When Dhoni walked in at three-down at the Wankhede, he had before him two famous precedents when skippers promoted themselves up the order in World Cup finals. Imran Khan had batted at number 3 in 1992, above Miandad, Malik and Inzamam, and had scored 72 match-defining runs. His century-partnership with Miandad for the third wicket had laid foundations of a solid score, which the English found too many to chase. In 1983, Clive Lloyd had pushed himself up to number four, that is above Larry Gomes, but ended up destabilizing the batting order. The choice before MS was not as straightforward as it looks in hindsight, but then who has ever succeeding in convincing the cynics?
Dhoni had not played a single fifty-plus innings in that tournament till the last day. On the other hand Yuvraj had been in imperious form till the quarter-final, but had gotten out on a duck versus Pakistan in the semis. When Kohli got out in the final, Muralitharan was bowling well, and had quite some overs left in his quota. Yuvi never liked the prospect of playing against spinners in the initial phases of his innings. Besides, MS had seen a lot of Murali in the CSK camp, hence was more comfortable. There was an additional consideration of the left-right combination. Or it might just have been Dhoni’s gut feeling, who can say?
Imran had also not moved past fifty in the 1992 Cup till the final. But he had come in at one-down, scored 44 and set up the chase against the Kiwis in the semis. After missing a couple of early matches due to injury, he had batted without much returns at number six and seven, then promoted himself to number four against South Africa and scored 34 runs. But he did not get to bat in the last league match against New Zealand which Pakistan surprisingly won by 7 wickets. But Imran’s move to bat up the order lent the mercurial side much needed stability and proved to be a masterstroke.
Clive Lloyd, on the other hand, was most comfortable batting at number five. In both the previous World Cup finals in ’75 and ‘79, he had come in at third down. Even in the semi-final against Pakistan, it was Larry Gomes who had joined Viv Richards in the middle after the openers had fallen. The duo had remained unbeaten as the Windies coasted to an eight wicket victory. Larry Gomes had managed 50 off 100 balls, his third fifty of the Cup. There was nothing electric about that innings, but it was an exercise in steadiness and patience. Exactly what the doctor would have ordered in the final, with a low score to chase, and Viv looking in excitable hurry to finish the match.
West Indies were chasing 183, and had lost Greenidge to a vicious Sandhu in-cutter. When Haynes got out at the team score of 50, Clive Lloyd walked in at number four, and that decision has often been touted as one of the reasons behind the Windies batting collapse. After the fall of Richards at 57 against the run-of-play, Gomes and Lloyd tried to steady the ship. But both fell one after the other when the score stood at 66. Gomes got 5 off 17 and was caught by Sunny off Madan Lal. The hobbling Mr.Lloyd was found off-balance and was caught by Kapil off Roger Binny. He had scored 8 off 15. The gamble had failed spectacularly. Was it even a gamble, or just a casual decision? Perhaps the West Indians did not think too much of the low target, and of the Indian bowling attack. The ease with which West Indies had ambled to 184 against Pakistan in the semis must have played on their minds. When the second wicket fell, the score was 56 in the semis, and 50 in the final. Maybe Clive promoted himself because he wanted to be in the middle when Windies won their third World Cup, as he had made up his mind to quit the team captaincy. Most interestingly, even Lloyd, like Imran and Dhoni after him, had not hit a half-century in the entire tournament till he made the decision to take the guard before a player who had already scored three fifties and was in fine nick.
It is possible that Clive blamed himself for the decision to have played in the final with a strained groin that had kept him off the field for much of the semi-final against Pakistan. He aggravated it further while batting in the final, requiring Desmond Haynes as his runner. He chose the after-match function, prearranged by the West Indies board, certainly in the expectation of a celebration, to announce his resignation as captain.
The Windies had begun their campaign with a shocking 34 runs loss against India. They were a tad unsure about their batting order. Faoud Bacchus batted at four, skipper Lloyd at five, wicket-keeper Dujon at six and Larry Gomes at seven and had scored 14, 25, 7 and 8 respectively. In their next match against Australia, Gomes was sent in after the fall of Greenidge and Richards. Haynes departed soon after, but Larry steadied the innings and top-scored with 78 runs off 153 balls. Lloyd came in at five and scored 19 runs. Bacchus and Dujon batted at six and seven respectively. West Indies comfortably won the match by 101 runs.
Batting at number 4, Gomes got 75 and Greenidge cracked a century against Zimbabwe as the Caribbeans romped home by 8 wickets. But in their second league fixture against India, it was Lloyd who came in at 4 and scored 41, while Gomes was sent in at number 7 and scored a brisk, unbeaten 27. In their second league match against the Oz, Gomes came in at 2/203 and scored 15 runs. Lloyd arrived at third-down, got 19 runs and remaining not out as West Indies won the match by 7 wickets. The Windies won their last league match against Zimbabwe by ten wickets, and neither Lloyd nor Gomes were required to bat.
Now Larry Gomes was a calm customer in a team of swashbuckling hitters and superstars. He was quite unassuming, even a touch diffident, an efficient batsman, not a destroyer, someone who could steady a sinking ship. He stood for reasonable approach – a win’s a win, there are sixty overs to bat and every ball must be played on merit. Of his competence, there was never any doubt. Nine hundreds in sixty tests, six of them against the Aussies at an average of almost 40 is no mean feat. In the ODIs, Gomes managed an average of 29 over 83 matches at a strike rate of 55, hitting one ton and six fifties. Three of those fifties had come in the Prudential World Cup 1983 versus Australia, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. He was the man in form, and perhaps a man for all seasons.
Clive LLOYD, on the other hand, does not need numbers to back his introduction. This 6’5’’ giant with stooped shoulders, sporting a large moustache and thick spectacles on a professorial face, with a trademark round cap with drooping sides, and a ponderous manner plus a lazy gait- was an intense leader, a thinking captain, supervising a bunch of world-conquering heroes. Clive fancied himself as a big match player. He had scored 82 and 78 on debut against India in India, and then slammed 118 versus England on his home debut. He had scored a century at Gabba in his first match in Australia. His marvellous innings of 102 off 85 balls in the final is what had won for the Windies the first World Cup. In 87 ODIs, he averaged 39.5, and had scored one ton and eleven fifties at a strike rate of 81. Who can argue against his decision to promote himself? In fact, it can be questioned as to why did he not bat at number four more regularly?
Be that as it may, while the ‘masterstrokes’ of MSD and Imran Khan worked, Lloyd’s failed, and West Indies have never again come close to winning the World Cup after that loss in 1983.
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