CHETAN SHARMA STRIKES THREE OUT OF THREE
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur • 31 October 1987
A hat-trick is a coveted feat, no matter what grade of cricket you are playing. And Chetan Sharma was always an interesting character on the field. A tiny, bearded, dynamo of a paceman, he could surprise batsmen with his deceptive speed, no mean feat for a man of such slight build. He was not one to hide his emotions either, and his theatrical, strident and shrill appeals were invariably cause for mirth among the spectators.
Thus when a man like Chetan Sharma achieves a hat-trick, and that too in the World Cup before a capacity home crowd, the scene can well be imagined. Naturally, there was pandemonium. The crowd went berserk as Sharma lay spread-eagled on his back in sheer ecstasy, and his teammates ran towards him in a mixture of disbelief, jubilation and amusement. If ever there was a magic moment in Indian cricket, it was this.
As New Zealand were in the process of building a healthy total, there was no hint of the drama and excitement to follow. Ken Rutherford and Dipak Patel were consolidating the position after four wickets had gone for 122 runs. At 181, Patel was caught by skipper Kapil Dev off Ravi Shasti for a top-score of 40.
This is where Chetan Sharma took over. With the score on 182 he clean bowled Rutherford off the fourth delivery of his 6th over. Wicketkeeper Ian Smith came in next and Sharma went through his defence too, first ball. Celebrations gave way to a buzz of anticipation as Ewan Chatfield took Smith's place. Kapil Dev called in his field. Each fielder was on his toes, desperate not to let down the little speedster, now hyper-active with excitement. They need not have bothered. Sharma steamed in and let go, and amazingly, Chatfield missed. The ball crashed into his stumps.
The noise was deafening. Chetan Sharma had taken a hat-trick, and all clean bowled. The entire Indian team descended on the triumphant bowler, as the crestfallen Chatfield walked away unnoticed. New Zealand had slumped from 181 for four to 182 for eight.
Martin Snedden and Willie Watson took the score to 221 before the former was run out off the last ball of the innings. India's task was none-too-difficult if the sole purpose was to win the match. They had already qualified for the semi-finals. But to top the group and avoid a clash with Pakistan in the semi-finals - at that stage the final was billed as a showpiece encounter between the sub-continental neighbours - it was necessary for India to win in less than 38 overs, a run-rate of 5.85 runs per over.
Right from the first ball, Krish Srikkanth and Sunil Gavaskar left no one in any doubt that India were out to achieve the run-rate. It was a blazing opening stand as they put on 136 runs in only 17 overs. When Srikkanth holed out, he had scored 75 off just 58 deliveries, having smashed 3 sixes and 9 fours. Gavaskar reached his maiden One-day century off 85 deliveries. It was to be his only one in what turned out to be the penultimate match of his career. At that time it was the second-fastest in the World Cup after Clive Lloyd's blitzkrieg in the 1975 final. Gavaskar's unbeaten 103 came off 88 balls with 3 sixes and 10 fours.
But the most exciting moment of this exhilarating match was Chetan Sharma's hat-trick, the first in the premier tournament until Saqlain Mushtaq emulated the feat in 1999, followed by Chaminda Vaas and Brett Lee in 2003, and Lasith Malinga in 2007.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org).
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