India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.
March 10, 1985: India beats Pakistan to win the World Championship of Cricket title
The magical moment returned again. India rose to the top of the world in one-day cricket with a most convincing win in the final of the Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket. “We have done it twice. So, no one can say it was a fluke again,” Kapil Dev proudly said at the end of another long day of cricket in which India restated so clearly its one day capabilities.
The setting was different and the contest was of a lesser intensity too. Unlike the World Cup final in which India may have been thought to have little chance of defending a total of 183 in 60 overs, here India was the team fancied to win. It had beaten Pakistan so decisively in the league match, there seemed no reason why it should not repeat the performance again.
In many other ways, it was a setting so different to the ones in which India and Pakistan generally meet in the subcontinent. No sten guns here, no overplay of the so-called branch of security, no barbed wire fences and no people running on to the ground. It was perfectly peaceful and an atmosphere in which it is possible to play good cricket without the tensions of home or a visit to Pakistan.
Having already beaten four teams on the trot in the run to the final, it was only fair that India should be rated the team with the higher chance of winning the cup. Its bowling had always seen to it that the batsman’s task was made as light as possible.
Srikkanth recognises no hazards to his own peculiar style of play. The ball is there to be hit and he continues to believe in his own capacity to hit it often enough and hard enough to come out the winner.
““We have done it twice. So, no one can say it was a fluke again.””Kapil DevAfter India’s 1985 World Championship of Cricket triumph followed the 1983 World Cup win
Ravi Shastri made a laboured effort to associate himself in this third-century stand with Srikkanth and the second in this tournament itself. This is India’s most successful pair in one-day cricket and once they added 103, the final was virtually over as a contest. Azharuddin and Vengsarkar helped Shastri see through the remainder of it and under the glittering lights of the MCG stood the Indians: the twice crowned champions of instant cricket.
The quality of the performance was once again very high. The bowlers operated to a plan. The capacity to be modest about one’s bowling is a very important factor in one-day cricket. You could bowl as quick as Imran and still end up on the losing side. It was not speed as much as the disguised guile of slow medium pace and spin that saw India contain the opposition for the fifth straight time in the tournament.
Pakistan did India a favour by beating the West Indies. In the post-championship confidence, it would be easy to say India would have beaten the West Indians, too, under these conditions. It is the same confidence that carried India through three weeks in Australia in which there was such a stunning improvement in its play and in the players’ bearing. The West Indies might have been more formidable on a special occasion such as a final but it appears unlikely it could have beaten India in the mood in which it was here.
Take Kapil’s bowling, for instance. He had a poor series at home but out here he picked up in offensive capabilities from match to match. It was not the best he bowled in the championship and yet he fired out three Pakistanis in his first spell. He had Chetan Sharma and not Binny for support. Playing in his first match, Chetan performed capably too. He should have had Imran when the all-rounder was on nil. A gloved catch to the ‘keeper down the legside was ruled not out by umpire Ray Isherwood.
The one bad decision did certainly affect the course of the match. Imran and Miandad persevered to rescue Pakistan from the depths with some solid cricket. It was poetic justice in the sense Imran, committed too far for a suicidal run, did not make it back even as Gavaskar threw down the wicket from point. Gavaskar’s pick and throw reflect the totality of India’s winning ways. Nothing succeeds like success.
There was a big slide once Imran was run out. Malik showed no inclination to stay and fight and fell in the melee. Miandad followed soon stumped smartly by Sadanand Vishwanath who has fair claims to have been the wicket-keeper of the championship. He kept spotlessly and sometimes stood up to Madan and Mohinder too. A few chances were no doubt floored in the final but with India riding its luck, no lapse proved expensive.
For those who believe in the fatalistic, it must have come as a surprise that India should win this tournament after having appeared to be the least prepared for it in the wake of an unfortunate series at home. The bitter disappointments of the events at home were totally forgotten as the team started firing in unison again. While strife took the men apart, success brought them together.
When a side is up against Imran playing the role of the battering ram, nothing can be taken for granted. In his flowering maturity, Srikkanth is a better player in one-day cricket too. He accepted the limitations with regard to trying to hit Imran off the firing line. Discretion is the better part of valour even in a batsman with such a wondrous capacity for attacking play. Once the major threat was forded, it was one smooth though slow march to the cup and the 32,000 dollars that went with.
Unlike the World Cup final, this match was too onesided to fire the enthusiasm. So long as Srikkanth was in and striking freely, Pakistan was totally out of it. After his departure, too, there was no threat, for he had effectively settled the issue with a sparkling 67. He is the one batsman who has consistently defied the 100 to 110 metre boundaries at the MCG.
It is sometimes raw power that carries Srikkanth’s hits over the fence. At other times the timing is so good, power can take a back seat as the ball goes soaring over. Wasim Raja presented those eminently hittable leg-breaks and Srikkanth sent two of them over long-off though only one was declared six. But the best hit was the first. He lofted Azeem Hafiz wide of long-off literally standing in his crease. Like the square drive off Andy Roberts at Lord’s in the World Cup final, this stroke will stay in memory for long.
The final did not exactly set the MCG or the Yarra river on fire. But that is because India proved too good for Pakistan twice over. There are not many one-day matches in which both teams play well. It is certainly the time to toast the Indian team for its miraculous recovery from the drubbing of the home one-day series. But, hopefully, we will recognise that it is best not to mix up Test cricket and one day cricket.
The mistakes made in the post-World Cup phase should not be repeated again. If a player is good enough to get into the one-day side, he should be welcomed but not to the extent of confusing the issues. The Test record needs improvement too. It is possible to keep afloat India’s image in instant cricket by picking the right blend of youth and experience. Test matches are in a different class altogether. Welcome the heroes but do not deify them. It happened once before.
India vs Pakistan, World Championship of Cricket Final scores
(This article from R. Mohan was first published in The Sportstar issue dated March 23, 1985.)
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