Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times in Mumbai.
Some sportsmen become prisoners of a particular moment. They become forever defined by that one instant. It helps, of course, if the man in question does not have a tremendous amount of other stuff to be said for him. Without wishing to be unkind, Balwinder Singh Sandhu really doesn't in his international career. In the mind of Indian cricket fans, he is always associated with that ball in the opening overs of the Prudential World Cup final against West Indies in 1983.
If one needed a portent that glorious June afternoon that things might just swing India's way, that ball was it. (Though it seems that way only in hindsight. Defending 183, things like portents were furthest from anyone's mind.) It wasn't quite the ball of the century, but it certainly was - in terms of its importance and surprise effect - the ball of the tournament.
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Yes, surprise effect. That was it. It surprised everyone, not least, I suspect, Sandhu himself. It was the 12th ball that Gordon Greenidge faced in his innings. It pitched outside the off stump. It curled in. (With Sandhu, it curled in, never ripped.) Greenidge underestimated the curl. He shouldered arms. And was bowled.
Sandhu played only eight Tests and 22 ODIs for India. There never was a moment like that in his career - before or after. There are really not that many moments to rival this for gobsmacking, delirious pleasure, in India's one-day cricket history.
It must have been the uncharitable who later floated the story (apocryphal, surely?) that the ball did so much because it hit a pebble on the pitch.