1983 World Cup: Miracle at Lord’s
There are moments in sporting history that live forever. The epic Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe; Muhammad Ali slugging it out against Joe Frazier in Manila; and Italy’s historic win in the World Cup football tournament in Spain. Last week, one more freeze was added to the,There are moments in sporting history that live forever. The epic Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe; Muhammad Ali slugging it out against Joe Frazier in Manila; and Italy’s historic win in the World Cup football tournament in Spain. Last week, one more freeze was added to the list: Indian Cricket Captain Kapil Dev holding aloft the Prudential World Cup on the balcony at Lord’s in London or gleefully spraying champagne on the frenzied crowds below. The latter, perhaps, was more appropriate, for it was a champagne summer for Indian cricket.India captain Kapil Dev holds aloft the trophy.Starting as unfancied underdogs with London bookies offering 50:1 odds against them, the Indian eleven steered a triumphant if somewhat erratic course to a nail-biting cliff–hanger of a final against the seemingly invincible West Indies, undefeated in one-day cricket and winners of the previous two World Cup titles in 1975 and 1979.It was undoubtedly India’s- and international cricket’s- finest hour. No comparable event can match the excitement and athletic heights which limited overs cricket achieves. The setting could not have been more perfect-England, where the World Cup originated and which is still the only country that can successfully stage such a spectacular show. Even the weather seemed overawed by the occasion, driving rain giving way gracefully to brilliant sunshine.Cricketing Giants: On display was the cream of international cricket, men who are larger than their legends. The incomparable Vivian Richards, arguably the best batsman in the world today. The menacing West Indian pacemen, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, whose grace and fluidity is pure poetry. The Australians Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, two of the fastest bowlers in history. The elegant David Gower and Ian Botham of England. Pakistan’s run-machines Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and the ever-dangerous Imran Khan.advertisementAgainst giants such as these. India’s chances were infinitesimal. True, in Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath, they had batsmen of the highest calibre; and in Kapil Dev, an all-rounder of match-winning ability. But the only quality the rest of the team shared was unbridled enthusiasm and a vast love for the game. Their previous World Cup record was dismal. In 1979, the Indians failed to win a single game and in 1975, succeeded in beating only lowly East Africa.Obviously, Indian cricketers were inadequately equipped for one-day cricket. Or so it seemed. From the day the Indians started their challenge on June 9 at Old Trafford, there was something about _ them that smelled and looked different. On the field and off, they displayed a collective determination that had not been in evidence before. Only one man caught the infection: Australian Captain Kim Hughes. Before the tournament started, Hughes predicted that India would be the “dark horse of the World Cup”.Early Success: Most fairytales start on a high note and this was no exception. At Old Trafford, India humbled the mighty West Indies in the first of their major upsets, registering a 34-run victory. Zimbabwe proved an easier nut to crack in the Indians’ next outing, a match they won by five wickets. And then, the slide that has characterised Indian cricket all along. A crushing defeat by 162 runs against the Australians followed by another loss against the West Indies at the Oval.At that stage, it appeared that it was all over for the Indians. But by then, West Indies Captain Clive Lloyd, probably the most experienced in one-day cricket, wasn’t about to write off the Indian team. After their win, Lloyd thoughtfully told INDIA TODAY: “India are playing very well and in Mohinder Amarnath they have one of the best players of fast bowling in the world.”And then, the turning point. That unforgettable match against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells which will go down as one of the all-time classics. On a cold, cloudy morning, Kapil Dev won the toss and elected to bat. Against the medium pace of Curran and Lawson, the Indian batting crumbled. At 9 for 4 it looked all over, bar the shouting. At 17 for 5, with the specialist batsmen back in the dressing-room, the large contingent of Indian supporters started getting up to leave. And then stopped dead in their tracks as Kapil Dev played the most incredible innings of his career and, ultimately, of the World Cup.Spirited Batting: In a spirit-lifting display of controlled aggression, he hammered an unbeaten 175, the highest individual score ever in a World Cup match and also the first century by an Indian in the tournament. Single-handedly, Kapil transformed imminent defeat into exciting victory.advertisementElated but exhausted after the game, Kapil said: “That game almost tore me apart. I’ve never been so tired in my life.” Above all, the Indian win was a. morale-booster on the eve of the crucial tie against fancied Australia on June 20. Once again, the Indian batting crack* ed-the highest score being Yashpal Sharma’s doughty 40. However, erratic bowling by Australia added 37 valuable extras to the score. But then some tight, accurate medium pace bowling by Roger Binny and Madan Lai demolished the Australians for the lowest score recorded in the tournament and India were through to the semi-finals.Even then, the experts were condescending about India’s efforts. The Guardian’s cricketing correspondent mournfully predicted: “India and not Australia will face England at Old TrafFord. It will be a match of altogether less resonance and less difficulty for England.” But others were more charitable. The Indian underdogs had suddenly become “Dev’s Devils”, and though London’s bookmakers were still offering 50:1 odds that India would lose to England, the British press was interested enough to dig up the nugget that Roger Binny was the great grandson of a Scotsman.Remarkable Win: On a bright sunny morning, with England expected to grind India into the dust of Old Trafford, the excitement had nothing to do with the temperature of 79F. In front of a full house, India demolished the myth of English superiority in this type of cricket with a remarkable victory by six wickets thanks largely to an explosive innings by Sandeep Patil and the deceptive bowling of Mohinder Amarnath and Kirti Azad.There was stunned silence in the home crowd as they watched with mounting disbelief England’s defeat take India into the finals. “It was the bowling of Mohinder and Kirti that was the turning point,” said Kapil after the match. “We had a personal score to settle. We had been dismissed as not worthy of reaching the finals and me and my boys were out to prove them wrong.”The English Captain Bob Willis graciously conceded that “It was a top class team performance. The Indians played extremely well. They have been grossly underrated. I don’t know why people always expect them to lose.” English Vice Captain David Gower was more analytical in his reactions. Said he: “The Indians have really learned how to field in oneday cricket. But I believe it was their team-work and Kapil’s astute captaincy that won them the game.”From Old TrafFord to the riiracle at Lord’s. The Ids had come down to a more respectable 5:2 against an Indian win. Even then, the possibility of India beating the formidable West Indies was wafer thin. The British media reflected that adequately enough. Except former English captain Tony Lewis. He mused: “For the first time I have seen an Indian side looking like it truly believes it can win the competition.”In the event, it turned out to be a match that will be replayed ball by ball wherever cricket lovers gather for quite some years to come. To chants of “Kapil, Kapil” and “India zindabad”, India triumphed in the end but not without giving their supporters some major heart attacks.advertisementSent in to bat on an easy-paced wicket, India were off to their customary bad start when Gavaskar was caught behind trying to steer through the slips with 2 runs on the board. At the other end, Srikkanth, as if to atone for his senior colleague’s sins, launched a blistering attack on the West Indian pace attack, particularly Roberts. Playing some superb strokes, he raced to 38 before he fell with the score at 59 for 2. Amarnath, the next man in, played in almost copybook fashion against the menacing pace of Garner and Marshall and with 90 on the board, India looked set for a big score.Sudden Setback: Then came the dramatic reversal with both Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma gone in consecutive overs. The disaster story continued after lunch with Kapil, the only man who looked capable of getting a big score, going for another big hit and holing out to long on after scoring just 15. Patil continued to play some attractive cricket but was rapidly running out of partners. Azad left in the second over after lunch and Binny followed almost immediately after, both playing uppish shots to waiting fielders.India had lost five wickets in the space of 37 balls and at 1 1 1 for 6, it appeared that it was going to be a one-sided final. Once Patil fell, to be followed by Madan Lai, India were reeling at 161 for 9 and only a last wicket stand of 22 between Kirmani and Sandhu pushed the score up to 183.A score of 183 against the West Indies was hardly cause for concern in the Caribbean. But on the field, the Indian team looked razor-sharp. Urged on constantly by Kapil, his bowlers went flat out. It was captaincy of the highest order. Undaunted by the meagre total, Kapil maintained the pressure right through by offensive, attacking field placings. He had two slips for most of the early half and, even towards the end. still persisted with one slip in Gavaskar a move that was a risky gamble against the West Indians but which finally paid high dividends: Gavaskar snapped up two vital catches in that position.Aggressive Captaincy: Kapil. with a huge grin on his face, made a difficult catch look easy by dismissing danger man Vivian Richards; and then Mohinder Amarnath and Madan Lai did the rest with some intelligent and unrelentingly hostile bowling to snatch an astonishing victory from the gaping jaws of defeat.When the West Indies walked out to bat to the accompaniment of raucous calypsos, the only comfort the Indian team had was the fact that the Caribbeans are prone to crumble under pressure. When Sandhu knocked back Greenidge’s off stump with a ball that turned back and which the experienced opener incredibly left alone, tension started building up. But Richards played some classic strokes all round the wicket and at 50 for Lit looked like the bookies had been right. Then came that well-judged catch by Kapil off Richards and the tide suddenly turned. It was obvious to every one that the West Indies were victims of overconfidence.Like a pride of lions that has smelled blood, the Indian team closed in for the kill and nobody at Lord’s was in any doubt that they could do it. Kapil himself was like a coiled spring, clenching and unclenching his fists, bouncing up and down on his heels. His energy transmitted itself to the rest of the field. Gomes was snapped up by Gavaskar in the slips and an injured Lloyd holed out to Kapil.Crucial Advantage: At 76 for 6, India were slowly wresting the advantage and history was in the making. The tension mounted palpably as a seventh wicket stand between Dujon and Marshall took the score to 119. before it was left to the valiant Mohinder Amarnath. coming back for a second spell, to make the crucial break by bowling Dujon. He followed this up with the wicket of Marshall. Kapil accounted for Roberts and Amarnath deservedly put the final nail in the coffin by accounting for Holding.For Lord’s, the Mecca of international cricket, it was a scene worthy of its eminence. Jubilant crowds turned the ground into a carnival with the cymbals and bongos of the West Indian supporters in disharmonious rhythm with the dholuks and temple bells of the Indian supporters.That it was a miracle was evident from the fact that the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) found itself in an embarrassing position when it had no passes for the Indian pressmen covering the event. The reason: they had not expected the Indians to reach the finals. So intense and emotion-charged were the final moments of the match that 14 people were arrested for drunken behaviour.Accolades: But nobody at Lord’s on that historic day, whether British or West Indian, could grudge India that glorious moment when Kapil lifted the glittering World Cup high into the air in triumph, while huge crowds below danced the bhangra. For once, the critics had been silenced and never more effectively so.”Kapil’s men turn world upside down” screamed the London Times headline while the report went on to term India as “cannonfodder turned cannon”. The losing captain. Clive Lloyd gave full credit to Kapil. “He’s. been able to rally the entire team behind him,” said Lloyd admiringly, adding: “He’s really done a marvellous job.” Tragically, Lloyd relinquished his captaincy one day before the final when he announced that he would no longer captain the side. His successor will probably be Vice-Captain Vivian Richards.Pataudi, who had flown in from Bombay the day before the match, was wreathed in smiles. “This is India’s finest hour” was all he could manage. Farokh Engineer, the Britain-based businessman and former Indian Test star, was more loquacious: “There has been a tremendous improvement in the fielding since my days.” he acknowledged.Team Effort: The heroes of the side, sipping champagne in the dressing-room, took the victory in their stride, a true reflection of the enormous confidence they now have in their own ability. “We were always the underdogs and this has given us more incentive,” remarked Vice-Captain Mohinder Amarnath. Roger Binny, who played such a crucial role in India’s march to Lord’s and captured the highest number of wickets in the tournament was exultant. “We have done enough for our grandchildren to talk about,” he said somewhat immodestly.Added Man Singh, the phlegmatic but friendly Indian team manager: “We clicked because every man threw in everything he had and Kapil led from the front.” And no man deserved higher credit than a visibly elated Kapil Dev who sprayed champagne on cheering crowds from the balcony at Lord’s in benediction and also in acknowledgement of their contribution.But if that widely-publicised action was symbolic of a christening, there could have been nothing more fitting. The transformation in the Indian team was as if they had been born again. For once, the Indian selectors had picked a side that was admirably equipped for one-day cricket. Unlike fiveday cricket, a limited overs game is a true test of courage and skill. Limited to 60 overs, the batsmen have to score at a rapid rate with no scope or time for grafting.Versatile Side: In Srikkanth and Patil, India had hard-hitting bats capable of negotiating any type of bowling; and battlehardened veterans like Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma to stave off a collapse. The bowling attack was hardly hostile in pace but more than made up by fulfilling the requirements of the one-day cricket with tight accurate bowling. Kapil, Sandhu, Amarnath, Madan Lai. Binny and off-spinner Kirti Azad all struck vital blows for India at crucial stages and also restricted the opponents to beatable scores.But what finally gave India the edge was the fielding and Kapil’s shrewd captaincy. In fact, the two are interrelated. When Kapil first was appointed captain, he had told INDIA TODAY (February 28, 1983) that his first priority would be fielding. Says Kapil now: “For too long has India’s fielding been considered a joke. I will not accept anyone who does not give his all in the field.”He demonstrated that by flying back to Bombay in the middle of his county commitments to Northamptonshire to be present when the team was being selected. Back in England, Kapil drove the players relentlessly, often keeping them out on the practice ground for six hours a day practising calisthenics and sharpening their fielding.In one-day cricket, a good fielding side has a decisive advantage, and this is easily the best fielding side that India has ever produced. Srikkanth in the covers was outstanding, as was the quietly efficient Yashpal Sharma. It has been a long time since Indian supporters have witnessed the sight of four Indian fielders racing to head off a ball with such enthusiasm and understanding. And the man responsible for that is undoubtedly Kapil Dev. As John Woodcock of The Times remarked: “In Kapil Dev, India have the Severiano Balleseros of the game, a man capable of heroics.”After the World Cup, nobody is in ZA any doubt that the disputed title of -L X. the best all-rounder in the game now belongs to Kapil. But it is his captaincy that has flowered into full bloom. He has acquired a maturity that was not in evidence before. On the field, he was a constant inspiration exhorting his team to greater heights. Off the field, he is an amiable and modest colleague, tendering advice and consoling failures.His field placings were, for the most part, highly professional and well thought out. Every match was played to a predetermined plan. Each time India looked in trouble, Kapil’s shrewd bowling changes swung the game back in their favour. He, unlike his more experienced predecessors, has no hesitation in taking advice on the field from his players, particularly Gavaskar.On innumerable occasions, he consulted Gavaskar, a measure of his maturity and uncomplicated nature. It is undoubtedly he who has moulded the Indian team into a winning combination. As he himself acknowledges : “We have no brilliant players but as a side we give all to the game and work very hard for each other.”Personal Example: There lay the difference. For too long has Indian cricket been hamstrung by personal rivalries, inner tensions, regional loyalties and, above all, the crippling call of commercialism. One man, in the short space of time as captain, counsellor and friend, has altered all that-mainly by personal example.Says his coach and mentor Desh Prem Azad who trained Kapil when the latter was a gangly schoolboy in Chandigarh: “Kapil has got to the top the hard way and that is his greatest asset. He used to train eight to 10 hours a day of strenuous physical exercises He was the perfect learner: devoted and diligent, with no short cuts. He has tremendous fighting power and at the same time is capable of personal sacrifices. That is what makes a truly great leader.”Adds Kapil’s mother, Raj Kumari, 55: “His success is the result of hard work. He gave up college to concentrate on his cricket and nobody has any regrets.” Kapil’s younger sister, Pinky, had no doubts that India and her brother would do well. “I just knew his devotion to the game would bring him glory in the end. It is one thing to be a top cricketer but another to be a good human being and Kapil is both.”Collective Effort: But Kapil himself will be the first to admit that it was heroic team effort and not any individual performance that powered India to its greatest cricketing victory. As Tony Lewis remarked of the Indian side: “What have they got? Perhaps more than anything else they have star quality, a love of the heroic and a delight in being underestimated.” Limited overs cricket is tailor-made for the underdogs. Witness Zimbabwe’s stunning victory over Australia and India’s own upsets throughout the tournament.Even before the World Cup, Kapil or the ‘Haryana Hurricane’ as he has been dubbed by the cricketing press, had already inscribed his name in the record books (see box). But the record books will fail to record his contribution to India’s win which was as much a result of his inspiring leadership as his individual performance. Says Geoff Cook, his county captain at Northamptonshire: “I have not met many cricketers with his unbounding enthusiasm for the game and he has transmitted that to his team. He has sorted out the donkeys from the thoroughbreds.”But what of the future? India have proved that they are world beaters in one-day cricket -but with Prudential having opted out of sponsoring the World Cup, this could be the last one unless some other sponsor steps into the breach. There is already talk of hosting the World Cup elsewhere than England, which may not be practical. No other country has so many Test pitches and centres within a four-hour driving distance. Logistically, therefore, England remains the cricketers1 Mecca.Different Requirements: Without the World Cup, supremacy once again rests with the traditional five-day game and for that the requirement is vastly different. Gavaskar, despite his string of poor scores of late, is still an ideal opening bat. Srikkanth, on the other hand, with his penchant to go for the bowling immediately, may not fit the bill in a five-day series. Amarnath and Sharma are certainties; and Patil is of obvious class as a batsman. Vengsarkar is nearing the end of his career and it will be surprising if he finds a place in the team against the West Indies and Pakistan this winter. That leaves the middle order slightly vulnerable.Sandhu and Kapil are by far the best opening bowlers in the country at the moment. Madan Lai is still capable of heroic effort but his pace is appreciably slower and he too has not much mileage left to go. Shastri, so unsuited to one-day cricket, should find himself back in the side but will have to work much harder than he has done so far to get the nod. Kirti Azad’s chances have considerably brightened with his performance in the tournament but much will depend on how many bowlers Kapil will want.A second spinner is absolutely vital to Indian five-day cricket on Indian wickets and Azad is the best bet for that job. Binny who has been the real find of the series, has vastly improved as a player of all-round ability and should walk into the team quite effortlessly. Kirmani was given up for good after the West Indies tour earlier this year but has redeemed himself by his performance in the World Cup. He is, however, much slower in his reflexes but still the best wicketkeeper around in the country.Odds are that India will stick to the time-honoured tenet of cricket that one does not change a winning side. Kapil has worked hard to forge the eleven into a formidable force and will hardly like to introduce major changes at this stage.Heady Euphoria: But right now, nobody is really worrying too much about the future. The heady euphoria of India’s World Cup sensation is still very much in evidence and it will be some time before sobriety replaces that incredible high. Exactly 51 years after India’s entry into Test cricket, they have turned fantasy into reality. And returned considerably richer in the bargain.The team earned 20,000 for their victory; Britain-based industrialist Swraj Paul in a characteristically flamboyant gesture promised 2,500 to the team if they won; while Sandeep Patil, Yashpal Sharma, Kapil Dev, Roger Binny each earned 200 for winning Man of the Match awards, with Amarnath winning 1,000 for the two occasions on the semi-final and final when he won the award. In fact, six Man of the Match awards speaks volumes for the incredible team-work that structured India’s win.However, nobody is going to grudge the Indians their sudden wealth. No hero’s welcome awaits them since the team is only returning home briefly before some go to America while the rest, including Kapil, will continue their county commitments in England. But that, somehow, is in the fitness of things. This is a side that has no need of the fawning and hero-worshipping that surrounds an Indian cricket victory. For the first time in history, India has a team that is dedicated, highly professional and highly motivated. As Clive Lloyd said at the end of the finals: “Indian cricket has arrived. And it’s here to stay.