Very much there!

Watching the action from the dressing room, Sunil Valson was a part of the scheme of things in his own right, making valuable suggestions at team meetings. Even the players banked on his inputs.

Sunil Valson (right) with Yashpal Sharma. It did not matter whether Valson was in the playing XI or not. He did have a role to play and he played it well.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

The triumph was big; so was the camaraderie that was forged during those eventful days when Kapil Dev and his men were demolishing reputations and setting new benchmarks for themselves. Those were heady times and the best tribute comes from the leader, Kapil Dev, when he says, “It was a collective victory.”

Sunil Valson made his way into the team on the basis of some outstanding performances in the domestic circuit. A nippy left-armer with plenty of guile and aggression, Valson was an integral part of India’s World Cup feat in 1983. What if he did not get to play? As far as the team was concerned, it did not matter whether Valson played or not. He did have a role to play and he played it well.

Reflecting on the grand achievement of 1983, Valson could relive the scenes of celebrations and tension vividly. “How can anyone forget that World Cup victory? I remember every match, the ones we lost and the ones we won. It was an incredible journey because no one gave us a chance.”

The passion and fan following that the team commanded was huge. “We made history and in the process won the heart of the nation. It was an unprecedented feat in Indian sport. After the hockey gold feats in the Olympics I think the 1983 World Cup win was something to cherish. We were proud to be a part of it.”

When the team landed, Valson reminisced, no one took notice. “We had just one win over the West Indies (at Berbice) before the event. But then our start to the World Cup was electric and we just grew in strength and confidence.”

The win against the West Indies in the opening match set the trend and as Valson said, it was a different team from there on. “We played outstanding cricket right through. I can’t really pinpoint individual excellence because we clicked as a team. Except that phenomenal knock by Kapil I don’t think there was emphasis on individual brilliance. We were doing very well as a team and the players too had realised that each had to contribute.”

Watching the action from the dressing room, Valson was a part of the scheme of things in his own right, making valuable suggestions at team meetings. Even the players banked on his inputs. Valson had made it to the team on merit and it was the wealth of attack at Kapil’s disposal that prevented the left-armer from playing a match.

“I felt sorry that I could not include him in the eleven,” said Kapil about Valson. “I have no regrets really,” Valson responded. “The team won and we all celebrated.” And the celebrations lasted long as the team was feted around the country.

Cricket was not a commercial venture for the administrators in those days. “It was fun and the World Cup was the turning point in the history of the game in India. The media attention was not the same as today but it was big no doubt.”

With time, the heroes of 1983 have aged. “Grey hair and the bellies now remind us that time has flown. Twenty-five years is a long time. But it is nice to be remembered and once again treated as heroes.

It feels like we have won the Cup again. It feels great to be together again. It is back to the good old days.”

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