The Evolution of Opening Batsmen - Kris Srikkanth’s place in ODI cricket history.

Thirty five years ago, on a damp day in London, the history of cricket as we know it would change forever with one of the most astonishing upsets of all time – the improbable Indian victory against the mighty West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final. Until the 1983 edition, India had won a mere 12 ODIs during its first 40 matches. For the World Cup events, India’s record was even worse with only one solitary victory against East Africa, which wasn’t even a country! So, the 66-1 odds offered by bookmakers for an Indian victory were by no way off-the-mark. Indian fans fondly remember what happened during that game — a low total was somehow defended by a motley crew of innocuous medium pacers.

But what about the man who top scored in the final – the man with a thousand tics who is a bundle of energy, Krishnamachari ‘Cheeka’ Srikkanth?

When West Indian captain Clive Lloyd won the toss, one can almost suspect that Lloyd’s four horsemen of the apocalypse would have been itching to bowl against an Indian team in favourable conditions. Out strode Sunil Gavaskar and Kris Srikkanth to face Andy Roberts and Joel Garner amidst Richie Benaud’s commentary delivered in his characteristic twang, “…and his batting partner will be Srikkanth who’s a reallll dasher – sometimes manages to temper his aggression with a little caution, but not that often.”

Shortly, Gavaskar nicked one of Roberts’ deliveries to Dujon. A procession was surely due to follow with Garner unleashing his barrage of short-pitched bowling. Somehow, Kris ‘Cheeka’ Srikkanth hadn’t read that memo. Against this fearsome West Indian pace attack, he was having a tussle of his own. Very soon, he was pulling Andy Roberts to long leg for six, the only sixer among his eight hits to cross the ropes.

The pick of the boundaries? It would have to be the one where Cheeka was down on one knee and, with a touch of nonchalance, produced a square drive to the guide the ball to the fence – a Kodak moment that is the most quoted in India’s innings. The purists blushingly nodded with approval and would romanticize this shot in cricketing ballads in the years to follow. Marshall would trap him leg-before-wicket soon, but only after he had scored 38 valuable runs. Has there been any other innings of 38 that was worth a lot more? In a total of 183, 38 runs account for about 20%. But considering the innings run rate, his knock was the lift-off point for India — one of the many shocks that West Indies would receive that day.

But where does Cheeka’s place lie in the annals of ODI cricket?

About the Writer

PaajivsPunter is an anonymous collaborative blog. They've contributed opinion pieces, commentary, satire, analytical features, and long-form narratives on cricket for publications such as Wisden's The Nightwatchman, Mint, The Hindu, Sportstar, Man's World, Scroll, and Firstpost.@paajivspunter

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