As ESPN Star Sports started beaming images of action from the venues of the ICC Champions Trophy matches in England and Wales, memories of watching the first ever live telecast of a cricket match from England came calling.
The match was seen in black and white as color television sets were yet to become popular; the voice accompanying the action could seldom be heard due to the disturbances in transmission and there were around 50 of us crammed into one room.
But nothing mattered as the event was an important one meriting all the inconveniences that one was required to put up with in order to watch it.
The solemnity of the occasion was on account of the fact that India had entered the final of the 1983 World cup and were taking on two-time champions West Indies at the Lord's in London.
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India had reached the shores of England in May, 1983, for the Prudential World Cup as a motley bunch. They had won only one match in the two previous editions of the championship - in 1975, against the lowly East Africa. In 1979, they had to face the ignominy of losing to Sri Lanka, who were, at that point of time, not even a Test playing country.
However, India sprung a surprise in their very first match of the 1983 World Cup, inflicting on the West Indies their first ever defeat in the championship.
As the tournament progressed, India showed that their performance was no a flash in the pan by qualifying for the semifinals where they defeated the fancied England. Thus, India were enjoying a dream run which had brought them to the final to take on the mighty West Indies.
To the cricket crazy millions of this country, this was amazing stuff. When Doordarshan announced it would be telecasting the final live, a scramble began to find the nearest place where one could watch the match.
Even though color transmission had commenced in 1982, only major cities in the country were linked to Doordarshan network.
As Trivandrum was the only city in Kerala blessed with this facility, fans of the game from all over the state made a beeline for the capital city on June 25. None of us felt any shame in barging into the houses of relatives, friends, and even friends of friends; the bonhomie among fans of the game had extinguished such feelings.
Kapil Dev won the toss and chose to bat on a wicket so green that one could not distinguish the pitch from the outfield. We sat astounded as deliveries bowled by the West Indian fast bowlers climbed near head high from good length spots. After Andy Roberts snaffled up Sunil Gavaskar in no time, K. Sreekanth and Mohinder Amarnath displayed the technique and gumption required to tackle the fast bowlers.
When Roberts pitched short Sreekanth hooked him for a four, but our cheers were dampened by the commentator who informed “Andy is only setting him up with a slow bouncer; the faster would soon follow”.
Our joy knew no bounds when the faster one came from Roberts and Sreekanth duly despatched that for a six!
However, after Sreekanth and Mohinder departed, the West Indian bowlers seized the initiative and came back strongly. India kept on losing wickets at regular intervals as batsmen either failed to tackle the pace bowlers or committed silly mistakes trying to take maximum advantage of the quota of overs bowled by their spin bowler Larry Gomes.
Soon India was down to 161 for 9 wickets and it was only a gutsy last-wicket stand between Syed Kirmani and Balwinder Sandhu that helped to reach the final score of 183.
To say that we were disappointed would be an obvious understatement. Everyone knew that the West Indies were the favorites to win the Cup.
But India’s performances had raised the hopes that they would mount a serious challenge and make West Indies work hard to retain the trophy.
However, the spineless batting and the low score effectively dashed all such hopes and it was a despondent group that awaited resumption of play.
Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes walked out to open the West Indies’ innings, the jauntiness of their stride indicating their supreme confidence that the match was as good as won by them. But Greenidge soon got the shock of his life as a ball from Sandhu that he shouldered arms to, thinking that it was a harmless out swinger going away from his off stump, suddenly curled inwards and clipped his off bail.
This brought into the middle Viv Richards, his inimitable swagger matched by the arrogance and authority that he personified, and he proceeded to toy with Indian bowling.
When Kapil pitched the ball outside the off stump, he placed his left leg forward and executed a classic on drive. Sandhu and Madan Lal were treated like club bowlers as he started carting deliveries to the fence with ease.
There was a small solace when Madan Lal dismissed Haynes with the score at 50.
When Richards got back on strike everyone was prepared for another round of assault on Indian bowlers. Madan Lal pitched a trifle short and Richards stepped back to launch a mighty pull. All eyes swiveled to the mid wicket boundary even as television cameras tried to spot the ball that had gone almost into the stratosphere.
As it descended a fielder running with his eyes glued on the ball, as if his life depended on it, entered the television frame and plucked it with his hands almost behind his shoulders.
Kapil had taken one of the most amazing catches in cricket history running around 20 yards with his back towards the pitch and brought India back into the game!
Indian spirits suddenly shot up skywards and they maintained this momentum to send back West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, Larry Gomes and Faoud Bacchus in quick succession to reduce them to 76 for 6.
The fall of each wicket brought forth wild celebrations as each of us started thinking the unthinkable - would we win?
The backbone of the West Indies batting was broken and only wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon and the tail remained between India and the Cup. However, the reigning champions had a well deserved reputation for coming back from the brink, as they showed in 1975 against Pakistan, when wicketkeeper Deryck Murray and Roberts won the match through an unbeaten 64 run last-wicket stand.
Moreover, India also had a history of lacking killer instinct and losing from strong positions.
Anxiety levels started increasing as Dujon and Malcolm Marshall settled down and started to push the score along with singles and twos. They started to look increasingly confident as the total crossed 100 and Dujon celebrated this by pulling Sandhu for a six over midwicket. It appeared that the West Indies were clawing their way back into the game when skipper Kapil brought Mohinder into the bowling attack.
Bowling at military medium pace after a slow shuffling run up, Mohinder managed to give the ball just that bit of wobble that caught Dijon in two minds. After starting to play the ball, he attempted to take his bat away, but in the process only managed to drag the ball on to his stumps.
Dujon’s dismissal opened the floodgates as Marshall departed soon thereafter followed by Roberts. Though Joe Garner and Holding threw their bats around for a short time, it was obvious that only a miracle could save the West Indies. The end came soon enough when Holding missed a pull off Mohinder and was trapped plumb in front of the wicket. The West Indies were dismissed for 140 runs, thus leaving India winners by a margin of 43 runs.
Even as Mohinder ran to the pavilion after failing to pick up a stump as a memento, victory celebrations erupted across the country. The toothy grin of Kapil when he received the World Cup would remain etched in the memory of all those who witnessed it.
Mohinder's hour of glory
Mohinder was awarded the man-of-the-match award for his all-round performances with both bat and ball. The West Indian players were a distraught lot and they took time to come to grips with the fact that they had lost a match they should have won easily, on account of overconfidence, the greatest of sins on a sports field.
India’s win changed the course of cricket history. From being the favorite whipping boys of international cricket, India suddenly emerged as world-beaters, boosting the morale and confidence of the entire nation. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) hosted the next World Cup along with the Pakistan Cricket Board in 1987 and showed that such events could be held in the Indian sub continent as well.
This was the first step in the transformation of BCCI from a small body organizing cricket matches in India to a financial giant controlling the game globally.
The most important development of this victory was that it made the game popular throughout the country. Cricket started being played seriously even in small towns as youngsters aspired to make it to the national side.
All the members of the squad that won the World Cup in 2011 belong to the generation that grew up basking in the afterglow of 1983 victory.
They did not play cricket bogged down by worries about failure as Kapil's Devils had shown that winning was not alien to us. This positive mindset that has engulfed the succeeding generation of players is the greatest legacy of 1983 World Cup triumph.
For cricket lovers of my generation, this was the seminal event that changed our lives as we started thinking like winners who were not afraid to take on the whole world. No longer was being a Indian cricket fan a source only for despair; this win made amends for all the disappointments of the past.
The nation would always remain indebted to Kapil and his team of champions for transforming Indian cricket and giving the ordinary fans of the game something to cherish and feel proud.
(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)