World Cup classics: Kapil's 175 or Maxwell's 201? I watched both these matches live

Veteran Indian sports writer Ayaz Memon is one of the few people to have watched the two iconic World Cup knocks live

By Ayaz Memon

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Indian legend Kapil Dev (left) and Australian star Glenn Maxwell. — X
Indian legend Kapil Dev (left) and Australian star Glenn Maxwell. — X

Published: Thu 9 Nov 2023, 10:51 AM

Glenn Maxwell lit up the Wankhede – and the World Cup – on Tuesday night with an innings of character, courage, some luck, and dazzling strokeplay to win a match for Australia that looked lost for the most part when they batted.

The pundits have now hailed Maxwell's stirring knock — 201 off 128 balls, the first ODI double hundred in a chase — as the greatest-ever in the 50 overs format.

It's not difficult to see why his innings has evoked such emotions.

Maxwell joined the action in the middle with the Aussies in tatters, having lost four wickets in the first Powerplay.

Targets of 290 and 300 are not considered unachievable in the contemporary ODI game, but if the top four batsmen have been dismissed with only 49 on the board, it’s a very royal crisis that a new batsman walks into.

Within some overs, the crisis became even more grave when Australia were reduced to at 91 for seven against an emerging team that had already beaten three former world champions in the tournament — England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Maxwell was facing 'Mission Impossible', which makes for great cinema, but finds scarce representation in real life.

How he carved out a victory for his team from such dire situation makes for one of the more incredible stories in sport, and not just cricket.

Maxwell and Pat Cummins started their eight-wicket partnership with a risk-free approach before the mercurial all-rounder, with an avalanche of breathtaking shots, turned the heat on the Afghan bowlers who suddenly lost their line, length and, more importantly, the nerve to cope with the resurgent rivals.

What made Maxwell’s effort even more incredible was that for the most part he battled cramps and deep pain.

He was barely able to walk, spurning singles as his legs and body couldn’t cope, lying on the ground to get medical attention, then standing up again to unleash strokes of power, supreme timing, extraordinary inventiveness and ensure that the required run rate would not spiral out of reach.

It was an innings of genius — the likes of which have rarely been seen in a World Cup.

Of course, there have been several sterling three-figure knocks since the World Cup started in 1975.

Clive Lloyd’s power-packed 102 off just 85 balls against Australia in the final of the inaugural tournament brought alive the excitement of limited-overs cricket, still a new concept.

The pundits, naturally, gush over the hundreds in finals.

Viv Richards’s audacious, match-winning hundred in the 1979 final against England, Aravinda de Silva’s sublime 107, showcasing the relatively underrated Sri Lankan’s virtuosity in the 1996 final against Australia, and the two exhilarating hundreds from Aussies Ricky Ponting (2003) and Adam Gilchrist (2007) have long become a part of the cricket folklore.

Then, of course, Mahela Jayawardene’s century in the 2011 final against India came in a losing cause, but was nonetheless sublime, stylish, and scintillating – the work of a maestro.

But the two best World Cup centuries, in my opinion, did not come in a final – Kapil Dev’s 175 not out against Zimbabwe in 1983 and Maxwell’s 201 not out against Afghanistan the other night at the Wankhede in Mumbai.

In a must-win game for India at Tunbridge Wells, Zimbabwe bowlers had a field day on a seaming wicket as Kapil walked in at 9-4.

An early end to the match seemed imminent when India were reduced to 7-78.

Then came the most astonishing turnaround as the brilliance and brutality of Kapil, who made 175 not out off just 138 deliveries, pulverised the Zimbabweans.

With Syed Kirmani, he put on 126 runs for the ninth wicket, of which the wicketkeeper’s share was 26!

I have long maintained that this was the greatest ODI innings ever — for the dire circumstances in which the runs were scored.

Kapil's outrageous knock inspired so much self-belief in the team that India went on to beat Australia, England and the mighty West Indies in the final to win the World Cup against all odds.

Sadly, there is no footage, not even radio commentary of Kapil’s spectacular 175 not out as BBC was ostensibly on strike that day.

Which is why I consider myself blessed. I was there at Tunbridge Wells on June 18, 1983, when Kapil produced that classic.

And would you believe it, 40 years later I was also at the Wankhede when Maxwell snatched victory for Australia from the jaws of defeat?

Ayaz Memon is a senior Indian sports writer

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