With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin in May, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 27
Before the start of any World Cup, there’s one match that fans look forward to most. In the upcoming edition, it’s the India-Pakistan clash on June 16 that got sold out within minutes. In the very first World Cup, in 1975, the most anticipated league match was the one between West Indies and Australia – two powerhouses of world cricket at that time.
While the encounter as a whole didn’t prove to be a classic, one particular duel at the Oval on June 14, 1975, will remain unforgettable for the game’s followers. The duel between Alvin Kallicharran and Dennis Lillee.
Unlike the T20 era today, where bowlers are largely at the mercy of batsmen in the limited-overs, the 1970s was a different time altogether. You didn’t have batsmen operating at a strike-rate of close to 150 and the ball flying to all parts of the ground right through the match. Back then, the bowlers, especially the fast ones, commanded much more respect. Facing the leather ball without a helmet, with a stick-like bat and with pacers having a free hand to relentlessly aim for your head was a terrifying proposition for most batsmen.
In Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Andy Roberts and others, the league match between West Indies and Australia in the 1975 World Cup witnessed a congregation of some of the most lethal fast bowlers the game has ever seen. And that’s precisely why Kallicharran’s brutal assault on Lillee is impossible to forget.
Here’s what happened
Asked to bat first after Windies skipper Clive Lloyd won the toss and elected to field, Australia got off to a horrendous start. Opener Richard McCosker was removed by Bernard Julien off the third ball with not a single run on the board. It was a big statement by West Indies first up and a sign of things to come.
Australia’s top five batsmen all fell cheaply, with captain Ian Chappell’s 25 off 63 being the highest score among them. Yes, his strike-rate is alarming but back then One-Day Internationals saw each team batting for 60 overs. Anyway, the Aussies were reduced to 61/5 before Ross Edwards and Rodney Marsh came together to lend some respectability to the score. The duo added 99 runs for the sixth wicket, with Edwards making 58 off 74 and wicketkeeper Marsh remaining not out on 52 off 84.
The Australians were bowled out for 192 in 53.4 overs, a below-par total even for those days. West Indies openers Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge didn’t provide the greatest of starts to the chase, adding just 29 runs for the first wicket. But that’s when Kallicharran walked out to bat, and a truly memorable knock followed.
Having not forgotten the barrage of verbal bouncers he received by the Aussies when they toured the Caribbean in 1972-’73, Kallicharran was on the offensive right from the outset. The left-hander, 26 at that time, combined with Fredericks to put on a 124-run stand for the second wicket, with the latter scoring just 46 of those runs. He was severe to any line or length that was bowled to him. The short balls were cut or pulled with ferocity and the full deliveries were drilled past covers with ease.
The highlight of Kallicharran’s innings was, of course, his takedown of Lillee. The Australian fast-bowler, widely regarded as one of the greatest exponents of his craft, was at the peak of his powers at that time. But that fact did little to intimidate his opponent.
The more-than-capacity crowd at the Oval that day were treated to a thrilling ten-ball sequence between Kallicharran and Lillee. The Windies No 3 batsman scored 35 runs in those ten deliveries, smacking: 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 6, 0, 4. Such power-hitting was far from the norm at that time. It’s safe to say that Lillee wasn’t hit with such disdain, before or after, in his glorious 13-year international career.
Lillee did eventually get his man but Kallicharran had scored a masterful 78 off 83 by then, and West Indies had reached 153/2. Fredericks got out soon after for 58 off 105, but Vivian Richards and Rohan Kanhai ensured their team won comfortably by seven wickets and with 14 overs to spare.
The two teams met again a week later in the final, and once again it was the West Indies who emerged victorious. They became the first team to be known as world champions. Kallicharran had a big part to play in their journey.