Cricket’s a funny game. If you see the teams at the 1983 World Cup, all the sides were equally good except the West Indies. The West Indies had dominated international cricket for almost 15 years, and so were obvious favourites to win the World Cup.
But just before the World Cup, we had toured the West Indies and played three ODIs, of which we won one (at Berbice, Guyana). It was in that game that it dawned on us that if you put runs on the board and if they lose a couple of early wickets, it is quite possible that pressure could get to them.
There was just that chance they would not be able to handle it and would crumble. And that’s just what happened when we played them in our first game in the World Cup in Manchester.
We were stunning them again, and reposing fresh belief in ourselves. Yashpal Sharma played a brilliant knock with an 89. Unfortunately, he’s not with us today. Just a few days before he passed away (July 13, 2021), I had met him at a function in Delhi and he still looked like the fittest guy in our team! But, that’s life.
Though we did lose two games on the way, that Old Trafford win gave us momentum. Against the West Indies again, this time at the Oval, chasing 283, we were 130 for two. Myself, on 32, and Jimmy (Mohinder Amarnath) (80) were batting well, having forged a good partnership (109 for the third wicket). But just when I thought we were
cruising, I took a vicious Malcolm Marshall bouncer to the chin. It signalled the end of my World Cup. I ended up with seven stitches on my chin.
I was in prime format that point, and naturally was shattered. I remember going to the hospital in a taxi with our manager PR Man Singh. Man Singh was our everything on that tour. He would give us catching practice, give us allowance too. He was our go-to man for everything. If you had a stiff body or a fever and needed a tablet, you’d go to Man Singh.
In hindsight, the most unfortunate thing arising from that injury was that I couldn’t travel with the team to Tunbridge Wells for the game against Zimbabwe. In a sense, I too became like all those Indians back home, and so many other cricket lovers, who couldn’t witness history that day.
The match was never telecast live or even recorded due to a flash BBC strike that day. And, we all know what happened!
Kapil came in and scored a magnificent 175 when we were tottering at 17 for five. It was one of the greatest ODI innings to have ever been played. He bowled 12 overs after that magical knock, and won us that match single-handedly. That match gave us serious momentum.
We then went on to beat Australia by 118 runs at Chelmsford. The Aussies had surprisingly dropped fast bowling great Dennis Lillee for the game. A lot of Englishmen had bought tickets for the final, because they thought it would be them playing the West Indies in the final. However, they lost the semifinal to us, and a lot of those fans had to sell their tickets to the Indians, who were suddenly outnumbering everyone at that point of time!
In London, we stayed at a hotel just opposite Lord’s, called Westmore Lands. Despite the short distance, we’d still arrive at the ground in a coach. It was a fairly big bus. Back then, we were entitled to only two tickets per match, or maybe just that extra one for your wife or friend. Now, many of our friends wanted to come to watch the final. So, with such few tickets, they accompanied us in our coach, since it would go right inside the ground! Once inside, they would disperse and watch the match from anywhere in the stadium!
It was a memorable day. It was a memorable final. The way our team played under Kapil Dev was simply outstanding. Once you start winning matches, the atmosphere in the team changes, it gives you that vital winning habit or mindset. And that becomes very important in a World Cup, because then you know how to wriggle out of tight situations.
I know cricket is a team game, but this was all Kapil’s World Cup. He was at the peak of his career and played brilliantly throughout. Kapil excelled in all areas, whether it was batting, bowling or fielding. The way he ran backwards at mid-wicket to take Viv Richards’ catch is still etched in everybody’s memory.
When we returned home, we were taken from the airport in an open-air cavalcade, just like Ajit Wadekar’s triumphant team in 1971 before, and later, MS Dhoni’s T20 World Cup winning team in 2007.
I would especially like to mention a grand great gesture by the legendary Lata Mangeshkar. On hearing that we were getting only Rs 25,000 per player as reward for winning the World Cup, she very graciously organized a concert to raise funds for the entire team. She spoke to NKP Salve (the then BCCI president), who agreed, and then went on to sing with a lot of emotion for us that famous evening in Delhi.
That concert was attended by the who’s who of the country’s politics. At that time, we got Rs 7,000 for a Test match and Rs 5,000 for an ODI. Thanks to her, each of us received a cheque of Rs 1 lakh. It was the first time in our lives that we were seeing a cheque of Rs 1 lakh for cricket!
(As told to Gaurav Gupta)