 50-ball 48 in the semifinal against Pakistan. His hard-hitting skills meant that he was preferred over the all-round skills of Tom Moody in the final.

The Australians started off well, but it was a rather slow start. Boon, Marsh and Jones scored 132 runs between them, but took up 231 deliveries for that. Border, in an attempt to boost the run rate, promoted McDermott, who fell for an 8-ball 14, and Boon followed soon.

Veletta joined Border. The Englishmen had been doing a splendid job till now, but things started falling apart at this crucial juncture. Veletta smashed the attack in typical Western Australian fashion: he hit the ball hard and found the gaps. An unbeaten 45 in 32 balls didn't win him awards: but it probably turned out to be the difference between the teams in the end. Australia's seven-run margin remains the narrowest in World Cup Finals.

Veletta's career spanned only twenty matches, in which he scored 484 runs at an okayish average of 32. He scored two fifties, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

6. Meyrick Wayne Pringle, 4/11 vs West Indies, 5.3.1992. (scorecard here)
Pringle did play in South Africa's first World Cup match: Australia were bowled out for 170, and our hero conceded 52 off ten overs on debut without taking a wicket. He got dropped as a result.

In their fourth match, the Proteas decided to go for an all-pace attack, dropping Omar Henry. Pringle was brought back.

A formidable attack boasting of Ambrose, Marshall, Benjamin and Cummins restricted them to 200/8. This seemed to be a cakewalk.

Donald had the first go, and from the other end, Wessels decided to bring on Pringle, ahead of McMillan and Snell.

To keep things short, he removed Lara, Richardson, Hooper and Arthurton in his first spell, and West Indies were left reeling at 19/4. They never recovered, and crumbled to 136.

How important was the match, incidentally? Had West Indies chased down, they would have played in the semifinals instead of South Africa.

Injuries meant that Pringle's career lasted for only 17 matches, in which he did quite well, taking 22 wickets at 27.

7. Rajab Wazir Ali, 3/17 vs West Indies, 29.2.1996. (scorecard here)
This was dubbed off as yet another one-sided match: after all, what chance did the newbies stand against the might of West Indies?

Indeed, when Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop and Harper bowled out Kenya for 165, I'm sure not many people waited to witness the run-chase. I didn't. Indeed, Pakistan played South Africa on the same day, and since I didn't drink Malibu or called my friends maan, I preferred to watch Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain and Mushtaq take on the leaders of the other group.

As a result I missed out on one of the classiest examples of new-ball bowling ever seen on Indian soil (thank goodness Doordarshan were kind enough to dish out the highlights!). The wickets do not tell the story. Yes, he had Richardson clean bowled and Lara caught-behind (by the portly Tariq Iqbal), but the highlights told me that he beat the West Indian champions out and out that day, beating the outside edge on numerous occasions.

He did come back to finish off the tail, and West Indies, the once mighty West Indies, slouched to 93 all out. For whatever reasons Maurice Odumbe was awarded Man of the Match.

Not being awarded Man of the Match possibly broke Rajab Ali's confidence forever. Till this match his career read five matches, ten wickets at 12.3. He played four more matches and took a solitary wicket, conceding 132 runs.

8. Khaled Mahmud Sujon, 27 and 3/31 vs Pakistan, 31.5.1999. (scorecard here)
This was a no-brainer: Pakistan had won all four of their matches so far, while Bangladesh had managed to beat only the hapless Scots.

The Pakistanis were generous in showering wides: there were 28 of them in the forty extras they bowled. Mahmud contributed a crucial 27 off 34. Bangladesh accumulated 223/9, by no means a match-winning total.

It was at this point of time that Aminul Islam played a masterstroke: he gave Mahumd the first over for the only time in his career (five years hence he would go on to bowl the second over in another match, against Sri Lanka).

What followed can surely be classified as drama: Afridi fell to Khaled, Ijaz to Shafiuddin Ahmed, Anwar was run out, and then, Mahmud had both Inzamam and Salim Malik trapped leg-before. Before they knew it, Pakistan were reeling at 42/5 in the 13th over.

The middle-order fought a bit, but the Bangladeshis held on, and Pakistan were skittled for 161.

Mahmud played 77 ODIs in all. He scored 991 runs at an average of 14, and took 67 wickets at an average of 43. For most players match-winning all-round performances like this are considered special: for Mahumd it was possibly something on another planet.

9. John Michael Davison, 111 vs West Indies, 23.2.2003. (scorecard here)
What? Canada plays cricket? And they have a cricketer to boot who shall score the fastest world cup hundred?

The story was simple. Canada batted. After three overs they were six without the loss of a wicket. After eleven overs they were 93/0. As simple, as elementary as that.

Davison reached his hundred in 67 balls, and fell for 111 off 76 off Wavell Hinds. Mind you, this was not plain, mindless slogging: eight fours and six sixes meant that 68 runs were scored off fourteen balls from boundaries. Which meant he also ran his singles pretty well.

He was the third batsman to fall, with the score at 156 off 22.1 overs, which meant that he had scored more than double of what the other batsmen had, as he fell. It was then that another obscure cricketer took over: Vasbert Drakes took 5/44, and Canada were bowled out for 202 in 42.5 overs. Hinds, Lara and Sarwan chased down the target in 20.3 overs, but not before Davison had his revenge.

Davison exploded once again in the World Cup, against New Zealand: he scored 75 off 61, and removed Astle, McMillan and Cairns. But then, that performance was largely overlooked, as the impact wasn't this dramatic. His career spanned 27 matches in which he scored 766 runs and took 31 wickets. Just like Fletcher, he would probably have had a substantial career, had he played for a test-playing nation.

10. Collins Omondi Obuya, 5/24 vs Sri Lanka, 24.2.2003. (scorecard here)
Kenya accumulated 210/9, Otieno scoring 60. Obuya, batting at eight, remained unbeaten on 13.

Sri Lanka lost Jayasuriya early, and then Atapattu; but Tillekeratne and Aravinda steadied the ship, and at 71/2, victory seemed inevitable.

Obuya had taken nine wickets from his first eighteen ODIs at a regal 78 runs per wicket. Bringing him on first change here was probably the best move in Tikolo's career as a leader.

The leg-breaks worked. Tillekeratne was out, caught by Suji; Mahela was deceived by the flight and was caught and bowled; Sangakkara was caught behind, and so was Aravinda; and Obuya finished off the murder by having Vaas caught and bowled.

He bowled unchanged, and by the time he finished, Sri Lanka were 123/7, well beyond redemption. They finally succumbed for 157.

Obuya had a decent world cup, taking thirteen wickets from nine matches at 28, earning a call-up from Warwickshire. However, his bowling somehow plummeted into insignificance, not even bowling in the past 21 matches. His career numbers read 29 wickets from 86 matches at 51. He played as a specialist batsman, and managed 1,517 runs at an unimpressive 24.

11. Niall John O'Brien, 72 vs Pakistan, 17.3.2007. (scorecard here)
Ireland surprised all and sundry by tying their first match of the tournament. This time they took things a step further: they bowled out Pakistan, struck by match-fixing and other stuff (including Woolmer's mysterious death later in the tournament) for 132.

That was only the half-way mark, though. The target needed to be achieved. Mohammad Sami certainly wasn't going to get away easily: he removed Bray and Morgan with 15 on the board. O'Brien joined Porterfield.

O'Brien decided to play his strokes. He scored 39 off a 47-run partnership for the third wicket before Porterfield fell. Botha scored a duck: 69/4 now, with O'Brien on 46 (out of 55 from his stay at the crease).

O'Brien was now joined by his brother Kevin. They had another partnership, and Niall finally fell for a brilliant 72 (the others, including extras, managed to accumulate just twenty during this span), and the remaining runs were scored off by the lower middle-order after a few hiccups.

Niall still plays for Ireland, his forty ODIs yielding 924 runs. He has scored six more fifties, but the 72 remains his highest and his best.

***

Performances that missed out narrowly:
Gary Gilmour, 5/48 vs West Indies, 21.2.1975. - this was one Gilmour performance too many for the list
Vic Marks, 5/39 vs Sri Lanka, 11.6.1983. - a very good spell, but against the minnows of the time
Ken MacLeay, 6/39 vs India, 13.6.1983. - another spell, but achieved mostly when India were going for the slog during the chase
Kirti Azad, 1/28 vs England, 22.6.1983. - Botham's wicket and an 28 off 12 overs: the only thing that kept him out was a better performance by Amarnath in the same match
Andy Waller, 83* vs Sri  Lanka, 23.2.1992. - scored off 45 balls; kept out because Andy Flower overshadowed him by a serene 115*
Mark Burmester, 3/36 vs India, 7.3.1992. - wickets of Srikkanth, Tendulkar and Azharuddin: left out because India were going for the onslaught
John Davison, 75 and 3/61 vs New Zealand, 3.3.2003. - just like Gilmour, this was one Davison performance too many
Austin Codrington, 5/27 vs Bangladesh, 11.2.2003. - a historic maiden win for Canada, but unfortunately, Codrington's wickets comprised of the tail

***

Players that missed out narrowly (on the ground that they weren't really lesser names):
Winston Davis, 7/51 vs Australia, 11,12.6.1983.
Saleem Yousuf, 56* vs Pakistan, 16.10.1987.
Geoff Allott, 4/37 vs Australia, 20.5.1999.

4 comments:

  1. Cricket puts me to sleep, but enjoyed reading... tobei bojho.

    ReplyDelete
  2. why chetan sharma is missing? is it because he is Indian and we know him well :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cricinfo has just come out with a similar list, with Harrup Park, McKay being one of the entries.
    http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/498697.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. All the matches were very interesting!!tomar explanation gulo o darun!! onek kichu info jantam na..score gulo dekhe janlam...
    kintu tumi Fardeen Khan k charlena dekchi....bechara acting chereo shanti pabe na. :D

    ReplyDelete

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