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The nation will never forget 1983
On June 25, 1983, India upset all the odds to win the World Cup. It proved an epochal event that would spark a revolution, transforming a laidback sport into a multi-million dollar industry. Thirty years on, the wheels are still running...
It's been 30 years? For me, it all still seems like yesterday. Why just me? Only the other day, I was returning home to Chennai from Bangalore when somebody asked me about the 1983 World Cup. It felt strange for a moment that after so many years, after so many ups and downs, people still remember it! But then, I realized, 'Yes they do. ' The person's question only reaffirmed the fact that our World Cup win of 1983 was truly a moment that the whole nation will never forget. It gave us the feeling that we could be the best in an area where we were considered pushovers for a very long time.
You must remember the backdrop to the 1983 World Cup. We had played the two World Cups before that, and our achievement was merely one win against a lowly East Africa in 1975. In 1979, we had even lost to Sri Lanka, who were still to be awarded Test status till then.
I remember we went to England for the Prudential World Cup in 1983 with no hope at all. Our chief aim was to enjoy ourselves and play some decent cricket. Almost expectedly, the tour didn't start off well at all. We lost to even the minor counties in practice games and a look at the group that we were in didn't exactly raise our expectations. Clubbed with the West Indies, Australia and Zimbabwe, all we could hope for was probably a couple of wins against the Africans who were still to gain Test status.
But very strangely, it all started to turn around from our first match itself. Against the mighty West Indies in Manchester, the middle-order chipped in with some useful contributions and 262 was a total to work on. And Roger Binny and Balwinder Sandhu, our swing bowlers came good and dismissed their top-order. In hindsight, it was our swing bowling that effectively won us the World Cup. We won by 34 runs, and it was a huge first step. Even though we didn't believe we could go all the way, suddenly there was a feeling of confidence in the squad. We won the second game against Zimbabwe as well and the hopes started to rise. This was the tricky part. There was sudden optimism, but still a long way to go and how to handle the raised hopes would be the crucial. As a team with a poor history of limited-overs success, especially away from home, were we familiar with this alien concept? It was an evolving process for all of us involved.
A couple of defeats against Australia and West Indies brought us down to earth. Was it a blessing in disguise? I won't say that, but what we didn't know was there was a game-changer round the corner - an epochal incident that makes or breaks a campaign, one that transforms mere hope into belief. We were at Turnbridge Wells, on that freezing cold day against Zimbabwe once again. It was a must-win game for us, the ball was seaming around, and in no time we were 17-5.
We could feel it was slipping away, but Kapil Dev had a strange belief in himself. I wasn't there at the Old Trafford ground a year later, when Vivian Richards scored that 189 against England with Michael Holding at the other end, so Kapil's 175 remains the best ODI innings that I have ever seen.
It was cold beyond imagination - our manager Man Singh had told us that we couldn't move from our seats - so we just had to sit wherever we were as Kapil went on the rampage. In the end, 266 was a fighting total and we defended it.
Our next match, against Australia, was again a virtual quarterfinal. I remember a few Rodney Hogg deliveries in that match, which I couldn't even see. The middleorder - Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Sandeep Patil, Kapil and Kirti Azad - again contributed, but with 247 on the board we couldn't be sure.
It was down to the swing bowlers once again. We all knew what Kapil was capable of, but that Balwinder, Roger and Madan Lal could prove so effective was unbelievable. The breakthroughs kept coming and suddenly we were in the semifinals. We were now taking in our strides, the previously alien feeling of handling the pressure that comes from hope, performance and success. It was proving to be routine for us now. Was it a sign of a big team? Still, it was too early to say.
Crucially, as a team we had beautifully gelled by then. We were playing for each other. We would travel from one venue to the other in team coaches those days, and those journeys were absolute fun. We chatted, watched movies, pulled each others legs - it was like one big family. In the freezing cold of Manchester, Roger pushed Kirti into the swimming pool. The Delhi boy was mortified, but we all had a hearty laugh.
In the semifinal, England were the overwhelming favourites but again we were turning out to be favourites' nightmare. The hosts had got off to a good start before our swing bowlers started turning the game on its head. The fielding was razor-sharp as well and from a score of 69 for no loss, they were bowled out for 213. We knew we could win, Sunny (Gavaskar) and I looked to give ourselves a good foundation. A partnership of 46 might not be the biggest, but the initial overs were played out and even though both of us got out in quick succession, Yashpal, Sandeep and Jimmy (Amarnath) did the job again.
Suddenly, we were in the final, playing at Lord's against the world champions, the mighty West Indies! It was all so surreal. By now, there was a sense of anticipation and we too started feeling that it's just one win away. But boy, the Lord's pitch was green! And with those fast bowlers rushing in, it wasn't easy.
On that day, former India batting great GR Viswanath was our guest in the dressing-room and when I played that now-famous square drive off Andy Roberts sitting on my knees, I looked up to our dressing-room and tried to catch Vishy's eye. He was the master of the square cut, I was always his fan and that shot was my tribute to the master. I batted through the difficult phase, but got out in the last over of Malcolm Marshall's spell playing a poor shot. That was my problem - I always got out at the wrong time! But now as I look back, I still feel the goosebumps that the 38 that I scored was the highest individual score in that final!
Those were 60-over matches back then, and till tea time (remember it was England, so they used to have tea breaks in ODIs too), we knew we were losing. Most of the wives had gone back but since I was newlywed, that's probably why my wife, Vidya had a little more faith in me! She stayed on, along with Marshneil, Sunny's wife and was witness to what happened along the course of that afternoon. It was history unfolding before our eyes, and we were doing it. I can still see Viv playing that pull shot, and Kapil running back. How could he take that catch, make it look so effortless? It's still a mystery to me...
Those dramatic scenes on the balcony of Lord's, a group of Indians following us through the tournament - they were at Lord's as well! Some of us were supposed to go on a holiday to US, but we didn't. We all came back home and there were receptions after receptions. . . It all happened 30 years ago, but the moments of that magical summer in England will remain in my memory.
(Flamboyant and explosive with the bat, Krishnamachari Srikkanth opened India's innings with Sunil Gavaskar during the 1983 World Cup. India won the 2011 World Cup under his chairmanship of the selection committee. The former India captain spoke to Dwaipayan Datta).
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