Jun 24, 2008
Whether you are on the battle field, on the death bed or on the sports ground, there is someone you are looking for survival in your battle to prevail. It may be the General, the good doctor or may be the star player who can tilt the fortunes and lead you to victory.
When that man or woman comes into prominence, the results can be astonishing and unbelievable.
On a fine sunny super saturday on June 25, 1983, some 25 years ago, the lush green cricket ground at the hallowed Lords in England was all set to witness the final of the 1983 World Cricket Cup. The formidable West Indies versus India. Thecricket pundits having forecast a total washout for the team from the sub continent, some of the spectators had decided to sell off their tickets even before the final had started. The force of the mighty West Indies was pitted against a hapless Indian side who were expected to be outplayed and outclassed. The West Indies line up was good enough to send shock waves to any opposing team. Names like Joel Garner, Greenidge, Andy Roberts, Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd to name a few.
The Indian team was captained by a young man named Kapil Dev who otherwise had famously been called as the “Haryana Hurricane” for various good reasons in his own country. Kapil Dev had been given a cricket team picked from almost every corner of India that also had at least one member from every region and religion too. So much for variety. But one was not sure if these players had enough in their armoury to shake the Windies. Nerve shattering trundlers like Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner were all getting warmed up to make a mockery of the Indian batting. And Kapil Dev was given the thankless job of ensuring that the players under him would at least put up a reasonable show before bowing to the overall World Cup favourites.
One of the items on the West Indies plan after the match was to go for last minute shopping and celebration before leaving for home with the World Cup trophy for the third consecutive time.
Out went the skippers, the ferocious looking Clive Lloyd accompanied by Kapil Dev to the middle of the pitch. The ground was filled with enough number of supporters both from the West Indies and India. Lloyd promptly won the toss and asked the Indians to bat and face the West Indies pace battery. Even before the spectators had settled down, the wickets had started tumbling led by Sunil Gavaskar. Here and there, as usual, Srikanth flashed with a bit of success only to irritate the West Indies fast bowlers. The Indians had fallen by the wayside for a paltry total of 183 runs where Srikanth contributed 38 runs off 57 balls including 7 fours and a six. Mind you, there were 20 extra runs in the total.
The Indians were shell shocked and everyone started calculating how soon the match would be over. A Caribbean side with so many top run getters, West Indies were in for a rude shock when Balwinder Singh Sandhu produced a swinging delivery that surprised Greenidge on its way before knocking the bails off. An ‘unexpected’ wicket everyone said. In walked ‘King’ Richards who created havoc with his merciless batting while hitting 33 off 28 deliveries and looking murderous. It looked like Richards was in a hurry to finish the match. Madan Lal was trying to complete his overs tidily and off one ball Richards pulled shot had Kapil Dev chasing and finally grasping the ball much to the delight of the Indians.
There was extra energy now visible in the Indian fielding and bowling with Richards having been dismissed. Almost all the bowlers bowled with variety with Madan Lal and Roger Binny tightening up the proceedings. The West Indies had suddenly slumped to 76 for the loss of 6 wickets. But there was wicketkeeper Dujon fighting a lone battle when Mohinder Amarnath came with his lucky red kerchief and polished the ball before sending one which Dujon found unplayable. Now onwards, It was a quick procession to the pavilion with the last 3 wickets falling for 21 runs and bundling the mighty West Indies out for a total of 140 runs to give an improbable victory of 43 runs. Mohinder Amarnath continued his habit of picking up the ‘Man of the Match’ award for the second time in the competition.
The victory saw huge celebrations not only in England but also all over India which heralded a new chapter in Indian cricket. It was befitting that the ‘Haryana Hurricane’ was instrumental in the team’s success. Kapil was solely responsible for India’s win in one of the earlier matches in the competition against Zimbabwe when he hammered 175 runs from 138 balls with the help of 16 fours and 6 sixes. India were down at 17 for 5 wickets before Kapil took charge of the batting. If that match had been lost in the earlier phase of the tournament, India would not have gone ahead. In that particular match against Zimbabwe, India amassed 266 and won by 118 runs. Kapil’s brilliant knock of 175 runs has been described by top cricketers as one of the best seen in international cricket. Unfortunately, with the BBC camera crew staff on strike on the day of the match, Kapil’s innings was not captured on the film.
Before the finals of the 1983 World Cricket Cup, India skipper Kapil Dev had warned, “Don’t write us off.” The “Haryana Hurricane” had enough and more in his tank as he strode to tackle the might of the West Indies. Like in his life, Kapil Dev has been a great fighter and proved that quality on the field of cricket immensely.
Very much later on in 2002 when the famous cricket magazine Wisden Almanack, chose the ‘Indian Cricketer of the Century’, there could not be a better choice than Kapil Dev perhaps. There were so many in the running for the award like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and two other legends Col. C.K. Nayudu and Vinoo Mankad who had passed away.
At the time of the presentation of the Wisden’s Cricketer of the Century award, Sir Vivian Richards said: "I am shaking in my boots. It's like a 100-metre dash wherein three are bunched together. But there has to be a winner, and he is one of my favourite cricketers, Kapil Dev. He was one of the fiercest competitors on the field. I never believed he was involved in match-fixing. Someone who can do that and show so much passion on the field must be a good actor."
The crowning glory of India and Kapil Dev was the stunning win in the 1983 World Cup. No one in his wildest imagination had thought that the Indian team would throng the Lords balcony with the trophy held aloft. That memory of 25 years ago is still in my mind as well the never ending champagne that flowed. The excited spectators running all over the Lords ground with the nation’s flag held high in glory. The country was united in one famous victory which made cricket a household game in India. From the days of that significant victory in 1983, India’s cricket fortunes have changed viciously and successfully too. Today, India is a major force in international cricket.
When Kapil Dev received the beautifully crafted bronze trophy as the Wisden’s Cricketer of the Century which stands for dignity and greatness, Kapil Dev said: "This is my finest hour. But I am here because of so many people like my first captain (Bedi) and my champion guru (Gavaskar). I also thank my mother, wife and all my friends".
‘Kapil’s Devils’ as they were fondly called, revolutionized Indian cricket with such a fine and resounding win 25 years ago.
For India and all cricketers, the finest hour was the triumph at Lords on June 25 1983 while beating the West Indies.
It was clearly a ‘TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOG’.
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