The year 1975 saw the birth of the ICC Cricket World Cup and the venue was England. The ODI format was only 18 matches old when the ICC decided to hold the multi-nation tournament and the opening game was held between India and England at Lord’s. Dennis Amiss was the star with a magnificent 137 as England raked up a mammoth 334/4 in 60 overs. India was already staring at an uphill task considering that no target of over 300 had been chased successfully in that era. However, no one was prepared for a knock that has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons from Sunil Gavaskar.
Gavaskar consumed 174 balls and made only 36 as India managed just 132 runs in 60 overs to lose by 202 runs. Fans were outraged, the Indian players and the management were frustrated and the media had a field day in their criticism of Gavaskar. Some observers noted that he had already assumed that the target was beyond reach. Some observers noted Gavaskar's go-slow approach was due to the fact that when India last played at Lord’s in 1974 during a Test match, they were bowled out for 42.
The desperation shown by the Indian fans was summed up when they ran on to the pitch and pleaded with Gavaskar to show some fight. Following the match, there were reports that Gavaskar was unhappy with the team selection and was reportedly annoyed that Srinivas Venkataraghavan was made the captain. Team Manager Gulabrai Ramchand, who had earlier said Gavaskar would not be disciplined, told in a media interview a few days later and termed the actions of Gavaskar as ‘selfish’ and ‘disgraceful’.
Years later, speaking to the media, Gavaskar was struggling to describe his actions on that day in 1975. “It is something that even now I really can't explain. I played 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,” Gavaskar said. In addition, Gavaskar stated that he regretted he did not walk when he had edged to Alan Knott on the second ball of his knock.
Although Gavaskar played 108 ODIs, scoring 3092 runs with one century at an average of 35, his ODI career will forever be remembered for his knock of 36 which consumed 174 balls in the World Cup.