Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Fortnight that changed Indian Cricket
09/06/1983 to 25/06/1983 is the fortnight that changed Indian Cricket. We became the World Champions. Aussie skipper Kim Hughes had before the WC rated India as the dark horses and how true was his prophecy. I am trying to capture the mood in my locality during the fortnight. The whole locality had only one B&W TV and the owner Prakash uncle was kind enough to let the entire colony watch the live telecast.
Mohinder Amarnath had made a famous comeback in 1983 against Pakistan and West Indies. GRV’s career was prematurely ended by the selectors. The entire balance of the team rested on the great Kapil Dev. Selection of Yashpal Sharma in place of the great GRV was taken with a pinch of salt by all the elders of my locality, except Raman uncle who staunchly defended his selection on the grounds that he was a great fielder and an excellent runner between the wickets. Majority gave no chance to an Indian team at the WC without the greatest stroke-maker GRV. You see, Seniors V Juniors debate is not this generation’s origination. Only Raman uncle believed in the team’s capabilities and he based his arguments on India’s first ODI victory against WI at Berbice, a few weeks ago, thanks to swashing blade of Kapil Dev.
We were placed alongwith WI, Australia and Zimbabwe in Group B. The first match was Aus V Zimbabwe and Zim had an historic victory. In our first match against WI, batting first we made a healthy total of 262/8. Yashpal Sharma top scored with 89, which was a World Cup record for an Indian at time. As luck would have it, he eclipsed the previous highest score of 75 by GRV and the joys of Raman uncle knew no bounds. India won the match by 34 runs. This match gave us huge confidence that we would do well in this WC.
Our next match against Zimbabwe was a walk in the park for us. The third match was against Australia and we got a pasting. Only Kapil Dev stood up to the challenge both with bat and ball (5/43 and 40 runs). The return match against WI had a similar disastrous result and we lost by 66 runs.
The next match was the famous one against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. There was no live telecast of the match due to a BBC strike and we were left to fend off radio commentary. India won the toss and decided to bat, soon it was disaster unleashed and in no time we were 17/5. At 17/5, the elders of my locality got furious and one of them went to the extent of saying, pointing to us “these boys would have done better against Zimbabwe”. Usually, we were chided for playing on the road and breaking window panes. Finally, our moment of redemption had come. Soon the recovery act began and what a recovery it was, from 17/5, Kapil Dev scored 175 not out, to take India to 266/8. India won the match by 31 runs. Everybody was left shell shocked by Kapil’s efforts. It was the first century by an Indian in a WC match and also one day international. We may have many a billionaire cricketers now, but Kapil Dev is One in a Billion cricketer.
Our agenda for the next match against Australia was clear, win and proceed to the semi finals. We scored 247 and defeated Australia by a huge margin of 118 runs. Yashpal Sharma scored an handsome 40 of an equal number of balls and by now he had become a hero, so did Raman uncle. Nobody afterwards questioned or ridiculed his cricketing acumen.
Next it was the Semi- Final (first time entry for India) against the English men who batting first scored a mere 213. Highlight of our bowling effort, was a 24 over spell by Mohinder Amarnath and Kirti Azad, in which they conceded only one boundary. India made a shaky start and at a time the run rate was going beyond our reach. Bob Wills came back for a new spell and told something rubbish about Yashpal’s English. Yashpal being the true Punjab da Puttar, stepped aside and virtually swept him over the square leg. Please remember Bob Willis was one of the fastest bowlers of his generation. All hell broke loose afterwards, India cantered to a victory. Sandeep Patil scored a 30 ball 50 to take India to victory. Mohinder Amarnath was the MOM for his efforts with the bat and ball. Yuvraj Singh (Sandeep Patil) and Mohameed Kaif (Yashpal Sharma) of the 80s had ensured India’s victory. Englishmen had to bite the dust in their home ground and India had reached the finals. The grumpy Englishmen could not digest India’s emergence and predicted a walk in the park for WI on 25/06/1983.
25/06/1983 - everybody knows what happened on that day. India won the world cup by 40 runs. India were asked to bat first and folded up for 183. Srikkanth scored a blistering 38 which included a hooked six of Andy Roberts. He also famously square drove Joel Garner for a four. All of us attempted this shot with funny results. Mohinder Amarnath scored a patient 26. There was also a gutsy last wicket stand between Kirmani and B S Sandhu. BS Sandhu was hit on his head by a Malcom Marshall bouncer. It was unethical those days to bowl a bouncer to the No.11 of a team, Umpire Dickie Bird admonished Marshall in no uncertain terms.
“All said and done, 183 was not sufficient” said Prakash uncle and reminded “Remember WI were set a similar target in semi-finals and they made mincemeat out of it”. Raman, hoping against hope quipped “Everyday is not Sunday”. It was generally agreed that WI would finish the match within 45 overs, given our mediocre bowling attack. WI began their reply and got an early jolt, when Greenidge got the famous “Ball of the World Cup” from BS Sandhu. Llyod had a hamstring injury and our journey became easy with his wicket. The famous wicket of all was IVA Richards c K Dev b M Lal – 33. Viv seemed to have an early date and was smashing around the Indian bowlers with his characteristic arrogance, when Madan Lal bowled him the sucker ball and up went the ball in the air, India’s best cricketer athlete Kapil went behind the ball like a tiger and pouched it. That was it; decline of WI Cricket had began at that fateful moment. After that we were counting by how many runs India will win. There was a brief resistance in the form of Jeff Dujon and Malcom Marshall but Jimmy Amarnath took care of them. When Jimmy got Holding LBW, hell broke loose across India and my locality as well. I vividly remember we did not burst crackers but a lot of dancing and drinking went on till almost morning.
We wanted to play cricket on the streets in pitch darkness. It only because none of the boys wanted to be on the West Indian side that the famous match could not be played. Nobody had believed India could do it. Kapil Dev had lead a team of self believers to a great victory. Appropriately, winning the Prudential World Cup insured the future of Cricket in India. All the benefits that today’s cricketers are reaping, were sowed by those 14 great men. As for me and my cricket team, from that day onwards, nobody dared to admonish us for playing cricket on the streets. For months to come, everybody would remind us that one day we will have to win the WC for India. As fate would have it, neither we did nor anybody from our generation win the WC. Maybe the T20 generation, would do an encore. I don’t think we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1983 victory, with only one WC in the cupboard. We will have a few more silverware.
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