PM’s pat for the team

THE setting was ideal — the lush green lawns of the Hyderabad House, with the historic India Gate forming the backdrop. The mood was informal: the occasion one to cherish for long. At least for Kapil Dev and his gallant bunch of cricketers.

The then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi greets the Indian team members.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

THE setting was ideal — the lush green lawns of the Hyderabad House, with the historic India Gate forming the backdrop. The mood was informal: the occasion one to cherish for long. At least for Kapil Dev and his gallant bunch of cricketers.

This was the Prime Minister's reception to the World Cup winning team. Mrs. Indira Gandhi played the part of a gracious host to perfection: a word here, a smile there, ensuring that each and everyone was comfortable and having a taste of the assortment of dishes.

"Why don't you take some 'kababs'? Would you like to start with the sweets first?", she was heard asking. There were decorated cubicles and barbecues manned by expert chefs from the famous Chandni Chowk of Old Delhi.

The select gathering of nearly 70 included many of the stalwarts of yesteryear. Lala Amarnath was there and Mrs.Gandhi had a special word with him and later with his proud son, Mohinder.

Kapil Dev was beaming, and so were the others as they displayed the Prudential Cup and posed for photographs along with the Prime Minister. "Well done, congratulations", she told Kapil and others.

The wives of the players were not to be left behind. They, too, got the chance to be introduced to Mrs. Gandhi and to be photographed with her.

"We are all proud of them. They should keep it up", Mrs. Gandhi said when pressed for her comments by newsmen.

Keeping track: "It was the fielding this time". A pause and then "... but more important was the team spirit". Mrs.Gandhi had indeed kept close track of India's fortunes in the World Cup. "Why don't you keep the Cup down somewhere?", she asked Sunil Valson. "I can't, it is so precious, so valuable', came the reply from the Delhi medium-pacer. The Prime Minister assured him that nobody would disturb or spoil the cup and Valson readily parted with it.

The Board President, Mr. N.K.P. Salve, accompanied Sunil Gavaskar to the Prime Minister and performed the introduction. " Inko to mein pehchantee hun" (I recognise him), Mrs. Gandhi said, and quickly added: "He is one of the cricketing greats of the world" Gavaskar murmured a 'thank you: Mr. Salve said something about the great opener nearing Don Bradman's record.

A final round of hand-shakes with each member of the team and Mrs. Gandhi left, leaving everyone happy and thrilled.

Only Kirti Azad, the Delhi all-rounder, missed the reception, for he had to leave for London urgently for an important match of his club in the Lancashire league.

This article first appeared in the Sportstar issue dated July 16, 1983