Which is the most selfish innings in cricket?

The start of something special

Cricket has been around for a long time and in those years since it was first played, there has been a lot of innings that have caused controversy, but which one is seen as the most selfish?

Well, you have to look back in the history books to 1975 and the first-ever cricket world cup. In 1975, cricket was still trying to grow as a global sport, and it was a testament to its growth that the first-ever world cup was to be played only 12 years after the first domestic tournament was played in England in 1963.

Sunil Gavaskar innings of 36 of 174 balls

Sunil gavaskar

So, it was in London, England on the 7th June 1975 where the one of the most selfish and controversial of innings ever to be seen was to take place. England is set to play India in the opening round of games at Lord’s. The format of the game in those days was that there were two groups of four countries, which meant that defeat would leave the team who lost with an uphill battle to progress further in the tournament.

It was England that batted first in what was a glorious day in London with Lord’s three-quarters full which was impressive due to the relatively new idea that was the cricket world cup.  As England batted first, it was looking as if the game was going England’s way as they knocked up 334 for 4 in 60 overs which was the highest score in one-day cricket at the time with England’s Dennis Amiss leading the charge with an impressive 137 and with Amiss being supported by a 68 from Keith Fletcher, England were looking like the team to beat. Despite a mid-innings wobble where three wickets were lost for 15 runs, England bounced back with Chris Old scoring 50 from just 30 balls meaning that India really did have to pull something special out of the bag.

With the world cup being a new venture for cricket, the competition rules stated that if a group was tied, then run-rate would be considered as the deciding factor to who went through to the later stages of the tournament. With this in mind, despite India trailing by such a margin, even if they lost, the more runs than they scored could potentially better their chances of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament. However, on this occasion, one of the Indian batsmen clearly didn’t get the memo regarding the run-rate and it is this event that has led to this particular match being remembered for all of the wrong reasons.

As India got ready to try and battle their way towards an impressive win, up steeped Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar. Opening the batting for India, it was quite clear from the off that  Sunil Gavaskar wasn’t playing for the win. His slow start had initially been seen as a strategy to cope with the new ball as it is this that tends to capture even the best batsman out even in today’s matches. But as he was carrying this strategy on for longer than required, concerns and frustration from all involved were starting to appear.

The frustrations of the crowd starting to be heard from all corners of the iconic Lord’s cricket ground, with India’s supporters voicing their concern with some of them having to be restrained by the police. Whilst that was going on, Gavaskar was still batting slowly and eventually, supporters started to invade the pitch pleading with the batsman to stop the stupid strategy and start to play a normal game. By the time the innings were over, Gavaskar had crawled to 36 not out off 174 balls with only one four being scored and the game was lost, India had only managed to score 132 for 3 which was a defeat by 202 runs.

The backlash

As you would expect after a match like that, Indian supporters and Gavaskar’s colleagues alike were fuming with what had happened on the that famous summer’s day at Lord’s, but what happened afterwards?

The manager of the Indian team at the time, GS Ramchand, told the Daily Express that “It was the most disgraceful and selfish performance I have ever seen… his excuse [to me] was, the wicket was too slow to play shots but that was a stupid thing to say after England had scored 334. The entire party is upset about it. Our national pride is too important to be thrown away like this.”

For days and weeks after the match, rumours were still circulating around the reasons why Gavaskar did what he did with the most popular rumour being that the batsman himself was unhappy with the team selection on the day.  Other rumours suggested that Gavaskar was unhappy with Srinivas Venkataraghavan being made captain of the team.

Although Gavaskar didn’t comment on the matter at the time, he later claimed that the reason he did it was that he was out of form and it as the worst innings of his life.

He is recorded as saying “It is something that even now I really can’t explain. If you looked back at it, you’d actually see in the first few overs some shots which I’d never want to see again – cross-batted slogs. I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of playing non-cricketing shots and I just got into a mental rut after that.”

There were also claims made by Gavaskar that he had been caught behind off the second ball with him saying “I keep tossing and turning around about it now. I asked myself, ‘Why the hell did I not walk the second ball? I was caught behind and would have been out for zero. But nobody appealed. I had flashed outside the off stump… it was just such a faint nick that nobody appealed”

When the team eventually returned home, Gavaskar was severely told off by the cricket board, but no action was taken against him despite the manager’s report claiming that Gavaskar had been “aloof”.

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