World Cup Vignette

Sunny's last opus

Gavaskar was a different batsman in 1987, having shed some of his orthodoxy, and against New Zealand, he played the sort of innings few expected from him

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 in the late '80s.
It seemed even more unlikely considering 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 his orthodoxy for an approach laced with a measure of calculated risk.
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 brash enthusiasm of youth.
The hundred 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, Gavaskar had never managed a century. He set that record 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 in 32.1 overs.
Less than a week later, Graham Gooch swept India out of the competition, as Gavaskar failed in front of his home crowd. Those who had worshipped him for nearly two decades would instead have to settle for enduring memories of the penultimate act.
This article was first published in 2014