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Down The Memory Lane: On This Day In 1975 When Gavaskar Played the Slowest ODI Innings

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Cricket has some bizarre records since its inception and former India legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar had his share of an unwanted record in the history of cricket. We go back down memory lane when on this day on June 7, 1975, one of the most bizarre innings was played. Interestingly, it was in the limited-over format.
Sunil Gavaskar was at the helm of this show and till this day one wonders why he played such an innings. An unbeaten 36 of 174 deliveries was all he managed in a whopping chase of 334 runs in the first match of the Prudential World Cup at Lord’s.
India eventually lost the match by 202 runs after managing a paltry 132/3. Interestingly, that innings still remains as the slowest of all in ODIs till date.

A bizarre run-chase led by Gavaskar

The scene at Lord’s in London was perfect, with high temperatures and glorious sunshine greeted the players and fans alike. England got off to a splendid start and Dennis Amiss led the way with a 137-run knock. He looked assured with simplicity personified. Indian bowlers toiled hard under the sun, and England made a feast of it. Then came in Chris Old, who amassed the fastest 50 back then which came off only 30 balls.
India then came to the crease led by Gavaskar. From the beginning, the Indian opener first saw off the new ball and as the match progressed his intent never changed. His shot-making showed there was no intent to go for a victory. England bowlers continued pitching the ball in the right areas and with the reaction in store from Gavaskar, they grew confident.
Gavaskar’s snail-paced innings saw India end with a dismal run rate of 2.20. Gavaskar managed to hit just one boundary in the innings at a strike-rate of 20.74. For an ODI inning, this can be as surprising as it can get, given Gavaskar opened the innings. Gundappa Vishwanath top-scored for India with a 59-ball 37.
What was agonizing for India was that their approach allowed the English bowlers to finish with economy rates in the lowest possible manner. Tony Greig conceded 2.88 runs per over which was the highest by an English bowler. That summed it all.

Would this innings be played in contemporary times?

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A question that can be raised was whether this kind of an innings would have been played in contemporary times. Cricket has evolved as a game and with ODIs and the T20Is taking center stage, the thinking of batsmen have become more progressive and demanding. Even Test cricket nowadays will not see such slow innings. It’s rare.
But India back then was playing just their third ever ODI match and it was with the red ball. But given the situation and the demand of the game, one feels nobody back then too would have shown this intent.

Theories and rumours surrounded around Gavaskar

Let’s look back at some of the factors dated back then and analyze the innings the former India legend played.
India was a novice in limited-overs cricket back then and was playing only their third ODI in history. Prior to the 1975 World Cup, the Indians had played a solitary 2-match series against England. It was a 55-over ODI game. In both the matches India were beaten comfortably after having batted first. The margin of victories showed that India wasn’t still ready to break from Test cricket.
Also in a Test match against England prior to the 1975 World Cup opening game, the Indians were bowled out for a paltry 42. Did that play in the players’ mind? Did Gavaskar feel the heat? Or was the idea to go out there in the middle and ensure there wasn’t a collapse? Such questions are based on theories and till now no answer has come up.
Many theories were put into place as in why and then coach GS Ramchand had criticized the player and did not approve of his tactics.  Later on, the player had once stated that it was an innings he will like to forget for the rest of his life. Gavaskar also cited that he was out of form and some of the shots he played in the early part of his innings was a scene to be forgotten.
Also, Rumors did the rounds with some reports stating that Gavaskar was unhappy with the team selection after many pacers were introduced instead of spinners in the game. Some other reports claimed that he was unhappy with S Venkatraghavan being appointed the skipper.

How India fared in the WC?

In the inaugural match, the English batsmen beat Indian bowlers to pulp to record the first 300-plus score (334/4) in an ODI. That, in turn, had the Indians go into a negative mindset given the mountain they had to climb in 60 overs.
India had a disastrous first World Cup that year. Their only victory in the tournament came against East Africa with Bishen Singh Bedi coming up with the most economical spell of ODI cricket (12-8-6-1).
The S Venkatraghavan-led side made an exit from the group stage itself. Gavaskar was not dropped though and scored 65 not out and 12 at a decent rate in India’s remaining two matches.
Cricket has often seen many of the best technically sound batsmen having slow strike-rates. Gavaskar was a champion in Test cricket and also featured in 108 ODIs. His strike-rate in the limited-over format was 62.26. In modern times, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay have found it difficult in the ODI and T20I set up despite doing well in Test cricket.

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