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Five little-known facts about Balvinder Singh Sandhu

Balvinder Singh Sandhu is famous for his inswinging delivery to Gordon Greenidge in the 1983 World Cup final.
Balvinder Singh Sandhu is famous for his inswinging delivery to Gordon Greenidge in the 1983 World Cup final.

Balvinder Singh Sandhu, born on August third, 1956, is a former India cricketer who is now a qualified coach. Sandhu is famous for being a part of the 1983 World Cup-winning side, particularly for that great inswinging delivery to Gordon Greenidge in the final. Nishad Pai Vaidya discovers 10 little-known facts about Sandhu.

India were defending a modest 183 in the 1983 World Cup final at Lord’s. The formidable West Indian batting were destined to get there, some said. But, India knew they needed that one moment of inspiration —something that would make them believe they have a shot at glory. Balvinder Singh Sandhu set his field as he readied himself to bowl to Gordon Greenidge. He ran in, and bowled it outside the off-stump. Greenidge, shouldered his arms to what was a magic delivery — a once in a lifetime ball. It swung in precociously and knocked the top of off-stump to spark celebrations in the Indian camp. That delivery made Sandhu a part of Indian cricketing folklore — a hero of India’s first major triumph on the world stage.

Though Sandhu is often remembered for that delivery, he was a cricketer with good all-round skills. Hailing from a respected family, Sandhu emerged from Bombay (as Mumbai was known then) to represent India in eight Tests and 22 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). On the occasion of his 58th birthday, let us have a look at five little-known things about the former India cricketer:

1.    Son of an illustrious father

Sandhu’s father, Harnam Singh Naz, was a well-known Punjab poet. A Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) agent by profession, Harnam Singh used to come and watch his son play in his young days. In the stadium, he used to sit quietly in one corner and observe the game; letting his son continue. That was a huge motivation for young Sandhu, who was eyeing a spot in the Bombay team.

2.   Started off as an off-spinner

Sandhu had initially started off as an off-spinner in his young days. However, one day, he picked up a new ball and started bowling in-swingers. Ramakant Achrekar told him to bowl seam-up since then and the off-spinners were put away for good. In an interview with CricketCountry, Sandhu said “He (Achrekar) must have seen something in me and said that I have a good inswinger. In fact, the captains were instructed to make me bowl pace from one end; I often ended up bowling 20 to 25 overs at a stretch and was not allowed to bowl spin.”

3.   Another India player in the family

Sandhu’s sister, Paramjit Kaur is married to Sajjan Singh Cheema, a former basketball player who represented India. Cheema won the illustrious Arjuna Award in the year 1999 for his services to Indian sport. He is a Superintendent in the Punjab Police.

4.   Two fifties in Test cricket

Though Sandhu is remembered for his bowling, his batting is often pushed into oblivion. At the highest level, he did give a glimpse of his talent. In his first Test against Pakistan at Hyderabad, he walked in at 72 for seven with Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz in red-hot form. Sandhu fought fire with fire and smashed a quick 71 off 88 balls with nine fours and two sixes. That effort only helped India gain some respectability as Pakistan’s score was too big and they had to follow on. However, that still remains a record as the highest score by a No 9 batsman on Test debut.

Then, in 1983, against the formidable West Indian attack comprising Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts, he scored 68 while batting at No 9. From 127 for seven, he was able to take India to 251 at Kingston in the first innings.

5.   The Devil’s Pack

Sandhu was an important member of the 1983 World Cup-winning side. In most games, he provided the first breakthroughs and helped set the ball rolling. The victory was a momentous occasion in Sandhu’s life and occupies a very special place in his heart. He penned his memoirs of that victory in the book titled “The Devil’s Pack.” The book was co-authored by Austin Coutinho, a former Mumbai Ranji probable and Sandhu’s close friend since his young days.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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