I’m a standing witness to this unbelievable telephonic conversation that took place in Hyderabad, in 1987, between two of my very close friends.. The entire conversation was about a very suspicious role two legendary Indian Cricketers were about to play in a crucial match, the next day..
As a die hard fan of these two great Indian Cricket legends, I may not be very happy reporting this “never known to the world incident” today, but at the same time I may also be not very happy if I hide it from you all- the millions of lovely Cricket fans..
However, if you ask me to prove the trustworthiness of the said conversation today, I may have to plead stoic helplessness too.
Please go through..
“Forget it Buddy.. It’s already fixed now.. In tomorrow’s match, England will bat first and Gooch will score a century… Later, while chasing the target, Gavaskar will be out without reaching double figures and Kapil Dev will be caught at mid wicket without scoring much..India is going to lose the match to England tomorrow..”
That’s what an Indian friend, studying in London those days, told over phone to another friend of mine in Hyderabad just a day before India’s crucial semi final match against England, during the 1987 world cup..
Let me tell you, the London friend was neither an Oracle nor a Sooth Sayer..
Then What Made Him Say That..??
Right from our school days, almost all our friends are not only good Cricketers but are also great fans of Cricket.. All of us were students in those days of the 1987 world cup and were very closely following all the matches played during that championship.
We were all very hopeful that India, the defending world champion, would definitely win the world cup again.. It was then, when our Hyderabad friend was discussing with him about the chances of India winning the world cup again, the London friend had given us that shocking information..
Agreed.. As students we may not be in a position to understand the role money plays in Cricket.. However, the concept of our favorite Cricketers getting out deliberately for money was, somewhat, not an acceptable theory to anyone of us, that time.
Hence, we did not take that London friend’s statement seriously and kept our hopes completely on the crucial semi final match that was to be played the next day..
But to our utter shock and dismay things happened in exactly the same fashion, as told by the London friend, during the match the next day and Indians were knocked out of the 1987 Cricket world cup- unceremoniously..
All our friends were left speechless.. How can such things happen in our favorite sport..??.. And how can our favorite Cricketers do that..??.. But no matter what the result of that match was, all our friends were still reluctant to accept any conspiracy theory in the outcome of that match..
That was our love for the sport and that is the respect we still have for the two great Indian Cricket legends..
However, in the wake of the current ongoing match fixing scandal that’s rocking the whole nation of India today, I now feel that “the above vital info”, although is impossible to prove today, certainly carries some amount of credibility..
But How Did That London Friend Know All About That..??
For many decades, betting is a legally permitted practice in almost all the European nations and by and large London is the nucleus of all such betting activities.. Anyone there with a few Pounds in hand can bet on any match played in any corner of the world..
The above conversational info must have gone on air in London during a similar betting process, those days, and finally through some Indians residing there must have reached India..
Hence by any stretch of imagination the above telephonic conversation, in my view, carries a lot of credibility today even though it’s impossible to prove it’s claim in jurisprudence..
Here Is The Analysis
Today if we analyze each and every thing that had happened during that semi final match, played on the 5th of November, 1987 at Bombay’s Wankhede Stadium, we can very easily make out that all the action that took place in that match is not to be trusted..
First things first..
India won the toss and invited England to bat.. It was very often proved in the past that Indians are poor chasers even though they have very small totals in front of them to chase..
Then what prompted Indian captain Kapil Dev to choose fielding first after winning the toss is a tough question that will never find an answer in our lifetime..
Graham Gooch’s century
England opener Graham Gooch, after surviving a very confident LBW appeal in Kapil Dev’s very second over, went on to score a century…We can still consider this a coincidence because it’s impossible for any team to help a batsman score century…
Or should we think that the two umpires, A R Crafter (Australia) and S J Woodward (New Zealand), who did duty in that match, too were sold out..??
(It was also reported in the media those days that Graham Gooch did extensive practice in the nets, just a day before the match, to master the sweep shot and later executed it to perfection, during the match, to counter the deadly left arm spin bowling of Maninder Singh..)
The Great Sunil Gavaskar’s Crucial Dismissal
Now if we look at Gavaskar’s dismissal in the match that day, many doubts are bound to crop up even in the minds of his strongest supporters.. That was a fuller length incoming delivery from Phi DeFreitas that pitched just outside the off stump and was coming back sharply on to the off stump.
Without positioning himself properly, Gavaskar – the perfectionist that he is – who was already half – cock forward that moment, tried to flick that ball to the mid wicket region; missed the line of the ball completely; and was bowled.. Lock.. Stock.. And barrel
The whole of Gavaskar’s beloved Wankhede Stadium was stunned into silence..
Now please allow me to clarify..
Unless he deliberately throws away his wicket in such an awful fashion, there’s no way any bowler in this world can easily dismiss the great Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar like that.. Agree..??
The little master, as he is fondly called by the media, is always revered and respected by many, all over the Cricketing world, for his sound technique and solid defense.. Then why such a poor dismissal in such a crucial match..??…
After watching Gavaskar’s dismissal today, many of the purists who are aware of Gavaskar’s batting style and his cautious approach while playing the new ball, may very certainly say…
“Phil DeFreitas is a quick bowler and there’s no need for Gavaskar to play such a casual shot, in the very third over of the innings, when he’s much aware it’s a knock out match for India and a very important one for it to stay further in the competition..”..PERIOD
Now let’s look at the crucial dismissal of Kapil Dev..
Since most of us are aware of Kapil Dev’s “I care a damn for you” batting style, am not going to discuss anything about his attitude here..
However, if you look at the way his approach towards his batting was in this match right from the beginning of his innings, you will be knowing how unnecessarily Kapil Dev was trying to force the ball towards the mid wicket region, often.
Let me remind you once.. “Kapil Dev will be caught at mid wicket..” is what the London friend had said during that telephonic conversation.. Right..??.. Will you, at least now, agree with him..?? ..No..??.. No need…Please view the following video once..
You must have viewed in the video that just before his actual dismissal, Kapil Dev miscued a shot to the mid wicket boundary.. Almost immediately, he wishfully played the shot again and this time lifted the ball straight in the air towards the mid wicket region.
It went up high in the air and safely landed in the hands of Mike Gatting, who positioned himself there in that mid wicket region in anticipation of that catch… Even otherwise that was a very simple scoop and a very simple catch for a lazy fielder like Mike Gatting..
Now, please allow me to clarify..
While Kapil Dev was still batting, India were in need of just 89 runs from sixteen overs.. That was a target very much within the reach of India and Kapil Dev, as captain of the Indian team, knows it pretty well..
Then why is that he played that lofted shot deliberately when he’s also aware that there’s not much batting left behind him.. At that crucial juncture, when the match was very much under his control, was it not necessary for captain Kapil Dev to stay at the wicket until his team India reaches home..??..
Today critics, in his defence, may say “..that’s how Kapil Dev bats”.. But as his fans are we not aware that Kapil Dev is also capable of staying at the wicket for a longer period of time which he had very emphatically proved in the previous world cup when he scored that historic 175 at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe..??.
Now coming to the point.. How does our London friend know that Kapil Dev will be caught at mid wicket..??.. Does this also mean that even catching positions are fixed in Cricket..??… Don’t tell me..
Otherwise were they all just coincidences..??
I know it’s still very difficult, for everyone of us, to believe that Indian Cricket’s two most respected legends have resorted to match fixing in their career… Then how to interpret the above occurrences during that semi final match that very much defy all our belief in them..??.. Coincidences…??
Does that mean match fixing was there in those days too..??.. And does that also mean legends like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev too were involved in match fixing and sold the prestige of their country just for that little more extra money..??.. Who knows..??
Unlike today, Indian Cricket in earlier days, with the exception of players like Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and The Gaekwads, was very much a common man’s game..
Most of those Cricketers who represented India, those days, played Cricket just for honor and not for money.. Cricket was a popular game, for sure, but never was a money spinning one..
The match fees, even for a test match in those days, was just a few thousand rupees which does mean that Cricketers, those days, never made any money playing Cricket..
A point to be noted..
According to Kapil Dev “..Rupees one lakh is all that the Indian government had gifted our 1983 world cup winning team “..This statement alone tells us the whole story about the pathetic state of Indian Cricket played in those days..
Another vital point to be noted..
Gavaskar was an employee of Nirlon Synthetic Fibers even during his playing days.. He was also earning quite a decent amount through royalties generated from the sales of his books “Sunny Days” “Idols” “Runs N Ruins” and “One Day Wonders”..
Almost during the final years of his international Cricket, Gavaskar also started India’s first sports management company, the Professional Management Group.. Although his income was decent from all these sources it, however, was never substantial..
On the contrary, today’s popular Cricketers Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli or for that matter even Shikhar Dahwan and Rohit Sarma who stand nowhere in front of Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, either in game or in caliber, are way ahead of these two legends in their earnings and popularity.. Why..??
In fact,with an annual income of 39.5 million dollars, Indian captain Dhoni is already in the Forbe’s current list of top twenty rich sportsmen in the world today..
Former Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi,while speaking to the media on the recent match fixing scandal,said..
“People like Ajit Chandela are bound to be lured by bookies and match fixers.. You share your dressing room with a player who is offered tons and tons of money whereas you are offered only a pittance..
Frustration is bound to creep in at some stage and that’s where you decide not to say no to such dubious offers that come your way,unsolicited…That’s how matches are fixed..”
If we finally analyze the whole semi final match of the 1987 world cup, in the point of view of a clinical psychologist today, then this would be the
“Senior players like Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were on the verge of retirement those days.. While Gavaskar had already retired from test Cricket, Kapil Dev was over his prime and was being questioned by many critics about his place in the team..”
“Any man who’s approaching his retirement is bound to become impatient and restless with every passing day.. He will try to cut down all his expenditure and will also try to accumulate as much money as possible that comes to him through all means of possibility..”
“While money is money that can spoil anyone, easy money can lure anyone and large money can buy anyone..”
“Now with literally very little money in their bank accounts and with a bleak future looming large upon their lives, why would Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, who were hardly forty years of age, refuse any amount of money that’s coming their way through very safe and hidden channels that too in those days of no legal and electronic surveillance”
“By then these two legends must have already realized that honor, pride and self esteem are good words to hear but are bad words to practice.. Hence they have every reason to accept that money that has very fortunately come their way during the fag end of their career.. So what if that came at the cost of losing a match for India..This must be their line of thinking..”
As an expert bookie very recently said,”Betting and match fixing are there right from the invention of Cricket and will be there as long is Cricket is played in this world.. There’s no player who cannot be approached today and there’s no match that cannot be fixed”
DISCLAIMER : The views expressed by me in this article are based on a telephonic conversation that are impossible to prove today.. However, with all due respect to the two great legends, I shall unconditionally offer my sincere apologies to anyone and everyone who may think the claims mentioned in this article are baseless..