25 years ago: Sunny and Chetan rock Nagpur

Twenty-five years ago, Sunil Gavaskar played one of his finest innings for his solitary one-day international hundred - at Nagpur against New Zealand in the 1987 World Cup.

But Gavaskar was not the only headline-grabber. His young teammate Chetan Sharma impressed too – with a hat-trick – the very first in World Cup cricket.

There was also Krishnamachari Srikkanth, whose 58-ball 75 included nine fours and three sixes as India won by nine wickets after New Zealand were pinned down to 221. Sharma’s scalps included Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield – all bowled with the scoreboard reading 182.

It was Sharma’s finest hour and he found great satisfaction in the fact that his teammates gave him a standing ovation on the flight from Nagpur to Mumbai that very evening (as reported by Suhrid Barua in last year).

Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Sunil Gavaskar during India’s 1987 World Cup match against New Zealand in Nagpur. PIC: Sportsweek’s Book of the Reliance Cup.

If Gavaskar was battling fever, Sharma, a few days before the match, had a pin removed from his hand that was part of a recovery process for a fracture he suffered before the tournament began.

Dr Ali Irani, the Indian team’s physiotherapist remembered: “Gavaskar had 50-50 chances of playing that game. His temperature was almost 101 on match eve. Kapil Dev (captain) said that even if Gavaskar was 50 per cent fit he would play him. A one-day hundred was the only thing missing in Gavaskar’s list of achievements and he went on to play an incredible innings.”

"It was great to get the monkey off my back and that it helped India qualify gave me even more satisfaction," Gavaskar told today.

“He matched Srikkanth stroke for stroke in the bravura of his batting. They took 18 off the first two overs, 21 came off Chatfield’s third over as Gavaskar hit the first four balls for successive sixes and then successive fours, and the 50 was posted in the eighth over. The next 50 took just six overs,” said a report in the 1988 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack..

Chetan Sharma is congratulated by wicketkeeper Chandrakant Pandit as he dismisses New Zealand’s Ian Smith. PIC: Sportsweek’s Book of the Reliance Cup

Disprin came in handy to keep Gavaskar going. “In between breaks, I used to dissolve two Disprins in water and let Gavaskar have it. This, he did thrice in the innings. Those days, a squad would be restricted to 16 individuals – 14 players which would include a reserve wicketkeeper, a manager and a physio.

The captain’s support is very essential and in this case, Kapil’s role was vital,” recalled Irani.

Gavaskar’s hundred off 85 balls (3x6, 10x4). Thirty four Test hundreds notwithstanding, this one was deeply satisfying too. He stayed unbeaten on 103.

Chetan Sharma. Pic: Getty Images

In an article written in Sportsweek’s Book of the Reliance Cup, the late Mushtaq Ali wrote: “What was more moving for me personally were Gavaskar’s sentiments after the match when I presented to him the man-of-the-match award. ‘I was inspired to play this innings due to your presence Sir,’ he said in all humility. What a gesture from a man who holds every conceivable batting record! Surely, a reflection of a fine character.”

"Apart from the presence of Shri Mushtaq Ali it was also Col C K Nayudu's birthday so that was inspirational too," said Gavaskar.

Both Gavaskar and Sharma had their forgettable moments in one-day cricket. Gavaskar took 174 balls to score an unbeaten 36 against England in the 1975 World Cup while Sharma is scarred forever after Pakistan’s Javed Miandad clubbed him for six to win the Australasia Cup at Sharjah in 1986.

October 31, 1987 probably provided some soothing balm.

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