On October 30, 1994, Manoj Prabhakar and Nayan Mongia simply refused to chase down 63 in 54 balls against West Indies at Kanpur. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at forty minutes of bizarre batting from Prabhakar-Mongia that led to suspension of the pair.
India had won both their matches going into the fourth One-Day International (ODI) of the Wills World Series match at Kanpur; the match between West Indies and New Zealand was abandoned, which meant that India through to the final for all practical purposes.
Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss and elected to field on what was an easy-paced track. He had probably banked on the fact that India had chased down West Indies’ score earlier in the tournament at Madras. In Sachin Tendulkar, Ajay Jadeja, Navjot Sidhu, Vinod Kambli, and the captain himself, Azharuddin had one of the stronger ODI batting line-ups in the world — especially in the subcontinent.
Arthurton lifts West Indies to 257
Kambli got West Indies to a good start by dropping both openers in quick succession: Stuart Williams was dropped first when he hit one off Javagal Srinath through Kambli’s hands at square-leg; soon afterwards he dropped an easy catch of Phil Simmons off Venkatapathy Raju at long-on.
Thus reprieved, Simmons hit Venkatesh Prasad over the bowler’s head straight into the sight-screen. The second six came off Raju — this time over mid-wicket — to bring up the fifty for the tall Trinidadian. He also put the sweep to great use against Raju and Anil Kumble.
Manoj Prabhakar had bowled an expensive first spell; Srinath had also bowled the kind of spell that he has done so frequently in his career — he beat the bat multiple times and yet did not find any luck (Kambli’s blemish added insult to the injury).
A helpless Azharuddin turned to Tendulkar. Williams (45) hit the last ball of Tendulkar back to him, and the bowler took an excellent catch, diving low to his right. Brian Lara was suspended for the match: he was given out stumped by debutant umpire Bala Murali in the previous match at Margao; Lara got into a row with Murali and was banned for one match by Raman Subba Row.
As a result Carl Hooper walked out and was soon deceived in flight by Raju; the leg-before appeal was upheld. Ten runs later Tendulkar struck again in his third over as Simmons hit him to Srinath at mid-wicket for 65. West Indies were now 130 for three, and India were trying to claw their way into the match.
Keith Arthurton and Roland Holder got together then added 89. Holder played a good support act before one of Srinath’s scorchers turned out to too fast even for the Barbadian who had been brought up on real pace. Courtney Walsh held back Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Jimmy Adams; he promoted Anderson Cummins instead.
Cummins did not get to hit a boundary, but he ran hard, giving the strike to Arthurton. Arthurton relied mostly on booming drives and fierce cuts; his fifty came at a-run-a-ball, and once he reached the landmark he hit Prabhakar for a straight six. As the innings approached the end Arthurton shed all inhibitions and launched a furious onslaught.
Walsh promoted Kenny Benjamin when Srinath ran Cummins out. Arthurton was run out for a 62-ball 72 with four fours and a six (which meant that he had scored 50 in 57 balls only in ones and twos). West Indies finished with 257 for six. The last five overs had accounted for 49 runs.
India begin well but lose way
India’s strategy was simple: Tendulkar would have a go at anyone other than Walsh, and Prabhakar would hold one end up. Tendulkar took Cameron Cuffy to the cleaners; Walsh mysteriously introduced Simmons first-change; Tendulkar shifted gear, hitting three boundaries off his first over.
Walsh brought on Benjamin, and then Cummins; Cummins struck the vital blow when he found Tendulkar’s inside-edge and hit the timber. Sidhu walked out, and was mysteriously deprived of the bowling: he faced only five balls during a 28-minute stay as Prabhakar hogged the strike.
Desperate to score, Sidhu hit one to Holder at cover and was run out thanks to a direct hit at the non-striker’s end. There was a hold-up in play for 12 minutes soon afterwards when a spectator hit a bottle at Walsh with the score on 87 for two. The West Indians left the ground and the police had intervene before play could resume. No overs were deducted. It was certainly not the best birthday gift Walsh had in mind.
Azharuddin began in style with two regal boundaries; he was looking good when Cuffy pitched one up; Azharuddin tried one of his trademark half-flick-half-drives to mid-on; Cummins stretched his left hand out and picked up an excellent catch.
Simmons ran out Kambli with the another direct hit from cover; Ajay Jadeja was ruled run out by the third umpire in the 41st over when Arthurton hit the stumps directly from square-leg; Prabhakar, who had earlier reached a painstaking 50 in 92 balls, suddenly opened up, hitting Hooper for boundaries over mid-wicket and point in the same over.
It was then that everything suddenly went wrong. India had required 63 from 54 balls when Jadeja got out; the next four overs saw only five runs being added. The last five saw eleven more. Walsh, who had already been bowling brilliantly, tightened the noose further, eventually finishing with 9-2-20-0.
Prabhakar eventually reached his second ODI hundred and finished with 102 not out off 154 balls amidst nominal applause. Mongia’s 21 balls had fetched him four. The performance was a display of a lack of intent rather than ability; neither was a specialist batsman, and neither was known for big hitting. What was surprising, however, that none of them tried.
India finished with 211 for five, losing by 46 runs. Arthurton was declared Man of the Match.
- Subba Row fined India two points, a decision that was later reversed by ICC on the grounds that the match referee had no right to do the same. Subba Row’s allegation was that India preferred West Indies in the final. Why exactly they would want to have the stronger team in the final remains debatable.
- Based on similar allegations Prabhakar and Mongia were banned for the rest of the tournament. They were replaced by Chetan Sharma and Vijay Yadav. India had their revenge, defeating West Indies by a whopping 72 runs in the final in Calcutta.
- Prabhakar later made an allegation in an interview on the issue published on June 11, 1997 in The Outlook: “In Kanpur, when we were chasing the West Indies score, [Nayan] Mongia came in to bat and conveyed the management’s instruction to try and get as close to the target. The resultant hullabaloo about my going slow would be directed at the team management and not me as I was doing so under their instructions. Of the 48 balls in that period, I played just 11. I scored nine off those 11 balls. In fact, due to someone else’s fault, I was dropped and humiliated.” There were other incidents mentioned as well.
- This, along with other allegations, led BCCI to institute a one-man investigation committee headed by retired Chief Justice Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud. Several key cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengarkar, administrators, and leading journalists (including CricketCountry Executive Editor H Natarajan, then working for Indian Express) were summoned to help unearth the scandal that rocked Indian cricket. Chandrachud’s verdict was in favour of Azharuddin: “I find it very difficult to accept any of the aforesaid statements made by Manoj Prabhakar. First and foremost, there appears to be no plausible reason why he slept over such important episodes, for six years in one case and for three years in the other.”
- Regarding the ODI in question, Chandrachud said: “Nayan Mongia is alleged to have conveyed to Manoj Prabhakar the ‘Management’s instruction to try and get as close to the target’. Even here Manoj never claimed that he was victimised for carrying out the instructions of the Management. Nayan Mongia has said in his statement that he has never experienced the fixing of a match as a member of the Indian team. In fact he says that it is ‘crazy’ that any player will make an attempt to lose a match.”
- Azharuddin was declared innocent. For the moment.
West Indies 257 for 6 in 50 overs (Keith Arthurton 72, Phil Simmons 65, Stuart Williams 45) beat India 211 for 5 in 50 overs (Manoj Prabhakar 102*) by 46 runs.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)