(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Tue 3 Oct 2023, 2:32 AM
If not for a business trip, Shyam Bhatia would not have been in London in the summer of 1975 when England became the birthplace of a sporting event named the Cricket World Cup.
Bhatia, the Dubai-based Indian businessman and a collector of cricket memorabilia, ended up watching both the semifinals and the final of the 1975 World Cup.
Since that first edition in 1975, Bhatia has attended every 50 overs World Cup in England, India, Australia and South Africa as a fan.
“The 1975 World Cup, that was a long time ago. It's been almost 50 years now,” the 80-year-old Bhatia told the Khaleej Times.
“I don't know how many of the people that attended that World Cup as fans are still alive!”
Back in 1975, one-day cricket was at a nascent stage with the all-new World Cup - played in 60 overs format - failing to create any buzz.
“It was a very new concept, a new tournament and one-day cricket was still not a popular format,” Bhatia recalled.
Shyam Bhatia with Sunil Gavaskar during the 1983 World Cup in England. - Supplied photo
“I didn't have any plans to watch it either. I just happened to be there in England on a business trip and ended up watching the two semifinals and the final.
“Now when I look back, I feel lucky that I was actually there to watch the final, especially the amazing hundred from Lloyd.”
Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain, hit a magnificent match-winning hundred of 102 off just 82 balls in the final against Australia.
“Imagine a batsman playing that sort of innings in one-day cricket in the 1970s when most players were still trying to adapt to new the format. It was an unbelievable innings,” Bhatia said.
Lloyd's autographed cricket bat now shares the space alongside signed equipment of other iconic names in Bhatia's beautiful cricket museum in Dubai where he has also documented the greatest feats from all World Cups.
Shyam Bhatia with West Indies legend Viv Richards at his cricket museum in Dubai. - Facebook
“That (1975 World Cup final) was one of the most memorable matches for me as a spectator. But, of course, being an Indian, obviously my most memorable World Cup is 1983,” he said.
“It was incredible to witness how Kapil Dev's team stunned the mighty West Indies at Lord's. I still believe that match changed the history of Indian cricket.”
Bhatia, who will soon be flying to India for his 15th World Cup, was also at the Sydney Cricket Ground when South Africa suffered a heartbreak in the 1992 semifinal against England.
Needing 22 to win from 13 balls with four wickets in hand, the South Africans had a shot at reaching the final in their first World Cup appearance.
But the weather god and a complex cricket rule played a cruel joke on the Proteas who were given a revised target of 22 off just one ball after a rain interruption
“It was the infamous Duckworth -Lewis method that broke every cricket fan's heart that night,” Bhatia said.
Almost 20 years later, Bhatia would enjoy one of his greatest nights as a cricket fan in elite company. Moments after MS Dhoni's match-winning six in the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka sent India into a state of frenzy, Bhatia quietly walked back to his Mumbai hotel from the Wankhede Stadium.
“I was with my brother and brother-in-law and we were having a quiet celebration in our hotel suite when I got a call from my good friend Sunil Gavaskar,” Bhatia recalled.
“He asked me where I was. When I told him I was at my hotel, he said he would come there to celebrate.
“Then Sunil turned up with two other famous people - Sourav Ganguly and Aamir Khan!
“I don't know how they landed up there. Maybe, it was the traffic chaos in the city with thousands of people hitting the streets to celebrate India's historic win!
“Anyway, we celebrated until 2 in the night. Sourav and Sunil were so happy and Aamir was over the moon. It was a beautiful night.”
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