“Two quick wickets, both to Abid, started the misery for the newbies. And Bishan Bedi, made to sit out in the first match as India inexplicably opted for four gentle medium pacers, started clogging up one end like a man possessed”
They were a curious band of cricketers from the nations of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, put together under the banner of East Africa.
There were a few notables among this mishmash. Wicketkeeper Hamish McLeod had played for Zambia against Glamorgan. Opening batsman Sam Walusimbi was a legend in Ugandan club cricket. Don Pringle’s was a decent bowler whose son Derek would go on to play for England and then provide glamour to the media centres.
Medium pacer John Nagenda was born in the Belgian Class B Mandate territory of Ruanda-Urundi. A compulsive punter on horses, he later edited a paper named The Club Cricketer. Some years down the line, he ran Arun Lal out with a misguided call while batting together against Hurlingham.
The rest of the men were mostly of Asian origin. Of them, Jawahir Shah had hit 137 for Kenya against Bishan Bedi and EAS Prasanna when India had visited in 1967. Captain Hiralal Shah was to become the manager of the Kenyan World Cup team in 1999. Off-spinning all-rounder Ramesh Sethi later played minor county cricket for Shropshire.
Prabhu Nana, the 42-year-old left-arm spinner hailing from Gujarat, bowled cannily during the first encounter against New Zealand.
Yet, all in all, it was a rather sketchy outfit. And the Kiwis had hammered them.
In contrast, the Indians had some serious names in their line-up. But, they had come off even worse in their first match, thanks to the brilliance of Dennis Amiss and the weird approach of Sunil Gavaskar.
The match, predictably, did not draw any crowd. A mere 720 paid for admission at Headingley, and a few Yorkshire members popped in.
Harilal Shah decided to bat first on the flattest of tracks. Faced with the wafer-thin East African batting after the strong English top order, Abid Ali and Madan Lal started looking ominous.
Two quick wickets, both to Abid, started the misery for the newbies. And Bishan Bedi, made to sit out in the first match as India inexplicably opted for four gentle medium pacers, started clogging up one end like a man possessed.
A clueless Yunus Badat was castled by a beauty from the left-arm spinner. The score read a mere 37 for three in the 23rd over. And soon captain Venkataraghavan started bowling from the other end, tying the East Africans into all sorts of knots.
Praful Mehta and Jawahir Shah did their best in occupying the crease. Scoring runs, however, was another matter. The scoreboard moved only occasionally, almost as an afterthought. Bedi and Venkat continued to wheel in.
Yes, Venkat was also miserly. But Bedi was almost mesmeric in the way his loop, length and line held the East Africans up altogether, introducing a curious sense of ennui.
Mehta’s run out broke the stupor. Amarnath’s medium pace saw Harilal caught behind. 59 for 5 in 39 overs. It was excruciating stuff.
The Ramesh Sethi and Jawahir Shah partnership brightened things up, comparatively speaking. They added 42, and some good cover drives were on view as well as some leg hits. But once Amarnath had broken through the defence of Jawahir, things turned glacial yet again.
The crawl reached 116 before Madan Lal captured three quick wickets to end the misery for one and all.
120 all out in 55 overs and 3 balls meant excellent figures for all, but even then Bedi’s analysis looked magical. 12-8-6-1. The East Africans simply did not fathom his tantalising offerings.
Gavaskar had neither been dropped nor disciplined after his 174-ball effort of unbeaten 36 against England. This time around, with rather ordinary bowling to feed off, he helped himself to a brisk 65.
Farokh Engineer, who had been excellent behind the stumps, toted up 54. He was named Man of the Match for his efforts.
India thus registered their first ever ODI victory, also the first ever 10-wicket victory in the history of ODIs. Sadly, this was destined to remain their only win in World Cups till their first match in 1983.