Kapil’s Devils rode on self-belief and determination to storm into the Lord’s balcony, upstaging the mighty West Indies and upsetting the bookmakers’ predictions in the 1983 World Cup.
For the reigning world champion, the icing on the cake came two years later when Sunny’s Sizzlers ruled the MCG on a memorable March night. The World Championship of Cricket was a ‘mini’ World Cup – seven teams were in the fray – and India had everything to play for: form, pride and reputation.
Before touching down in Australia, the Indians had lost three series on the bounce (against Australia, Pakistan and England) - their confidence low, expectations almost none.
Led by the astute Gavaskar, India regrouped brilliantly. The captain knew he had the men for the battle, he just had to make them fire, the way Kapil did in 1983. What followed was a stunning sequence of conquests that made the commentators raise their decibel levels and the world watch in awe.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations or postponements of most major leagues while the ones that are still running have been closed to spectators.
If the lack of sporting action has left a void in your day, here's something to satiate that hunger - let's revisit the games from this tournament, each one a masterpiece, each worth revisiting.
India vs Pakistan, February 20, 1985, Melbourne
Gavaskar’s side was a team of allrounders while Miandad’s men were an allround team.
Chasing a total of 183 after Roger Binny and debutant L. Sivaramakrishnan’s spells, superb catching and sharp fielding had derailed the Pakistan innings, the 22-year-old Mohammad Azharuddin, who had made a world record three centuries in his first three Tests, took over. India was reduced to 27 for three with Imran on the prowl, and it took the class of Azharuddin and the calmness of Gavaskar to resurrect the innings.
During the revival, Gavaskar survived a vociferous appeal for caught behind off Rashid Khan’s bowling. Known to pack his bags if he had edged a ball, the original Little Master stood his ground this time. He later revealed that there were two teams against whom he would never walk: Pakistan and Mafatlal (a side in Mumbai circles).
At the other end, the way the Hyderabad stylist went about his business, while facing Imran and Akram, was simply breathtaking (see separate link). Though Gavaskar (54) got out with the finish line in sight, Azhar took the team home, remaining unbeaten.
India vs England, February 26, Sydney
Gower’s England had bearded India in its own den and it was payback time.
Kris Srikkanth provided the ideal platform, launching into the bowlers and hitting boundaries at will (10 in all). His 53-ball 57, along with solid contributions from Azhar and Dilip Vengsarkar, and cameos from Kapil and Gavaskar saw India reach 235.
England made a bright start and was placed at a healthy 94 for one when LS got into the act. He removed Gower with a full toss, Martyn Moxon with a return catch and Allan Lamb on the sweep. Soon, Shastri took flight, sending the England innings into a freefall. Sadanand Viswanath contributed with the big gloves, pouching three catches and effecting two stumpings.
England was spun out for 149, leaving India victors by a whopping 86 runs. The way LS and Shastri spun a web around Gower’s men became the talking point of the match, and the tournament.
India vs Australia, March 3, Melbourne
The Indians had a score to settle with Border’s troops too as they had visited and vanquished India in an ODI series in the lead-up to the WCC tournament. Crossing swords with Australia down under is one of the toughest assignments in world cricket, but Gavaskar’s team was up for the challenge.
Opting to bowl first, India ripped through the Aussie top-order. Robbie Kerr had no clue to the delivery from Kapil that crashed into his stumps while Border was done in by a beauty from Binny. It took the fighter in Wayne Phillips to rescue the hosts and give them something to bowl with.
Kapil took two, Binny three and LS two. The leg-spinner performed a rare hat-trick of ‘catching off own bowling’ when he snapped up Geoff Lawson, having had similar dismissals in the earlier games against Pakistan and England.
A total of 163 was never going to test the Indians, definitely not Srikkanth who was in the mood again. With Shastri coming good with the bat for the first time in the tournament, it was all over in no time. It didn’t help that Simon O’Donnell grassed the simplest of chances at mid-on off Srikkanth. The opener carried on merrily, remaining unbeaten on 93, with India winning the game in the 37th over.
India vs New Zealand, Semifinal, March 5, Sydney
The Kiwis have always been tough nuts to crack and it was no different on that March day.
Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, Geoff Howarth’s side managed to squeeze past the 200-mark, thanks to John Reid (55), Jeremy Coney (33) and a quickfire 39 (29b) from Lance Cairns. Gavaskar was none too pleased when Srikkanth failed to run in and catch a mishit off Cairns, packing off the fielder to the opposite side of the fence as a punishment. Srikkanth heard the message loud and clear, and went for it the next time Cairns swung the ball high in the air! Madan Lal scalped four and Shastri three. LS failed to take a wicket, ending his caught and bowled sequence too.
Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield and Cairns had the Indian batsmen in knots, not offering any freebies and never allowing them to get away. Even the free-stroking Srikkanth was tied down by the trio. The asking rate kept mounting and when Shastri was the third to fall after a painstaking 53 off 84 balls, it was anybody’s game.
Though Gavaskar was padded up, it was Kapil who walked out. He went after the bowlers, Hadlee in particular, as the runs came thick and fast. Kapil was lucky to see Reid drop a sitter at mid-off, prompting Richie Benaud in the commentary box to exclaim: “that could be the match.” And that’s what happened as Vengsarkar, too, joined the party and smashed the bowlers to all parts of the SCG. Kapil’s 54 not out came off just 37 balls while Vengsarkar took 59 deliveries for his unbeaten 63, the two sealing it in the 44th over.
India vs Pakistan, Final, March 10, Melbourne
‘Benson & Hedges Final: Bus Drivers versus Tram Conductors,’ screamed a banner, welcoming fans for the contest between India and Pakistan! Obviously miffed at not seeing Australia, or the all-conquering West Indies (it had lost to Pakistan in the semifinal), on the big day, the spectators vent their frustration.
On the field, however, it was Gavaskar’s men who got into the driving seat straightaway. Kapil was on fire, with the ball this time. His swinging delivery to castle the in-form Qasim Umar first ball prompted Benaud to say: "Oh! Knocked him over! First cherry! Great yorker!”
LS then bowled what was arguably the ‘ball of the championship’, luring Miandad to his doom with flight, dip and turn. Pakistan never recovered from those blows and limped to 176 for nine. That it became the only side not to be bowled out by India in the competition was no consolation.
Unlike the opening game, Shastri and Srikkanth saw through Imran’s fiery spell and put India on course. The latter smashed two into the stands while making 67 (77b), while the former was patience-personified at the other end. He consumed 148 deliveries for his undefeated 63, ensuring there were no hiccups in the grand chase which was sealed in the 48th over with eight wickets to spare.
India was the champion and Shastri the Champion of Champions for his allround contribution right through. When he took his teammates around the MCG in his Audi car, it must have been the most memorable drive, for him and Team India.
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