When the history of limited overs cricket is written 1983 would be held as the seminal year when the course and popularity of this version of the game suddenly changed course. Though over-specific cricket had come into existence in 1971 and two editions of the World Cup had been held involving all Test playing nations, limited overs format had not taken roots outside England and, to some extent, Australia. The Indian sub continent, which boasted of having maximum supporters of the game, still pined for Test cricket and One-Day International (ODI)s were treated as a poor cousin there. However, this situation underwent a drastic change after the 1983 World Cup, where “Kapil’s Devils” stunned the cricketing world to lift the trophy.
The next edition of championship was hosted jointly by India and Pakistan in 1987, by which time the shorter version of the game had caught the attention of the paying public. The increasing popularity of limited overs cricket and the immense commercial prospects it offered soon made India the global leader of the game.
Indian squad for the 1983 World Cup had landed in England as a bunch of no-hopers. They had only one win - against lowly East Africa - to show after two editions of the championship. Further, they had suffered the ignominy of being defeated by Sri Lanka, a non-Test playing nation, in 1979. Fred Trueman, never one to mince words, especially when it came to India, suggested that the policy of granting all Test playing sides automatic entry to World Cup should be reviewed and specifically stated that this norm should apply to India first. Not many of the innumerable fans in the country would have fancied India’s chances either. But as the tournament rolled out, India suddenly became the toast of the entire cricketing world. Such was the impact of the side’s achievement that it would not be an exaggeration to state that 1983 was an Indian summer in England.
The story of India’s victory over the West indies in the low- scoring final has been told and retold numerous times and become part of cricketing legend. To the cricket crazy nation starved of real achievements, the win in the final was the icing on the cake. But for those fans of the game following the prospects of the national side, two other victories held almost equal significance.
The first was the triumph over the West Indies in the first pool match, which showed that Clive Lloyd's side was not invincible. The other was the semifinal win over hosts England, who were expected to have an easy outing but ended up holding the wooden spoon.
India met the West Indies on the opening day of the tournament at Old Trafford in Manchester. Those days the matches were of 60 overs duration and an individual could bowl up to 12 overs. There were no fielding restrictions and the game was played with a red ball, with players clothed in whites. Lloyd won the toss and sent India in to bat on a wicket rendered damp by overnight rain. Though India lost early wickets, a doughty knock of 89 by Yashpal Sharma, who was well supported by Sandip Patil, who played an uncharacteristically restrained innings of 36 runs, helped them to recover. Some lusty hitting towards the end by Roger Binny and Madan Lal helped India reach a total of 262/8, when the allotted 60 overs came to an end.
The West Indian openers started off in style with Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes putting on 49 runs before the latter got run out. Greenidge left soon after, but rain intervened causing players to leave the field when the West Indies had reached 67/2. There existed a provision to extend rain affected matches to the subsequent day in the rules at that point of time. When play resumed on the next day, Indian seam bowlers came into their own as the big cloud cover helped them to get prodigious movement in the air and off the wicket. Viv Richards was the first to go when he was caught behind the wicket off Binny. Wickets tumbled at regular intervals after this and soon the West Indies found themselves staring at defeat with nine wickets down for 157 runs.
However, Andy Roberts, who was at the crease, and Joel Garner, who walked in at No. 11, had other ideas. They threw their bats at everything and started a defiant counterattack that took the Indians by surprise. The Indians began to panic and when the total went past 200, memories of the match against Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup when Derryck Murray and Roberts scored 67 runs for the last wicket crossed many minds. Just as it appeared that these two might see the West Indies through, Ravi Shastri lured Garner out of the crease with a well flighted delivery and Syed Kirmani removed the bails in a flash to complete the first ever win over the West Indies in a World Cup match.
This victory sent across the message that India was no longer a side to be treated with disdain. Though the Indians lost the return match against the West Indies and the first of their two pool matches against Australia, they managed to qualify for the semifinals. Their semifinal opponents England had topped the other group with ease, winning all but one of their matches. The hosts were expected to have a cakewalk against India and a repeat of the 1979 final, was predicted by the pundits.
England won the toss on a sunny morning at Old Trafford and decided to bat. Openers Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare negotiated the Indian seam attack led by Kapil Dev to put on 69 runs for the first wicket. Binny dismissed both of them in quick succession, at which point, Alan Lamb joined David Gower at the crease. At this juncture, in a surprising move, Kapil Dev introduced Mohinder Amarnath and Kirti Azad into the attack. Bowling at a deceptively slow pace off a languid, easy paced run to the wicket that resembled a friendly trot, Amaranth got the ball to move both ways and kept the batsmen guessing. Gower slashed at one in despair and the resultant edge was held by Kirmani diving full length to his left. Lamb followed soon after when a direct hit by Yashpal foiled an attempt to take a sharp single. Amarnath managed to squeeze one between the bat and pad of Mike Gatting to clean bowl him. Ian Botham, who had walked in at the fall of Lamb’s wicket, grew frustrated at being kept under a tight leash by the duo of Amarnath and Azad and attempted to hit his way out only to have his stumps rearranged by a ball from Azad that kept low.
Thus in the span of 24 overs, that they bowled unchanged, Amarnath and Azad broke the back of the famed England batting line-up to leave them in tatters at 160/6. Kapil, later, confessed that he had actually planned to have Amarnath and Azad bowl a total of 12 overs between themselves so that the skipper and the other three seam bowlers (Madan Lal, Balwinder Sandhu and Binny) could bowl the remaining 48. But the manner in which the duo kept the English middle order under check while picking up crucial wickets convinced the skipper to change his mind and made them bowl their full quota. In retrospect, this move proved to be crucial in limiting England to a score well below what they appeared to be in line for after a solid start. A brilliant second spell by Kapil, when he picked up three wickets ensured that the England innings folded up for 213 in 60 overs.
When India began their reply, Krishnamachari Srikkanth got into his stride straightaway while Sunil Gavaskar, who was going through a lean patch, was more circumspect. After England struck twice to dismiss both of them, Yashpal joined Amarnath and dropped anchor. The England attack, led by skipper Bob Willis, tried every trick in the book to break the partnership but they held on gamely, eschewing all risks. It was only after the score went past 100 that they started to open out. However, when Amarnath was dismissed with the total at 142, England saw a ray of hope.
Willis, who was leading the attack, came on himself in an attempt to pick up some quick wickets and place India under pressure. However, Patil, the new batsman, took him head on and proceeded to hit him all over the park treating the England skipper like a club level bowler. Suddenly, runs started flowing and this reached a torrent when Patil clubbed Willis for 24 runs in an over. The spearhead of England attack could only rub his eyes in disbelief when Patil launched this furious onslaught. The Indian total crossed 200 and despite losing Yashpal, when the score was on 205, the visitors won the match comfortably by a margin of six wickets, with more than five overs remaining.
While it was the victory over the highly fancied West Indies in the final that won their maiden World Cup, these two matches described above were crucial ones that helped to boost the confidence of the side as well as to place it firmly in the path to the final. The euphoria that enveloped the country when Kapil held aloft the Cup on the balcony of Lord's on June 25, 1983, can never be described in words. For millions of Indians, fans of the game and otherwise, this was a moment of great pride and joy, when the disappointments and sorrows of many years of little achievements were erased, firmly and forever. Indian cricket owes to all members of the World Cup-winning team of 1983 for acting as the catalyst that served ignite the fire of the cricket fever across the country.
(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)