It was a victory that changed Indian cricket permanently. And it was certainly unexpected. No one in their right senses gave any chance to India. India was expected to be a team to be rolled over. An easy picking for the champion teams like West Indies and Australia. But one man thought differently.
Kapil Dev !!
Kapil Dev had come into the Indian team as a breath of fresh air. He was a fast bowler. Till he came into the picture, the role of an Indian fast bowler was always to take the shine off the ball so that the main protagonists, the spinners could take centre stage. And the Indian spinners always hunted in quartets. The quartet of Bedi, Chandra, Venkat and Prasanna were spinning wizards who weaved a magical web around the most accomplished of batsmen.
But their wizardry was majorly confined to the test matches. And they were certainly a misfit in the fast world of one day cricket which required much better athleticism from the players. And another requirement was that one day cricket required better batting abilities which non of them possessed.
And one day, in strode a tall, lanky and somewhat gawky lad from the interiors of India. People went mad over his out swingers and cutters. A unique action, which was a feast for the eyes, enabled him to fool the best batsmen of the era. Suddenly India had a cricket star who was also an athlete of the highest order. In an Indian fielding team which just ran behind the ball till it crossed the boundary, here was a fielder who did not think twice before throwing himself at the ball to stop it in its tracks. And in one fluid motion the ball was back into the gloves of the wicket keeper, due to his powerful throwing arms.
But what endeared him to the masses of India, was his six hitting abilities. When the other Indian batsmen were the epitome of defence, here was a batsman who regularly plonked the ball out of the ground. A star was born! And ladies loved his toothy grin.
Shortly Kapil Dev was made the captain of the Indian team which was put together for the World Cup 1983. It consisted of consistent proven performers like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Yashpal Sharma, but the backbone of the squad was a man called Mohinder Amarnath. The quintessential comeback man, he had turned into most consistent batsmen scoring in almost every match he played.
Sandeep Patil, another of the Mumbai boys, came into the team on the back of ferocious knocks in domestic cricket. He was known to deal in only fours and sixes, making his batting style a best fit for one day cricket.
And Kris Srikkanth! He wanted to hit every ball out of the park. He complemented the cool and calm Sunny Gavaskar, his fire and brimstone approach to batting, an antithesis to the purity and correctness of Gavaskar. Though Ravi Shastri too was a part of the team, he did not play a big role in the World Cup. His moment of glory was meant to come two years later, in Australia. Syed Kirmani was the wicket keeper, he had been serving Indian cricket for quite a while, and he was a handful with the bat.
In the bowling department, other than Kapil Dev, the others were not at all in intimidating. Not much was expected from the likes of Madanlal, Roger Binny, Kirti Azad and Balwinder Singh Sandhu. But under the overcast skies of England, which helped swing bowling, they were going to prove everyone wrong.
India reached the final but no one gave them a chance against the Clive Lloyd led mighty West Indies. Mind you, India had defeated them in the initial rounds but this was treated by everyone, including some diehard Indian fans, as a flash in the pan.
But the turning point was the match against Zimbabwe. It was a crucial match for India to reach the semifinals. But India started disastrously and soon were 17/5 . With the entire top order back in pavilion, the Captain Kapil had only the wicket keeper, and the bowlers like Binny for company. First they steadied the innings and then the captain just blew away the Zimbabwe attack to score world record highest score of 175 not out. It was an innings which made everyone sit up and take notice. Indian cricket was catapulted into a different league then onwards and now the Indian fans actually started dreaming of the cup.
The finals started and within no time the ferocious fast bowling quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts had blown away the top half of the Indian batting lineup, with the only resistance coming from Srikkanth and Amarnath to some extent. That India managed to reach 183 was due to contributions from the lower order.
But with the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards and Lloyd himself followed by Gus Logie and Jeff Dujon, this total was way below mark. Or so it seemed…
The first blow was given by the innocuous bowling of Sandhu. Greenidge shaped to leave the ball but it curved in to peg back the off stump. One down! Then King Richards walked in and went about destroying the Indian bowling and it seemed as if the match would get over shortly. Madanlal came on to bowl and Richards saw some easy pickings. Going for the maximum, the ball ballooned into space. Kapil Dev ran back for eternity, and in one fluid motion he had his man.
Every Indian in every corner of the world was jumping with joy and the moment arrived when Holding was out leg before to the great Amarnath. Within seconds, the great Indian diaspora had run on the field to congratulate the team which ran with stumps in hand towards the pavilion. The toothy grin on the captain’s face was wider and in a few moments he was holding the World Cup in his hands.
Indian cricket was never going to be the same again!! Our tenth standard exams were over and this was an icing on the cake.