On 7th July 1975, the first ever World Cup match was held at the Lords Cricket Ground between India and England. In the 31 years of the World Cup history, the game has seen many winners. Many names were inscribed on the golden pages of the tournament, while many players became national heroes and heroes became legend. In all these passing years though, the one legend who would like to erase his name from that first ever World Cup match, is none other than the little master Sunil Gavaskar.
In a match where bat seemed to dominate in the first innings, Gavaskar’s innings was unforgettable the other way around. England batting first scored 334 runs in 60 overs which was a big score in that era, going at a rate of 5.56 runs/ over. Denis Amiss scored a century supported by an aggressive death over batting performance from his team mates leading the score which at the time was the highest total in one-day cricket. In response, India’s hope relied highly on Gavaskar to do the bulk of the scoring. But it was just not the day, or may be it was just not the format he had adapted to yet that his batting took no one anywhere. He scored a 36 notout coming to bat at number one from 174 deliveries. He played the whole 60 overs and could hit only one boundary. His strike-rate was 20.68. India managed only 132 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 60 overs. No one understood the approach of Gavaskar on the wicket. He was defending the ball, leaving the balls outside the offstump and never felt the need of quick scoring. Result being England won the match by a massive margin of 202 runs in the first ever World Cup match. The match also experienced a number of obstacles from the audience which ran on the field during the match in progress, especially the Gavaskar knock prompting unhappy Indian fans on the field. One-day cricket is such an established part of the game now that it is sometimes easy to forget that it is a relatively new concept. The first domestic tournament was launched in England in 1963, and the first limited-overs international followed eight years later, almost by accident after a Test match was rained off.
Gavaskar was criticized for his batting disaster throughout the media.In a post-match statement GS Ramchand, India’s manager, said that Gavaskar had considered the England score unobtainable and so had taken practice. It was an excuse, but not one that anyone believed. “It was the most disgraceful and selfish performance I have ever seen… his excuse [to me] was, the wicket was too slow to play shots but that was a stupid thing to say after England had scored 334. The entire party is upset about it. Our national pride is too important to be thrown away like this.” said Ramchand which poured in more allegations on Gavaskar.
Even today, that innings is considered as insane as that of AB DeVillier’s fastest hundred, just the other way around. 31 years later, India has two World Cup titles to their name, 1983 World Cup where Gavaskar was part of the winning team, and 2011 World Cup which M S Dhoni lead side held in Mumbai. But still, that one knock, unfortunately the fist ever in World Cup history, is remembered for Gavaskar and his bat which could have been used better for washing clothes instead of batting.