Sunday, February 22, 2009

Remembering Richards and the 1979 WC final

A curious article by Mudar Patherya on Viv Richards' innings in the 1979 World Cup Final. Curious for two reasons: firstly, the headline says "Richards despatches Hendrick. 50 Magic Moments: Six over midwicket and done. The perfect ending to the second World Cup final". This makes it sound like the six ended the 1979 World Cup final. And this is not the headline writer's fault. Patherya himself writes as if Richards finished off the final with a six. He speaks of Richard's "coup de grace" and how "people enjoyed themselves in the 60th over of a World Cup final" where the mention of the "60th over" creates the impression of the end of the game. But the 1979 World Cup final did not end with that six; merely the West Indians' innings did. England still had to chase down their (for that time) imposing total of 286. The final ended when Hendrick was bowled by Croft. (The "coup de grace" if there was one, was administered to England's bowling, not the game.)

Even more curiously, Pathreya suggests it took four years before the community of Indian fans laid their eyes on this feat:
It was a good four years before we actually saw how Richards did hit Hendrick. You slimed up to someone who gloated in the possession of cricket videotapes, you bought a VCR for Rs 20,000, you pleaded for the tape for a day, you invited the select to a private showing, you basked in the reflected glory of being "close" to Richards' six, you analysed it to death thereafter, and you emerged as an authority in a community that had been condemned to only read about it.
But Doordarshan made the highlights of the World Cup final available that summer of 1979 itself. I watched them at home on our flaky black-n-white TruViz set (Doordarshan had also shown the highlights of India's opening round beating at the hand of the Windies; mercifully, they did not show anything else, though in retrospect I wish I could have seen the Sri Lankan team that beat India that year). Even more than Richards and Collis King's explosive partnership, what had stuck in my mind was Randall's fielding (the first time I saw a sliding save on the boundary) and Lloyd's seemingly deliberate drop of either Boycott or Brearley while they were crawling away during their lethargic opening stand of 129.

This memory of Patherya's is a strange aberration. Why does Patherya have such a recollection? I'm not discounting the possbility he saw the final's highlights four years later; my puzzlement is over why he thinks no one else saw it. One possibility is that when Patherya heard people talking about the Richards-King partnership (which for most people was the talking point of the final), he assumed they were, like most Indians always did, speaking vividly of cricketing events they had not actually witnessed. But even more importantly, I think the reason Patherya remembers watching the final in this fashion and context is that over the years our yearning for those times has grown and grown, and we associate even greater hardships with those times than existed.

Patherya is right that our visual associations with the cricketers of those times were skimpy, that for most of us, photographs were all we had to go by and we had to let our imaginations do a lot of work. When we did see television highlights, the experience was close to magical, especially when the coverage was the high-quality one of the BBC or the ABC (as in the case of the India-Australia 1977-78 series). So, perhaps, as we look back on the 1970s, we imagine that there was no way we could have seen Richards so quickly after the 1979 World Cup final. It must have taken longer; it must have been difficulty to lay hands on that precious footage; and it must have been rare. Biography, as Freud pointed out, is pretty damn difficult; autobiography even more so. But it can be genuinely creative, in constructing a story for ourselves that comports best with how we would like to look back on the twisted, complex, trail we leave behind us.


Blogger Tifosi Guy said...


You have really an ' eye for detail, so to speak ! maybe you could give Patherya some more slack :)

I was too young to even comment on the same. My memories of cricketing telecast began with THAT final in Sharjah 1985!!

I recognise very well with waiting for those late night DD highlights when India went abroad. Until Prime Sports came in 1990. Since then we guys have been spoilt for cricketing telecast.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Tifosi Guy said...

On a different note, did you see the news of Bucknor FINALLY calling it a day. Means no more Sydneygate !

4:34 PM  

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