On 22nd February 1992, two legends from the different era have their only face to face. Sachin Tendulkar, not even 20, had already made his reputation.
Two years back Sachin Tendulkar was almost going to become the youngest centurion in tests when he fell just 12 short against New Zealand. His maiden Test century came against England at Manchester in a wonderful match-saving performance. In Australia, although India had a horror tour Tendulkar did not do any harm to his reputation with two wonderful hundred in the test series, the one in Perth was considered by many as his one of the bests. 1992 cricket world cup was the first marquee event where Tendulkar could display his talent in the big stage.
On the other hand, Ian Botham was one of the greatest all-rounder from the 80’s and a mad genius. By late 80’s his career became a start-stop one impacted by injury and multiple controversies. He was not part of the England team when India toured in 1990 and only made a comeback a few months before the world cup. Botham’s nickname was ‘Beefy’ and at this stage of his career, he pretty much showed everyone the reason for his nickname. However English team management still find a use for him as they asked him to open in the limited over matches to take the benefit of the fielding restriction.
The 1992 World cup started on 22nd February. In the first match, the two hosts Australia and New Zealand faced each other. In the second match of the day at Perth, it was a showdown between England and India.
England came to the world cup after a successful tour of New Zealand. The team was led by Graham Gooch and had experienced players like Robin Smith, Alec Stewart, Chris Lewis, Phil DeFreitas and the young sensation Graeme Hick and was the favorites. Indians were already tired from a long tour and lacked balance. Their captain was in horrible form, batting order included two veterans in the top and three barely 20-somethings in middle. Interestingly in this match, the middle order trio of Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, and Pravin Amre all came from Mumbai and from Ramakant Achrekar coaching camp. Their bowling was dependent on the old horse like Kapil and Prabhakar with new pacers like Javagal Srinath and Subroto Banerjee just coming up.
England batted first and at the beginning, it was the battle of two old warhorses – Botham vs Kapil. After beaten a couple of times Botham tried to break the shackles by a lofted off drive. But soon nicked one to Indian wicketkeeper More off Kapil and Kapil was the winner of that round. India got the early breakthrough but could not capitalize. Already Gooch was dropped in the first over and after the fall of Botham, he built a partnership of 110 with Robin Smith. Smith was the main fulcrum of the England innings and scored a brilliant 91 which was the main reason for England reaching 236 in 50 overs as Indian bowlers fought more than expected of them.
Indian openers started well but were restricted by England bowlers from scoring opportunity. Shastri and Srikkanth added 63 but once Srikkanth was gone, the new batsman Azharuddin got a vicious delivery from Darmot Reeve and could not do anything except nicking it. This brought Tendulkar in the middle and changed the tone of the match. Young Tendulkar once again proved his excellence. Brilliant pulls and drives were in display and English players seemed to be helpless in from the might from the little man. He easily moved to 30’s and India comfortably crossed 100. This is when Botham was introduced. He was not anymore the world beater he once was but he still fought hard with the last ounce of his cricketing skill, tenacity, and perseverance. Tendulkar showed him the respect and played cautiously and slowly getting used to his balls mostly cutting towards him. But suddenly Botham let one go towards the other direction and it took the nick of Tendulkar’s bat and was pouched by Stewart behind the wickets. The old head finally got the win and world saw that the magic of Beefy is still on.
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The rest of the match was a familiar tale of despair for Indian cricket fans. Like many other chases during the 90’s the team went close to the target but was little late in increasing the tempo and ended with just 9 runs short of the target.
This was the last world cup for Botham and he again made his mark against the old enemies Australia. For Sachin Tendulkar, it was the start of a world cup journey which finished with a winners’ medal in his 6th world cup.