1983 World Cup: The day Team India arrived
A beaming Kapil Dev with the World Cup trophy held high over his head, a bunch of elated Indian cricketers on the historic Lord’s balcony and a swarm of Indian contingent on the field of the most iconic cricket ground. These are the visions that will be etched in the memories of millions of Indians forever.
Much of the romance attached to India’s 1983 World Cup triumph is due to the fact that no one, in their wildest imagination had thought it will happen. Not even the men who made it happen. We, at BCCI, spoke to various members of the victorious class of 1983 and gave them the difficult task of putting the feeling in words.
Captain magnificent, Kapil Dev, along with his senior and celebrated teammate, Sunil Gavaskar reminisced the most-cherished moment of their lives. Let’s take a walk down the memory lane and relive the event that changed the face of Indian Cricket forever, in the words of its creators.
The first blood
India was one of the weakest teams to participate in the tournament. With a young captain and hardly anything to show off in the ODI format, the team left the Indian shores with no fanfare or expectation. But then something happened. In their first match of the tournament, India defeated the defending champions, the mighty West Indies by 34 runs. Suddenly, the Indians were interested in what was happening in England. There emerged a sense of seriousness, within the Indian team and their countrymen.
Kapil Dev: “We were just a bunch of young boys who wanted to have fun. Winning was more fun in the evening and that’s what we started to look out for – how we can enjoy more. The first match itself (against West IndiesI) gave us a little hope. After that our aim was to make the top four. Every match became more and more serious after that.”
The journey to the final
A win over Zimbabwe was followed by a heavy pounding against Australia – a 162-run loss. The proud men from the Caribbean had their revenge in the next match as they thrashed India by 66 runs. Sanity seemed to have returned to the tournament as the giants were defeating the minnows once again. But the peace was transient.
India’s next encounter was against Zimbabwe in which Kapil Dev produced one of the greatest ODI innings ever to inspire his team to a victory. Kapil’s unbeaten 175 didn’t only win India the game but also proved to be the platform from where his team took off and landed as world champions.
Australia were battered (by 118 runs) and a spot in the semi-final was booked. India faced the onerous task of defeating a formidable team in its own backyard if they wanted to make the final. Kapil Dev and his boys were off to Manchester to take on England in the semi-final.
Ravi Shastri: “The fact of the matter was that we had beaten West Indies and Australia to reach the semi-final. When we reached the Old Trafford for our semi-final game and saw the pitch, we knew we had a very good chance.”
The chance was seized. England were dismissed for 213 in 60 overs. Kapil bagged 11-1-35-3; Roger Binny and Mohinder Amarnath picked two wickets each. Yashpal Sharma (61) and Sandip Patil (51*) scored fifties and India chased down the target with six wickets to spare.
The Unthinkable had happened. India had made it to the World Cup final. Off to London, off to the Lord’s!
India had nothing to lose. Playing the World Cup final was a dream in itself and all the captain told his men was to make this dream a memorable one.
Ravi Shastri: “We just said, ‘let’s go out there and enjoy ourselves’. There was no thought of winning or losing. We had played damn good cricket to reach the final and now let’s go and enjoy.”
Sunil Gavaskar: “That’s what Kapil said, ‘We have worked hard and made the final. Yes, nobody is giving us a chance but this is a huge occasion so let’s go out there, give it our best’. That’s exactly what we did.”
The captain, however, was not that cool a couple of days before the big match. The wicket was prepared for the West Indies fast bowlers to run through the hapless Indian line-up.
Kapil Dev: “There was so much grass on that wicket, I still remember it clearly in my mind. I thought, ‘what the hell is this? This is not a one-day wicket. We discussed it in the team meeting and I said, ‘I am sure they will cut the grass. There’s no way it will be so bouncy and green for the final’. But that didn’t happen.”
The day arrived. Clive Lloyd won the toss and put India in to bat. Sunil Gavaskar departed early but his opening partner, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, unleashed his uninhibited attacking instincts on the giant Caribbean bowlers.
Ravi Shastri: “The West Indies hadn’t seen Cheeka (Srikkanth) before and he had the shots – the cut, the pull and hook – to counter their bowling. When it was pitched up he would smash it through the covers. So the kind of shots he played, took them by surprise. At the end of the match, his 38 was the top-score in the World Cup final.”
Srikkanth’s cameo helped India crawl to 183 in 54.4 overs but it was never going to be enough against the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd. Or was it?
Gavaskar: “If you look at 183 with the kind of batting line-up that West Indies had, it really should have been a walk in the park for them.”
The West Indians too thought so. And were done in by their own complacency. Michael Holding confirmed it.
Michael Holding: “Once we got India out cheaply everyone just figured, ‘Oh, this is over. We’ll get these runs, no matter what. Somebody will score and get us through’. Complacency set it and no one went out to bat there with the responsibility that ‘I am going to get these runs.”
Greenidge and Haynes went cheaply but Richards looked in marauding mood before Kapil Dev covered the distance from mid-on to midwicket to catch a miscued hook from the batsman. With West Indies on 3 for 57 India were back into the game.
Shastri: “After Richards’ wicket it was India’s turn to keep their calm and not try too many things in a flash. It was a matter of hanging in there and you never know, there might be a run-out or a stupid shot that’s played. Once Clive Lloyd got out India had their nose in the front and they made sure they don’t do anything stupid to lose that advantage.”
The new world order
When Mohinder Amarnath scalped Holding lbw, the world order was changed. Starting the tournament as the no-hopers, India were now World Champions! The Lord’s was ruled by the Indians.
Shastri: “It was sensational. Up in the dressing room, I think I might have had at least three or four sips of the Champaign straight from the bottle even before the players had come in. You could see the entire sight from the top and it was an unforgettable one. The crowd went on the field and there were Indians everywhere. They players did well to come into the dressing room as quickly as they did. The dressing room was like a fish market with all sort of people from everywhere barging in there. It was one hell of a sight.”
Gavaskar: “It’s something that brings goosebumps even after so many years. At times it is difficult to believe that you were once a part of a World Cup winning team. It is the best moment of your cricketing career to see your captain lift the World Cup up in the air with massive reaction and reception from the huge crowd gathered at the Lord’s. It was a moment to savour.”
The 1983 victory changed the face of Indian Cricket forever.
Kapil Dev: “We felt that the 1983 World Cup changed the entire sport in our country and gave a new dimension to Indian cricket.”
Shastri: “Being the youngest man in that party, all I’ll tell you is that day at the Lord’s changed my life. June 25, 1983 changed the face of Indian cricket. And when I say that I don’t only mean the cricket lovers. The corporate got behind the team, the media started to give the Indian cricket team the recognition they deserve.”