Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..7. Imran Khan : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

Imran Khan
A winner to the end

Born 25.11.1952

BATTING (World Cups 1975-1992)
Not Out.....5   
Highest Score.....102*      

BOWLING (World Cups 1975-1992)
Runs Per Over.....3.86

The reams that have already been written about Imran Khan make it impossible to add anything new. While referring to him one cannot help but use the same old words: ‘charismatic’, ‘debonair’, ‘imperious’, ‘pin-up superstar’, ‘autocratic’, the adjectives are unending. He was all this and more. A devastating fast bowler, fine batsman, great allrounder, outstanding leader of men who led by personal example, a focussed individual who set very high standards for himself and had the ability, and the courage, to achieve them.

For one who reached the pinnacle, Imran’s entry into top-grade cricket was obscure. Having made his Test debut in 1971 at the age of eighteen, he made an impact only in 1976-77 in Australia when he suddenly emerged as a deadly speedster. There was no looking back for him henceforth.

But in 1975 Imran was hardly the high-class allrounder that he eventually became. In the first match he was only the fifth bowler, though he took the coveted  wickets of Greg Chappell and Rodney Marsh at a cost of 44 runs in 10 overs.  He scored only 9 as Pakistan suffered a heavy defeat. Injury forced him out of the West Indies game but he opened the bowling with Asif Masood against Sri Lanka. He bowled well, returning with a haul of three for 15 off 7.1 overs. Even though he had not reached his prime, Imran was his side’s leading bowler in the first World Cup.

By 1979 Imran was, along with Ian Botham, the foremost allrounder in the world. But he did not dazzle in this tournament. He bowled economically, conceding less than three runs per over, and chipped in with useful scores with the bat. His best was yet to come. The legend of Imran Khan continued to grow, and by the end of 1982 he had scaled tremendous heights as a bowler. In the home Test series he destroyed the strong Indian batting line-up, but this hour of glory was followed by months of agony as injury forced him to give up bowling for some time.

In the 1983 World Cup, therefore, Imran played only as batsman and, of course, captain. It was here that he displayed his great single-mindedness of purpose as he concentrated hard on getting runs for his side. In the opening match against Sri Lanka he scored an unbeaten 56 off just 33 balls with 2 sixes and 6 fours, and added 96 for the fourth wicket with Javed Miandad in an awesome display of controlled hitting.

Two failures followed, but one of Imran’s finest innings in One-day cricket was only round the corner. As the Sri Lankan pacemen stunned Pakistan in the return encounter, dismissing five batsmen for only 43, Imran found an able ally in Shahid Mahboob. The two put on a record 144 for the sixth wicket. Imran scored a superb unbeaten 102 off 133 balls with 11 fours, the first century by a Pakistani in the World Cup. Even so, the Gary Sobers-coached Sri Lankans got to within 11 runs of the Pakistan score.

Imran then combined with Zaheer Abbas in a brilliant unbroken 147-run stand for the fourth wicket against New Zealand. He was undefeated with 79 at the end, having hit a six and 7 fours off just 74 balls. His effort along with Zaheer’s was just enough to pip the Kiwis and scramble into the semi-finals. Imran was man-of-the-match. He managed only 17 in the penultimate round before Malcolm Marshall had him snapped up by Jeff Dujon. He topped the side’s batting average at 70.75, picking up 283 runs in the process.

The 1987 World Cup was played in his own backyard. Back with the ball in hand, Imran claimed his 100th wicket in One-day Internationals as he took two for 42 against Sri Lanka. He came up with his best World Cup bowling display against reigning champions West Indies. Imran had his opposite number Vivian Richards snapped up by Salim Malik for 51. He then proceeded to demolish the tail, returning with four for 37 off 8.3 overs.   This performance went a long way in the sensational Pakistani win by one wicket off the last ball as Abdul Qadir waded into Courtney Walsh in the final over.

Imran returned an identical analysis of four for 37 in 9 overs as Pakistan achieved a crushing seven-wicket win over England. He had Graham Gooch pouched by Wasim Akram, and later castled Allan Lamb as England threatened to pile up a big score. He then had Paul Downton and Philip DeFreitas caught behind. The game with Sri Lanka was a cakewalk; Imran was run out for 39 and took one for 13 off 3.2 overs before injury forced him to come off. Pakistan had already made it to the semi-finals but the West Indies achieved a consolation win in the last league match as Imran took three for 57 off 9 overs.

The semi-final at Lahore raised great expectations but the ascendant Australians dashed the fond hopes of the home crowd. Imran came up with a heroic allround performance, in vain. He took three wickets for 36 in his 10 overs, and then added 112 for the fourth wicket with Miandad after three Pakistan wickets had gone for 38. He scored a fine 58 but Pakistan fell short by 18 runs before a hushed crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium. Though the final result was a disappointment, the 1987 World Cup was a personal triumph for Imran. He had the best bowling average of 13.05, and was second in the list of wicket-takers with 17 scalps.

It was a sombre Imran at the presentation ceremony. He had announced that he would retire after this tournament, and there was a poignant moment when Abdul Qadir paid Imran a glowing tribute and handed the skipper the keys of the car that the leg-spinner had won. This showed the esteem in which he was held by his teammates and how dearly they all wanted to win the World Cup. There was hardly a soul who did not feel sad at the sight of this magnificent cricketer bowing out in defeat. 

But life has a lot of surprises in store. Pakistan president, the late General Zia-ul-Haq coaxed Imran out of retirement, and with his cancer hospital as a spur, Imran led his side to the title in the 1992 World Cup. His team was on the verge of elimination but showed great fortitude to fight back and win the glittering crystal globe. He revealed: "I asked the team to behave like a cornered tiger. To go out and fight. To snarl. And they responded magnificently."

Imran could not play two of the first four matches nor did he make much impact in the other two. Pakistan seemed to be limping on. Then South Africa beat them. Imran took two for 34 and figured in a brilliant 85-run third-wicket partnership in 97 balls with young Inzamam-ul-Haq. But Pakistan fell short by 20 runs in a game curtailed by rain.

With the team in a deep abyss, there was a crucial game ahead against the hosts and reigning champions Australia, who too were going through the horrors. This was to prove the turning point and thereafter Pakistan raised their level of play, winning all the remaining matches. Imran scored only 13 but took two for 32 as Australia faded away. Then Sri Lanka were brushed aside and the unbeaten run of New Zealand was halted. Imran played minor roles in these matches. 

The semi-final was a return encounter with New Zealand. Imran scored a valuable 44, batting at no.3. His two half-century stands with Rameez Raja and Miandad gave impetus to the innings. Pakistan overhauled the formidable Kiwi score of 262 with an over to spare, and entered their first World Cup final.

For England it was not a novel experience, having figured in the finals in 1979 and 1987. Imran made a determined 72 off 110 deliveries with 5 fours and a six, the top score in his team’s total of 249 for six. His crucial third-wicket partnership of 139 with Javed Miandad was the launch pad from which the side made its assault on the title. Then Wasim Akram made some vital breakthroughs and Pakistan were home by 22 runs. Fittingly, Imran took the last wicket to crown a great career.

Imran became the then highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with 34 wickets at a fine average of 19.26, and an economy-rate of 3.86, in 28 matches. He scored 666 runs (average 35.05) with a century and four half-centuries. In the process he left a huge stamp on the premier tournament in One-day cricket.

Imran Khan was an all rounder par excellence, successful captain and an exceptional personality. He achieved a status reserved only for rock stars and top actors, as much due to his good looks as his daring deeds on the field. His commitment to the cancer hospital project, which he set up in memory of his mother, was yet another step forward for this great achiever. No, they don’t make many like Imran Khan Niazi.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..6. Adam Gilchrist : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

Adam Gilchrist
Greatest ever wicketkeeper-batsman?

Born  14.11.1971

BATTING (World Cups 1999-2007)
Not Out.....1   
Highest Score.....149      

WICKETKEEPING (World Cups 1999-2007)   

Adam Gilchrist’s belligerence with the willow catapulted him to the opening slot in One-day Internationals. Coupled with his prowess with the gauntlets, the southpaw became a key element in the success of Australian teams for a decade. For an aggressive batsman, he was amazingly consistent batting down the order in Test matches. Considering that he kept wickets brilliantly to superlative pacemen and top-class leg-spinners, Gilchrist must arguably be the best wicketkeeper-batsman the game has ever seen. It is players like him that contribute to the making of great teams.

The 1999 World Cup was not particularly distinguished for him personally, but by his own lofty standards. He started badly, as did most openers in this event, and brought up his first fifty only in the fourth fixture. He slammed the hapless Bangladesh bowlers for 63 off a mere 39 balls, blitzing a dozen boundaries. Having already lost to New Zealand and Pakistan, it was absolutely essential for Australia to boost their run-rate. Gilchrist put up an opening stand of 98 off just 71 deliveries with Mark Waugh. That set the tone for later batsmen, Tom Moody hitting what was then the fastest World Cup half-century off 28 balls.

Gilchrist was unusually sedate as India were trounced in the first super-six match. He scored 31 off 52 balls with just one boundary as Mark Waugh outpaced him in a partnership of 97. Gilchrist emulated Greg Dyer’s 1987 feat of snapping up four catches, the only Australian wicketkeepers to do so in the World Cup at that point. It was only in the lop-sided final that Gilchrist hit up his second half-century. Set a meagre target of 133 by Pakistan, he raised 75 with Mark Waugh in 10.1 overs. Gilchrist brought up his fifty off 33 balls, fastest in a World Cup final. He was dismissed for 54 off 36 deliveries, having hit 8 fours and a six. Gilchrist’s role in the victorious campaign may not have been stellar, but it was useful under the circumstances.

Australia went from one peak to another after this triumph. Gilchrist also grew in stature, and by the 2003 World Cup, there was none to challenge either. He raised an opening stand of 100 with Matthew Hayden against India, scoring 48 off 61 balls with 6 boundaries. Facing a formidable Zimbabwean score of 246, Gilchrist and Hayden put on 89. Gilchrist went on to score 61 off 64 deliveries, having hit 8 fours.

He then caught a record six Namibian batsmen, the maximum dismissals in a World Cup match. It also equalled his own record for most dismissals in all One-day Internationals, which he shared with Alec Stewart and Ridley Jacobs. In the process he went past Moin Khan’s all-time tally of 257 dismissals in 182 matches. Gilchrist’s new high in One-day Internationals now stood at 259 dismissals, comprising 222 catches and 37 stumpings in 151 matches. In the next match he snapped up three catches as the English gave the champions a scare. He was careering along with the bat before he fell for 22 off 18 balls, having cracked five boundaries.

Gilchrist’s best innings came in the super-six encounter with Sri Lanka. After raising 75 with Hayden, he added 106 with skipper Ricky Ponting. They seized the initiative from the opposition, regaling the Centurion crowd with thunderous shots all over the park. Having smashed his way to fifty off 37 balls, Gilchrist seemed over-anxious to log up his first hundred in the World Cup. Sadly, he ran himself out for 99. He had taken only 88 deliveries to get there, having blasted 14 boundaries and 2 sixes. Gilchrist was at his aggressive best as he waded into the attack of dark horses Kenya. Once again with Hayden and Ponting for company, he slammed 67 in a 43-ball knock that comprised nine hits to the fence and three over it.

Gilchrist was going well in the semi-final when he swept hard at Aravinda de Silva’s second delivery. The ball lobbed up and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara pouched it. Even as umpire Rudi Koertzen was turning down the vociferous appeal, Gilchrist walked away towards the pavilion. He had scored 22 off 20 balls, having hit 2 fours and a six. He was lauded for his sporting gesture. Off-spinner de Silva hailed him as “a gentleman”. Later, foreign exchange company Travelex – that was already sponsoring Gilchrist – appointed him non-executive director, rewarding him for his integrity.   

The final turned into Ponting’s match, but it was Gilchrist and Hayden who gave the initial impetus. They carted the Indian bowling all around before Gilchrist left in the 14th over. The score was already 105 by then. His 57 came off just 48 deliveries and contained 8 fours and a six. He had scored half-centuries in both his World Cup finals, which were hugely skewed in Australia’s favour.  

As expected the Scots hardly provided any opposition in their opening encounter in 2007. Just as expected, Gilchrist and Hayden raised 91 in 17 overs first up. Gilchrist fired 7 boundaries in his 55-ball 46. The consequence was a knockout by more than 200 runs. It was not much different with the Dutch. The opening stand this time was 73 in 11.5 overs. Gilchrist got to his fifty off 53 deliveries, and was dismissed for 57, having crashed 11 fours.

Hayden was on fire in their first hot contest of the tournament, blazing to the fastest hundred ever in the World Cup. Gilchrist was not too cold either, and the end result was a 106-run partnership in 14.5 overs. Gilchrist fell for a run-a-ball 42 with 6 hits to the ropes and a six over long-leg off Charl Langeveldt. Australia piled up their highest total in the showpiece event which shut the Proteas out of the match.

In the opening game of the Super-Eights, Australia took on hosts West Indies. Gilchrist, though, departed early even as Hayden hit up 158, which set up a win by over 100 runs. Bangladesh were brushed aside. Gilchrist and Hayden raised the same number of runs as in the match against South Africa - 106, but in an over less - 13.5. This brought up a ten-wicket win. Gilchrist was unbeaten with 59 off 44 deliveries, having hit 8 boundaries and a six. England set up a target of 248. This time the Aussie openers posted 57 in 11 overs before Gilchrist was dismissed for 57. It was another easy triumph by seven wickets.

Ireland were bowled out for 91. Gilchrist’s opening partner on this occasion was Michael Hussey, as the middle-order were short of match practice. There was another half-century stand, 62 in 8.5 overs. Gilchrist departed for 34, having faced 25 balls and crashed 4 boundaries. It was an easy nine-wicket triumph.    No team was able to provide serious opposition to the Australians. The next best side Sri Lanka was also bowled out for 226. Hayden was back in tandem with Gilchrist, and now the two hoisted 76 in 11.5 overs. They fell in quick succession, the great wicketkeeper for 30, and the batsmen who followed brought up a seven-wicket victory. As Hayden and the others went about flaying the New Zealand attack, Gilchrist was dismissed cheaply, but the outcome was a massive win by more than 200 runs.   

The unbeaten Aussies faced South Africa in the second semi-final. The Proteas were shot out for 149, Gilchrist snapping up four catches off the pacemen. He lost his wicket early again, but that was the only real hiccup in the seven-wicket triumph. So far Gilchrist had performed well, scoring two half-centuries and a few cameos at his usual rapid pace, but had not dazzled.

Then, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Gilchrist made the final his own. Rain ensured that the match would not start before 15 minutes past noon, and curtailed to 38 overs-a-side. The start was deceptive with 2 runs coming off two overs. Then the pyrotechnics began. Gilchrist hit Chaminda Vaas for a four and a six. Still there was no hint of the carnage to follow. The odd boundary was coming, but in the 11th over Gilchrist slammed Dilhara Fernando for 2 fours and a six. He reached his fifty off 43 balls and then launched into Tillakaratne Dilshan, tonking him twice straight and over the ropes. He welcomed Fernando back with a six and a four. On 64 he reached 1000 runs in the World Cup. The belligerent left-hander did not spare the great Muralitharan either, sweeping him deep into the stands. Hayden welcomed Lasith Malinga back with a six over long-off, and two ball later Gilchrist, on 96, banged it to the long-off boundary. The hundred had come off 72 deliveries, the second fifty in 29. He had hit 8 fours and 6 sixes thus far.

To celebrate, Gilchrist crashed two boundaries each off consecutive overs from Vaas and Malinga. Just then Mahela Jayawardene pulled off a brilliant catch in the covers to send back Hayden. The burly opener had scored 38 off 55 deliveries in a partnership of 172. Gilchrist was on 119 off 83 balls. After a quiet period Gilchrist smashed Sanath Jayasuriya for 2 sixes and a four off successive overs. When Fernando returned, Gilchrist finally top-edged one to mid-wicket. He had blitzed 149 off 104 deliveries, regaling the crowd with 13 fours and 8 sixes. It was the highest score in a World Cup final, surpassing Ricky Ponting’s 140 in 2003. It was also the top score by a wicketkeeper, overhauling Rahul Dravid’s 145 in 1999. Australia finished on 281 for four off their allocated 38 overs. Surely, Gilchrist had already won the final off his own bat. He was not finished yet, though. In the third over he snapped up Upul Tharanga off Nathan Bracken to complete 50 dismissals in the premier event. There were two more dismissals to his name before the match ended in a last minute drama marked by umpiring gaffes. No other wicketkeeper has more than 32 dismissals. The Duckworth-Lewis method gave the game to Australia by 53 runs. The final had only one hero.
Gilchrist already has all the wicketkeeping records in the World Cup: most dismissals, most catches, most stumpings jointly with Moin Khan, most catches and dismissals in a match, most dismissals in a World Cup in 2003, also the most dismissals in 2007, highest score by a wicketkeeper, the lone wicketkeeper to score a hundred and effect three dismissals in a match, highest run-aggregate among wicketkeepers, and a brilliant strike-rate of more than 98 runs per 100 balls. It is a long list. Australia won all the World Cups Gilchrist played, and he made a stellar contribution in this singular achievement.

His closest competitor in terms of statistics Mark Boucher (521) has overtaken Gilchrist (416) in terms of dismissals in Test matches but has already played 43 games more. Boucher is 50 dismissals behind Gilchrist (472) in One-day Internationals but has already played five more matches. In terms of batting, Gilchrist scored 5570 runs in 96 Tests at an average of 47.60 and strike-rate of 81.95, while Boucher has 5312 runs in 139 Tests at an average of 30.70 and strike-rate of 50.13. Gilchrist has 17 hundreds to Boucher’s five. In 287 One-day Internationals, Gilchrist scored 9619 runs at an average of 35.89 and strike-rate of 96.94, while Boucher has scored 4664 runs in 292 One-day Internationals at an average of 28.79 and strike-rate of 84.72. Gilchrist has 16 hundreds to Boucher’s solitary ton. Is Adam Gilchrist, then, the Bradman or Sobers among wicket-keepers?

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..5. Steve Waugh : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

Steve Waugh


Born 02.06.1965

BATTING (World Cups 1987-1999)
Not Out.....10   
Highest Score.....120*      

BOWLING (World Cups 1987-1999)
Runs Per Over.....4.70   

You would find few cricketers as unassuming and unattractive to watch as Steve Waugh. That for an Australian is unusual. But when it came to grit, and valiant battles against heavy odds, Steve ranked alongside the legends. Unemotional, deadpan, he has become a cult figure for his unyielding attitude that often turned the tide when all seemed lost. Time after time, when his team needed it badly, Steve Waugh came up with stellar performances that earned the respect of teammates and adversaries alike. He has been the silent warrior who played the single-most important part in carrying Australia to the top in both versions of the game, first as a batting allrounder and later as leading batsman and skipper. Without doubt, Steve Waugh’s contribution has been unmatched.

It was in his very first match in the World Cup, the nail-biting opening encounter against reigning champions India in 1987, that Steve Waugh’s reputation as ‘Ice-man’ gained further credence. Skipper Allan Border bestowed on him the onerous responsibility of bowling the heart-stopping last over, with India requiring just six runs to win and the last pair at the crease. He bowled his accurate slow-medium stuff to no.11 Maninder Singh, who scored four runs off the first four deliveries. As Waugh ran in to deliver his fifth ball, India needed one to equal, and two to win. The atmosphere was electric, and either the bowler or the batsman would crack. The batsman did. Maninder tried to swipe the straight ball to mid-wicket, missed and Waugh knocked out the off-stump. Waugh had snatched a sensational victory for Australia. His final figures were two for 52 off 9.5 overs. Earlier he scored an unbeaten 19 off 17 balls as Australia finished strongly at 270 for six in their 50 overs.

Steve Waugh completed a fine allround performance against Zimbabwe, hitting 45 off 41 balls with 2 sixes and 3 fours, and conceding just 7 runs off six overs to take the man-of-the-match prize. In the rain-hit 30-overs-a-side encounter with New Zealand he was unbeaten with 13 off 8 balls with a six and a four, and then revelled once more when it came to a crunch. Not surprisingly, he was again entrusted with the ball in the last over, with the Kiwis requiring 7 runs to win with four wickets in hand, and the brilliant Martin Crowe in command. Immediately, Waugh had Crowe caught by Geoff Marsh, and off the next ball castled Ian Smith. A run later he ran out Martin Snedden. Waugh conceded just two more runs and clinched another thrilling victory for his team. Indeed, Waugh displayed nerves of steel, marking him out as a man from whom great deeds could be expected.

As Australia faced India again, Waugh picked up his customary wicket and then battled hard to score 42, but his side faded in the run-chase. Next, he took two Kiwi wickets for 37 in 9.4 overs to bring up victory for his team. Australia stormed into the semi-finals with a comfortable win over Zimbabwe.

Pakistan were the favourites at Lahore. Steve Waugh, now batting at no.6, hit a hurricane unbeaten 32 off 28 balls with 4 fours and a six as wickets fell all around him. He also took the vital wicket of Salim Malik. Australia carved out a hard-earned win.

In the final, England were striving hard to overhaul the Australian score when Waugh struck. He bowled Allan Lamb for 45. Then as Philip DeFreitas cut loose, hitting Craig McDermott for a four and a six, Waugh had him caught by Bruce Reid in the 49th over. He finished with two for 37 off 9 overs. England were left with 17 runs to score off the last over, but the task was too difficult. The Iceman had frozen the opposition once again.

Steve Waugh played his role as utility player to perfection. It was a key element in Australia’s first World Cup triumph. He may not have been spectacular, but he was always at hand when there was something special required with the bat or ball. This is remarkable because his opportunities were limited as the first three batsmen - David Boon, Geoff Marsh and Dean Jones - were in brilliant form. With the ball Steve Waugh, with 11 victims, was second behind McDermott among Aussie wicket-takers. What more could be asked of him?

1992 was not Australia’s year, nor was Steve Waugh at his best. He scored 38 off 34 balls with 3 fours and a six, and put on 74 for the sixth wicket with David Boon as New Zealand beat them in the opening fixture, setting the pattern for the tournament. The next four matches did not bring him much glory but he took three Pakistani wickets, including those of Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, conceding 36 runs in his 10 overs.

It was time for Steve Waugh to make his presence felt with the bat, and he did that off the Zimbabwe bowling. He staged an exciting 113-run partnership in 69 balls for the fifth wicket with twin Mark. Steve Waugh hit 55 off 43 deliveries with 4 boundaries, as the siblings lifted Australia from 200 to 250 in a matter of 17 balls. That was not the end of the match for him. He snapped up two quick wickets to have Zimbabwe reeling, and bagged his second man-of-the-match award in the World Cup. Australia won the last match against the West Indies, but advanced no further. Steve Waugh had a modest tournament but still played as well as most in a team that had run out of steam.

In 1996 Australia were a rejuvenated lot under Mark Taylor. Steve Waugh was now bowling much less, but he batted with skill in his pivotal position at no.4. After the forfeited match in Colombo, the Waugh siblings made hay against lowly Kenya at Visakhapatnam. Coming together at 26 for two, they plundered the inexperienced attack at will. The century partnership came up in 18.1 overs. They went on to add 207 runs off 193 balls before being dismissed in successive overs. Steve Waugh scored 82 off 88 deliveries, hitting a six and 5 fours. This was,  at that time, the highest partnership for any wicket in the World Cup. It was the first double century stand in the premier event, discounting the fact that 221 runs were put on by three West Indies batsmen Desmond Haynes, Brian Lara (who retired hurt) and Richie Richardson before the first wicket fell against Pakistan in 1992. 

India provided the first big test. While Mark Waugh continued to blaze away with another century, Steve was run out for 7. But he performed his magic with the ball, taking two crucial wickets as the match got tense. Australia won by 16 runs with two overs left.  Steve Waugh picked up two more wickets as the Zimbabwe batting lurched.

Australia made a slow start in the face of some classical, accurate fast bowling by the great West Indies pair Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. It fell upon Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting to retrieve the situation. From 84 for two after 25.4 overs, they increased the tempo rapidly, putting on 110 runs in 111 balls. Waugh played splendidly, hitting 57 off 64 deliveries with 3 fours and a six. It was, however, Richie Richardson’s match, the Caribbean skipper pulling off a magnificent win off his own bat.

The Australians, nevertheless, moved into the quarter-finals, and their clash with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in sweltering Madras was a thriller. The Kiwis put up a huge score of 286 for nine in their 50 overs. An upset seemed in the offing in the extremely hot, humid conditions under lights, though on a paradise of a wicket - for batsmen. The Aussies are nothing if not a resilient lot, and this is personified by nobody better than Steve Waugh. As Mark Waugh set the tone, and pinch-hitter Shane Warne clubbed 24 off 14 balls, Steve Waugh lent reassurance to the Australian fans. The twins added 86 in 18 overs before Mark left at 213 in the 39th over. The asking rate was 7 runs per over, and Steve carried on in the company of Stuart Law, the One-day specialist. Law swung his bat around in an unfinished stand of 76. Steve Waugh remained unbeaten with 59 off 68 balls with five boundaries, his second successive half-century in contrasting circumstances, as Australia won with 2.1 overs to spare.

The grassy wicket for the semi-final at the magnificent Mohali stadium offered movement to the bowlers, and Ambrose and Ian Bishop rocked Australia. They were in deep trouble at 15 for four wickets, including that of Steve Waugh. The later batsmen retrieved the situation somewhat to score 207, but the West Indies seemed to be coasting at 93 for one in the 23rd over. Just then Steve Waugh struck a stunning blow, knocking off Brian Lara’s bails with a beautiful delivery that moved away just enough. The magic arm had done the trick again. Later the Shane Warne wizardry came into play, and Australia squeaked through to their third World Cup final. They were outplayed by an inspired Sri Lankan side at Lahore with Steve Waugh not making much of an impact, but only until next time.

Steve Waugh was captain in 1999.  Rookies Scotland were never going to pose a challenge in the opening tie. Waugh took a wicket and scored an unbeaten 49 to bring up victory. Then the campaign started to come unstuck. Australia lost to New Zealand by five wickets. In the next match Pakistan put up an imposing 275 for eight in 50 overs. At 101 for four, Australia were in trouble. Waugh put up stubborn resistance in the company of Michael Bevan. They added 113 for the fifth wicket. Waugh missed his half-century once again by a run. His team fell short of the Pakistan total by 10 runs.

That spelt disaster, for Australia now needed to win virtually all their remaining seven matches if they were to wrest the title. The next outing, though, was against a minor team. Waugh did not have to extend himself as his side enjoyed an easy victory over first-timers Bangladesh. In the last round-robin match too his team delivered, beating the hapless West Indies without much effort.

In the first super-six match, Australia hit up 282 for six off the Indian attack. Waugh scored 36 off 40 balls, putting on 60 for the fourth wicket with Darren Lehmann. Then as his team closed in for the kill, Waugh snapped up two wickets for 8 runs.

Zimbabwe had been the surprise package of this tournament. But the determined Australians carted them around, hitting 303 for four. Steve Waugh, coming in at 97 for three after Darren Lehmann retired hurt, put on 129 for the fourth wicket with his twin. Steve Waugh hit up 62 off 61 balls with 2 sixes and 5 fours. Zimbabwe fell 44 short, and Australia had one last hurdle to cross before they could enter the semi-finals.

What a hurdle that was – South Africa, one of the favourites for the title. The Proteas rattled up 271 for seven. In the 12th over Australia were gasping for breath at 48 for three when Steve Waugh joined Ponting. They set about rebuilding the innings, hoisting a century partnership. Waugh raised his fifty off 47 deliveries. Soon after, there was a fortuitous reprieve. At 152 for three, with Waugh on 56, he flicked one straight to Herschelle Gibbs at square-leg. Gibbs, one of the finest fielders in the world, momentarily pouched the ball, then in a hurry to throw it up in the air in celebration, grassed it. That was just the stroke of luck that Waugh needed. His words – seemingly a figment of some creative mediaperson's imagination – to the hapless Gibbs, “Son, you just dropped the World Cup”, were to prove prophetic. Though he lost Ponting at 174, Waugh was unstoppable thereafter. He put on 73 for the fifth wicket with Michael Bevan, reaching his century in 91 balls, and brought up victory in the company of Tom Moody with just two balls to spare.

Waugh was unbeaten with 120, having faced 110 deliveries and hit 2 sixes and 10 fours. It was one of the greatest innings in One-day Internationals, played in a tense situation against an attack of class, and when the stakes were huge. The innings epitomised Steve Waugh, a man who never learnt to give up.

Then followed the heart-stopping tied semi-final. The opponents were the same, but this time Australia batted first. Waugh scored 56 off 76 balls with a six and 6 fours, putting on 90 for the fifth wicket with Bevan. South Africa were dismissed for 213, the same score that Australia had put up. But Australia advanced to the final, having beaten South Africa in the previous match. “Great escape”, was Waugh’s laconic comment.

The final was an anti-climax as Pakistan seemed to choke on the big day. Steve Waugh did not have much to do on this occasion except lift the new ICC Trophy. “There have been many highs in my life, like winning the Ashes here and beating the West Indies away in 1995, but this has to be the most amazing week of my life,” he said in his hour of triumph.

“Team with the most tenacity won”
Australia, Pakistan and South Africa were the best sides in the 1999 World Cup. Did the team with the most tenacity win the title?
Yes, the team with the most tenacity did win the title.

Your campaign faltered badly in the league stage. Why?
During the early stages of the World Cup, we focussed too much on the end result rather than the process required to get there.

Would you say that luck favoured the brave?
I don’t believe in luck. My belief is that the harder you work the more good fortune will come your way.

When Gibbs dropped you, did you really tell him that he had dropped the World Cup, or was this statement a media creation?
This is not exactly what I said, but it is close.

Did Pakistan choke in the final or was it simply a clinical performance by your team?
The final was a clinical performance by the Australian team.

Already, Steve Waugh is a titan in the premier tournament, one of its leading allrounders. He has performed stirring deeds with the bat and the ball, and as a leader. A batting strike-rate of 81.02 established that he scored his near-1000 runs at a fair clip, and his 27 wickets placed him fourth in the Australian list, alongside McDermott, and only behind McGrath, Brad Hogg and Warne. He had played 33 matches in the World Cup, the most alongside Javed Miandad until 1999. To complete the picture, he also had the highest number of catches in the premier event at that point.

Courageous against pace, skillful against spin, Steve Waugh tackled the bouncy tracks as well as the dusty turners. He may not have been one of the most elegant evaders of the bouncing delivery, but he coped well enough to look the most fearsome bowlers in the eye. He played a vital role when Australia won the Limited-overs World Cup in 1987. He also enacted perhaps the most significant part when, in 1995, Australia stopped the amazing decade-and-a-half long unbeaten run of the West Indies in Test cricket. He then inspired his team to their second World Cup title in 1999. Thereafter he led his team to a record sixteen successive Test match triumphs. Though dropped from the One-day side and written off in many quarters, he logged up 10,000 Test runs, and overtook the peerless Sir Donald Bradman’s Australian record of 29 Test hundreds in swashbuckling style. Through sheer determination Steve Waugh clawed up close to the summit in Test cricket's all-time lists of run-getters as well as century makers. As a fighter and a motivator he has been peerless. If one needed to pick somebody to bat for one's life, it would have to be Steve Waugh.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..4. Martin Crowe : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

 Martin Crowe

A connoisseur’s delight

Born 22.09.1962

BATTING (World Cups 1983-1992)
Not Out.....5   
Highest Score.....100*      

Martin Crowe’s maiden appearance in the World Cup was symbolic of his stature as one of the finest batsmen of the modern era. Crowe was not yet 21 when his team was waging a hopeless battle against England in 1983. The hosts piled up 322 runs, and when Crowe came in, the Kiwis had slipped to 62 for four. While he played a superb innings, there was little support to be had at the other end. Though it was a lost cause he attacked the bowling and scored a brilliant 97 off 118 balls with 8 fours. He was the last man dismissed, run out off the last ball of the 59th over. While he was at the crease a total of 154 runs were scored, and the next highest in the innings was 23. That was how dominant the young Crowe was, and in an impossible situation.

Those were still early days in his career. He had made an indifferent foray in the international arena, so this innings must have given young Crowe immense confidence. He scored a useful 34 in the next game against Pakistan, batting even lower at No. 7.  He put on 46 runs for the sixth wicket with Jeremy Coney, standing firm against some perplexing bowling by the leg-spinning wizard, Abdul Qadir. This show of defiance tilted the balance in favour of New Zealand as Qadir’s outstanding allround display went in vain.

Crowe was now promoted to No.4 but he met with immediate disaster, Sri Lankan paceman Asantha de Mel having him caught behind for a duck. There were further disappointments as he managed just 20 and 8 in the next two matches. Then against Pakistan he batted soundly to score 43, but his side was beaten narrowly and made its exit from the tournament. For Crowe it was a learning experience. He had scored 202 runs at an average of 33.66, just behind the most successful Kiwi batsman, skipper Geoff Howarth.

By 1987 Crowe was inarguably New Zealand’s best batsman. He top-scored with 72 against Zimbabwe off 88 deliveries, having hit a six and 5 fours. He put on 84 runs for the second wicket with Martin Snedden, who appeared in the unusual role of opener. Then as David Houghton powered the Zimbabweans on with an amazing innings of 142 and staged a tremendous rearguard action in association with Iain Butchart, Crowe took the catch of the tournament. As he plunged headlong after sprinting a long way against the flight, it was a magical moment that made the difference between victory and defeat. He came up triumphant with the ball as Houghton departed, and the tide turned. The Kiwis won by three runs with two balls to spare.

Crowe made only 9 versus India. But in the match against Australia, truncated due to rain, Crowe hit a fine 58 off just 48 balls with 5 fours. That was not enough to prevent a three-run defeat in the 30-overs-a-side game. Another knock of 58 at a-run-a-ball embellished with 8 boundaries, in keeping with his ever-growing reputation, and a stand of 69 for the fourth wicket with elder brother and captain Jeff, helped his side register an easy win over Zimbabwe. The last two matches were not too productive for Crowe, and New Zealand bowed out of the tournament.

When the Kiwis co-hosted the event in 1992, Martin Crowe was one of the premier batsmen in the world, perhaps the best. He was in terrific form with the bat, and provided inspirational leadership to his team before enthralled home crowds. The side won seven matches on the trot before losing the last league game to eventual champions, Pakistan. Then in the semi-final, also against Pakistan, they had to face defeat again. But it was an outstanding Kiwi performance in the tournament right till those last two matches.

Crowe was a prolific scorer through the tournament. As New Zealand upset reigning champions Australia in the opening encounter at Auckland, Crowe scored a brilliant unbeaten 100 off 134 balls punctuated by 11 boundaries. He put on 118 for the fourth wicket with Ken Rutherford, and then had off-spinner Dipak Patel open the bowling to the bewildered Aussies. Though Australia began well, with David Boon scoring a fine century, they fell behind the required run-rate. Crowe was man-of-the-match.

As the Kiwis marched on triumphantly, Crowe was not much in evidence with the bat in the two subsequent games. But in the rain-marred match against Zimbabwe at Napier, Crowe was at his dazzling best again. With the weather allowing only 20.5 overs to his side, Crowe fired the fastest half-century of the World Cup off only 30 deliveries, equalling the earlier feats of Chris Old and Imran Khan. This mark was later bettered and eventually Brendon McCullum hit a fifty off 20 balls in 2007. Crowe went on to eventually blast an unbeaten 74 off 44 balls, rocketing 8 fours and 2 sixes. It was indeed the batting of a champion. He put on 129 for the third wicket with Andrew Jones. The Zimbabweans had no reply to such firepower.

The big test was against the West Indies, and Crowe passed it with flying colours. With the former champions managing only 203, Crowe came in at 97 for two and hit a blistering unbeaten 81 off as many deliveries, with 12 boundaries. Neither Curtly Ambrose nor Malcolm Marshall could stop him. Crowe brought up victory by five wickets and bagged his second successive man-of-the-match award.

In the outing against India he was run out for 26, but when his side met an undefeated England, Crowe was back among the runs. An English score of 200 was hardly enough to test the fired up New Zealanders. Crowe scored 73 not out off 81 balls with four hits to the fence, and added 108 for the third wicket with Andrew Jones which effectively took the match away from England.

The last league match saw the start of a downswing for New Zealand, just as Pakistan were on the ascendant. Crowe was dismissed by Wasim Akram for 3, and with him went Kiwi hopes. In the semi-final against the same opponents, Crowe was back in scintillating form. He took only 83 balls to hit 91, and put on 107 for the fourth wicket with Rutherford.
He was run out after seven hits to the boundary and three over it. Much as Crowe and his team tried, Pakistan just managed to beat them by four wickets with an over to spare.

It was a moving sight as the Kiwi players waved to the cheering home crowd. Even though they were edged out, they had done their countrymen proud, none more so than Martin Crowe. For the first time New Zealand had looked like a team that could win the World Cup. Crowe topped the run-aggregates as well as the averages for the tournament with 456 runs at 114 per innings. He was the player-of-the-tournament – dubbed world champion – and drove off with a Nissan 300 car as his prize. Peter Roebuck summed up his enthralling performance: “Nothing has been more enjoyable this summer than seeing Martin Crowe batting with such authority, leading his unconsidered team to a World Cup semi-final.” Nearly 900 runs in the premier tournament at a 50-plus average and strike-rate of 83.49 tell an eloquent tale.

Even as a damaged knee hampered his movements during the later stages of his career, Crowe remained a majestic batsman, a sheer delight to watch. His timing and strokeplay were exquisite, head right over the ball, and when he was on song there were few sights as pleasing on a cricket field. With Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe forms a trinity of the best batsmen produced by New Zealand.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.