Winning the ICC Cricket World Cup 1983 was without doubt a defining moment in the history of India sport. The enormity of it hit us when we received emotional receptions wherever we went, including audiences with the President and Prime Minister of India and many other celebrities. My personal fulfilment, however, came when my father hugged me and silently shed a few tears of joy!
Our ICC Cricket World Cup 1983 campaign started by playing four practice matches before the tournament proper, losing three. In one of the practice games, New Zealand literally had sent us on a leather hunt. The ball had to be retrieved from rooftops and roads surrounding the ground, from shots played by Glenn Turner, Bruce Edgar and Jeff Crowe.
The strategy worked out in this meeting clicked for us throughout the World Cup campaign.
Kapil Dev had suggested that having beaten the West Indies at Berbice on our Caribbean tour, we could do it once more. “Our bowlers will bowl straight, batsmen will hold one end up while the stroke-players will play their natural game,” he had said. Elder statesman, Sunil Gavaskar, had stated that getting early ickets was the key, as the West Indies players panicked when that happened. Jimmy Amarnath, the other senior player, had beseeched every player to give a hundred percent. The entire team was keyed up and had been waiting to get its hands on the reigning champs!
We shocked the cricketing world with our 34-run win against the West Indies. Scoring 262 for eight, with Yashpal Sharma contributing a well-made 89, we had the West Indies on the mat following my in-swinger which castled Gordon Greenidge’s stumps before Desmond Haynes got run-out. Tight middle overs from Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Amarnath ensured a win, with Shastri wiping off the tail.
The performances of Kapil Dev during this event changed India’s cricket history – perhaps sporting history – forever. On a chilly morning at Turnbridge Wells, India was 17 for five against Zimbabwe. Our chances of qualifying for the semi-finals were resting squarely on the shoulders of Kapil. Once he had his eye in, he set about decimating the Zimbabwe bowlers one by one in the company of Syed Kirmani. He mercilessly clobbered six sixes and 16 fours. His unbeaten 175 not out shell-shocked the Zimbabweans and India sailed into the semi-finals with a 31 run victory.
At lunch during this match, Kapil walked into the dressing room and was welcomed by a deathly silence. “C’mon guys!” said Kapil. “We’ve got to fight it out. The match isn’t over yet. All of you better have your lunch and replenish your energy. We can’t fight back with empty stomachs!” The words lifted the spirits of the entire side. That knock of his will be remembered as one of the finest of all time. It is indeed sad that this breathtaking display of batting was not recorded for posterity as BBC TV was on strike that day. Gavaskar was so impressed by that knock from Kapil that he met him halfway to the pavilion with a glass of water.
At the team meeting before the finals, tour manager Man Singh informed us there was very little prize money at stake for the winner and runner-up. Kapil was philosophical: “Let’s go out there and enjoy ourselves, guys!” he said. “It will be great to win. But if we don’t, despite a hundred percent effort, no worry”.
When Kapil lost the toss, he came in and announced that we had been asked to bat. ‘Good luck, boys,’ he added. ‘Let’s enjoy the game!’ As it panned out, we slipped to 161 for nine before I walked out. I assured Kirmani that I would be around for a while and we set about scoring runs in ones and twos. Kirmani and I took the score to 183 before he was bowled by Michael Holding.
As we prepared to go out to defend that seemingly mediocre total, Kapil said, “C’mon guys! We have got 183 on the board. Let’s make them fight to get those runs.” As a final bit of advice, he said, “We just need to bowl 10 good balls to get them out!”
In my first over in the final, it was tough trying to control my swing, as the sky was heavily overcast. The West Indies supporters, who outnumbered the Indians in the stands, did not make things easy for us by their constant banter. They would shout, “West Indies will win, maan!” and laugh heartily.
Greenidge faced me in the second over. I had got him with my in-swinger in the first match at Old Trafford and earlier in the West Indies, in Trinidad. He found my in-swinger, bowled from close to the stumps, difficult to read. That delivery of mine would seem to move out because of the angle and then dip in sharply as it hit the pitch. Greenidge got deceived again in the final and as the ball took the bails, with him shouldering arms, I was cock-a-hoop with joy. I came back after tea to force Fauod Bacchus to play at a delivery wide outside the off stump for Kirmani to take a brilliant catch.
Kapil’s catch turned the table in our favour. Haynes then holed out to Binny at cover off the bowling of Madan Lal.
Chomping chewing-gum and walking in with that usual swagger of his, Viv Richards threatened to finish off the match for early celebrations. With the score at 57-2, the King pulled a short ball from Madan Lal and miscued it. The ball went heavenward and would have normally fallen in no man’s land behind mid-wicket. But Kapil ran backwards for more than 20 yards, judged the ball to perfection and gobbled up the catch over his shoulders.
This changed the entire complexion of the game. The West Indies lost Gomes and Lloyd in quick succession then Amarnath, with his wobbly-dobbly stuff, came in and ran through the lower-order to give India a historic win.
During those last few overs, I had prayed like I have never prayed before. “O Lord! We have come so close to becoming champions. If you fetch us these last few wickets, I will visit the gurudwara to pay obeisance and thank you,” I had begged.
When Dickie Bird’s finger went up for the final wicket, all hell broke loose. The crowds were surging in from all over. Binny and Lal picked up a stump each as souvenirs, and I just about managed to pick one for myself. Amarnath, who won his second consecutive Man of the Match award in the final, settled for a bail. We waded our way through a wave of spectators into the dressing room and quickly got involved in the celebrations. There was bubbly flying all over, and any and everyone was hugging each other and dancing.
That evening, a proud Indian team – performing beyond everybody’s expectation – received the Prudential Cup on the Lord’s balcony. We were the world champions and nobody could take that moment away from us.
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