To think that the inaugural cricket world cup in 1975 could be held only after making sure that losses – if any – would be covered by the title sponsors is an eerily curious thought. But so it did. This was long before cricket came to be a commercialized sport. There were looming doubts over its success though the women’s world cup held two years earlier had seen a fair amount of enthusiasm. After the eventual settlement of finances, amid much speculation, the Prudential Cup was fit into the scantily filled cricket calendar of the season. It was to be held over a fortnight and feature a total of 8 teams. The matches were 60 over affairs – something that changed only after the third edition of the tournament.
On the 7th of June, four matches were to be held and the first of them between India and England at Lord’s. Having only been decolonized three decades earlier, India had come a long way. But this was England playing at home and despite having the likes of Gavaskar and Vishwanath, it was always going to be a tall task for the Indian team.
England won the toss and elected to bat first. And when the duo of Dennis Amiss and Keith Fletcher feasted upon the seemingly toothless Indian bowling, it was a clear indication of the mismatch between the two teams. India had almost already lost the plot. But a flocking crowd at the stadium would at least have expected a fighting spirit from the visitors as they came out to bat. Along with Eknath Solkar, the dependable Sunil Gavaskar opened the innings.
What followed was arguably the worst innings in the history of limited overs cricket as the little master failed to put anything away. He ended up with 36 off 174 balls. Much ostracized by the media and his own teammates, Gavaskar later confessed about his mental agony throughout that innings, while he tried to get himself out but could not. Apparently, he had also nicked it to the keeper off the second ball of the innings but nobody heard it. With no appeal, Gavaskar remained. There were rumors about his certain dislike over team selection that prompted the freak show. But all of that continued to remain mere speculation.
The fact remained, however, that he could just have gotten himself out hit wicket. And, he did not.