No fluke this!

India displayed self-belief and it attacked. The side also had the right mix of cricketers. It had men who could inspire and men who could play the percentages. Heroes emerged and a nation celebrated, writes S. Dinakar.

India’s team of 1983, a side with all-round options, was ahead of its times.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

The summer of ’83 in Old Blighty, the sunshine men in sparkling whites, and an immortal triumph at Lord’s… 25 years on, the memories remain.

Captain courageous Kapil Dev held aloft the World Cup in the Lord’s balcony and the moment stays frozen in Indian cricketing time. Another World Cup has eluded India. The side has searched endlessly for similar depth.

India displayed self-belief and it attacked. The side also had the right mix of cricketers.

India’s No. 10, wicketkeeper-batsman Syed Kirmani, was someone with a Test hundred. The side had a lovely blend of the stayers and the dashers, batting depth, bowlers for the conditions and a vibrant fielding unit.

It had men who could inspire and men who could play the percentages. Heroes emerged and a nation celebrated.

Indeed, India’s team of 1983, a side with all-round options, was ahead of its times. The victory surprised many but it was no fluke.

India’s win over the West Indians in the dramatic final at Lord’s was actually the third occasion Kapil’s men had bested Lloyd’s formidable side in an ODI that season. India defeated the Caribbeans at Berbice during its campaign in the West Indies and began the World Cup by stunning the defending champion at Old Trafford. Flukes don’t occur thrice in a short span.

The West Indies possessed four formidable pacemen, all match-winners, all different. Andy Roberts was a complete fast bowler of pace, seam, swing, precision and bounce; he had two different kinds of bouncers, the second one following the batsman and his head. Michael Holding, of an exquisite run-up and action, had phenomenal air-speed and swing. Malcolm Marshall, with his hustling run-up, quick-arm action, speed and wicked lift, could hurt the ego and limbs of the batsmen. The tall Joel Garner could get the ball to climb off a length. For the batsmen, there was little respite.

And Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards and skipper Clive Lloyd could destroy an attack. India found the right answers since it combined better as a team.

Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth formed an opening pair of contrasts. The solidity and technical excellence of Mohinder Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma’s tenacity were followed by the heavy hitting ability of Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev.

India’s lower order, with Kirti Azad, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Kirmani and No. 11 Balwinder Sandhu, with Test half centuries in Pakistan and the West Indies against his name, was flexible and resilient. There was no dearth of multi-dimensional cricketers in the side.

The selectors got the bowling combination right. Kapil’s two-way movement and precision hardly enabled the opposition to breathe easy. Sandhu and Binny were genuine swing bowlers. Madan Lal, lion-hearted and accurate, struck crucial blows. Mohinder pegged away with his seamers and Azad bowled his mix of off-spin and off-cutters to the field. The discipline in the bowling and the sharpness in the field meant there were no easy runs on offer.

Those were times when the ODI rules were different. Each side got to face 60 overs and traditional red balls were used. There were no Power Play overs, but it was mandatory for a side to have four fielders in the circle throughout the innings.

Srikkanth, Yashpal, Binny and Gavaskar manned the infield. The first three were swift and could release the ball quickly. Gavaskar held on to catches at slip. Kapil and Madan were brilliant all-round fielders, while Mohinder and Azad, with a strong arm, could rifle the ball in from the deep. With his footwork, reflexes and anticipation, Kirmani was sensational behind the stumps.

Such was the depth in the side that Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri could not find a place in the XI during the business end of the competition.

There were defining moments for India in the tournament. Kapil Dev’s astonishing 175 not out, walking in at nine for four, against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells lifted the side’s spirit for the climactic phase.

The skipper was to pluck a wonderfully athletic catch in the final, running with his back to the ball at mid-wicket, when a rampant Vivian Richards threatened a hasty end to the title clash. Kapil’s effort is now a part of Indian cricketing folklore. Yes, the Indian team of ’83 could fight, even after being bundled out for 183 in as huge a duel as the World Cup final.

On his part, the skipper sent a powerful message to his cricketers. Kapil led from his heart, was instinctive and bold. His men responded.

Mohinder was an ocean of calm in stressful situations. Srikkanth’s blistering 38 on a green, seaming pitch at Lord’s turned out to be the highest individual contribution of the final; the crashing square-drive off Roberts is etched in memory. Sandhu opened the sluice gates in the final with a big inswinger when a bewildered Gordon Greenidge shouldered arms. Binny and Madan kept getting wickets with swing and seam. Kirmani held brilliant, diving catches. The side displayed fine end-game skills.

The Indian team had its share of luck but was good enough to cash in on the rub of the green. Eventually, champion teams make their own luck.

India began its eventful campaign with a victory over Lloyd’s men at Old Trafford. Kapil’s men, countering a four-pronged pace attack, finished at a creditable 262 for eight. Yashpal’s 120-ball 89 was all about character. West Indies was dismissed for 228; Binny and Shastri picked up three wickets each. Shastri’s left-arm spin, interestingly, would not be required by India in the later stages. India was outplayed by Australia at Trent Bridge, but won when it mattered. Kapil’s men brought down Allan Border’s men in the key knockout game at Chelmsford for a place in the last four. Yashpal’s 40 was the highest score in India’s 247 yet collectively — the lower order rallied — India put together a competitive score.

Australia succumbed to the pressures of the chase, undone by the seam and swing of Madal Lal and Binny. India romped home by 118 runs. The next stop was Old Trafford. Alert fielding and tight bowling restricted England to 213 in the last-four duel. Mohinder’s seamers and Azad’s off-spin led to a momentum shift in the middle overs. Then, Mohinder and Yashpal paced the innings cleverly and Patil launched into the England bowling. India was in the final.

And India kept its date with history. The indomitable Mohinder walked away with his successive Man of the Match award. Kapil lifted the Cup of joy in front of delirious Indian supporters. These memories will not be clouded by the mists of time.

This article appeared in the Looking Back / World Cup 1983 special section of Sportstar issue dated June 28, 2008