Top Performances

Gavaskar's last opus

Dileep Premachandran
The latter-day Gavaskar was a different batsman, having shed some of the orthodoxy for an approach laced with a measure of calculated risk
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Sunil Gavaskar
103 not out v New Zealand, Group A match, 1987

The equation for India was simple enough. They needed to score 222 from 42.2 overs to beat New Zealand and ensure top spot ahead of Australia in the group. Finishing first would also mean a Mumbai semi-final, rather than a trip across the border to play Pakistan in Pakistan. In these days of turbo-charged run-rates, it might seem like a stroll, but chasing 5.25 an over was quite a different proposition two decades ago.

It seemed even more implausible when you realised that Sunil Gavaskar - slated by so many for his crawl to 36 not out in the inaugural World Cup - was one of India's openers. But the latter-day Gavaskar was a different batsman, having shed some of the orthodoxy for an approach laced with a measure of calculated risk. Four years earlier, he had drawn level with Don Bradman on 29 centuries after a thrilling 94-ball hundred against the West Indies, an innings that his biographer, Dom Moraes, wrote was reminiscent of a catherine wheel exploding in all directions.

At Nagpur, he and Kris Srikkanth were quickly into the act, taking 18 from the first two overs before Gavaskar decided to leave his calling card on the World Cup stage. The man he chose to target was the relentlessly accurate Ewen Chatfield. There were two fours and two hefty sixes in an over that went for 21, as Gavaskar swung through the line with the feckless enthusiasm of youth.

The 100 took just 14 overs, and though Srikkanth fell after a stroke-filled 75 from just 58 balls, his senior partner never let up. In 105 previous ODIs, the greatest opener of his generation had never managed a century. He set that right with three sixes and 10 fours in a display of glorious batsmanship that will live long in the memory. The hundred took just 85 balls, and India romped home with 10 overs to spare.

Less than a week later, Graham Gooch swept India out of the competition, as Gavaskar failed in front of his home crowd. Those that had worshipped him for nearly two decades would instead have to settle for enduring memories of the penultimate act.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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