Summer of 1983: How India turned it around?
Twenty-seven years ago, a motley lot of jovial men, cricketers by profession, landed in England. They were there for the Prudential World Cup, the biggest prize the game had to offer. The well-behaved blokes… Yes! The most sporting bunch… of course! Immensely likable… definitely; but World Champions… naaah! Too soft to win… went the general perception.
Not many gave this group from India much of a chance. With just one win to show from the previous two editions, against a lowly East Africa, the team had done little to inspire the confidence of even its staunchest of supporters.
Added to that, the might of the West Indies, who were on a hat-trick of World Cup victories, were the bookmakers best bet to lift the title. The Australians, with their clinical approach; Pakistan, who had earned a reputation for themselves by adding a dash of street-smart style cricket to the sub-continental flair; and England, always a formidable opponent at home, looked most likely to upset the West Indian juggernaut.
West Indies beckoned India in their opening match. Just a day ago, debutants Zimbabwe had upset the mighty Australians. Maybe the world wasn’t such a bad place for the minnows after all! Put into bat by Clive Lloyd, India posted a challenging total of 262 runs, Yashpal Sharma top-scoring with a fine 89. In reply, the West Indies kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were shot out for 228. India had beaten the West Indies by 34 runs and while this was the former’s first victory in a World Cup match over a Test playing nation, the latter had crashed to its first ever defeat in the apex cricketing event.
Indians had tasted blood! A slew of impressive performances later, India found itself well on course for a place in the semi-finals.
In a crucial league game, India faced Zimbabwe at Turnbridge Wells. Electing to bat first after winning the toss, India found themselves with their backs to the wall at 17/5. Zimbabwe bowlers Kevin Curran and Peter Rawson had wreaked havoc in the Indian camp. The fairytale was threatening to come apart.
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” In walked skipper Kapil Dev to revive the flagging fortunes of his team... And revive, he did. Kapil went on to play the innings of his lifetime, blasting an unbeaten 175 of just 138 balls, smashing 6 sixes and 16 fours. Recently, the great Sunil Gavaskar paid glowing tribute to this knock calling it the best ever batting performance in an ODI. With useful contributions from Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Syed Kirmani, India recovered to post a competitive 266/8 in their allotted 60 overs. The target proved a bit too steep for the inexperienced Zimbabwean batting as they fell 32 runs short. This victory is widely considered as the turning point of India’s 1983 World Cup campaign.
Courtesy an excellent all-round effort, India thrashed Australia by 118 runs in their final league match to storm into semis. The key to India’s impressive campaign so far had been the all-rounders. Besides captain Kapil Dev, the team was packed with multi-utility players like Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Ravi Shastri and Kirti Azad, who kept chipping in with crucial cameos every now and then. Even wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani made useful contributions with bat when it mattered.
All-rounders came to fore yet again, in the semi-final against England. Exploiting the swinging conditions at Manchester to hilt, bowlers, led by Kapil Dev, strangled the English batsmen. Amarnath, Binny and Azad kept a tight noose on the home team, restricting them to 213 all-out in 60 overs. England captain Bob Willis was left ruing his decision to bat first as the moisture in the pitch, which had proved to be his team’s bane, evaporated when India came out to bat. Thanks to contrasting half centuries by Sandip Patil and Yashpal Sharma, India easily overhauled the meagre target with more than 5 overs to spare and marched into the final.
A fortnight ago when the tournament commenced, not too many people would have predicted an India-West Indies final. The summit clash at the Lord’s looked nothing more than an anti-climax. Another big day for the West Indies cricket, and for Indians, well… they can soak in the atmosphere! With India being bundled out for 183, you couldn’t dispute who was going to win – the mighty West Indies. When King Viv (Richards) led his team to 50 for 1 in reply, celebrations in the Caribbean camp had begun.
But then, things started to happen for India. Richards pulled a Madan Lal delivery over square leg. In an outstanding display of athleticism, Kapil Dev, sprinting backwards, took a blinder to send Richards packing. This unexpected dismissal opened the floodgates as West Indies soon slipped to 76/6. A mini fight-back by Dujon failed to avert the inevitable as the disbelieving West Indies were bundled out for 140. Upsets don`t come much bigger than this.
Considered unworthy of participating in the World Cup by a noted Wisden journalist, India had done the unexpected and created history. Mohinder Amarnath, man of the match in semi-final, took the honours again in the finals.
The well-behaved blokes… Yes! The most sporting bunch… of course! Immensely likable… definitely; and World Champions… you bet!