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.
November 27, 1993: India stuns Windies to clinch Hero Cup title
Ajit Wadekar had a big smile that night. Every move of his had clicked. He had insisted on the same team which toured Sri Lanka even though it had lost the one-day series. At the end of the tournament, as Mohammed Azharuddin held aloft the Hero Cup, one was left admiring Wadekar’s ability to get the best out of his players.
West Indies was outclassed at the Eden Gardens. The whopping margin was proof of India’s domination in a match in which the West Indies began as the favourite. The Indians won by 102 runs and Richie Richardson could hardly complain. India had played much better and was a clear winner. The Roland Holder incident notwithstanding.
Did someone say drop Kapil Dev. That Sachin Tendulkar was proving a liability and ought to justify his place in the side. That Ajay Jadeja was not cut out for cricket at this level. That Vinod Kambli lacked the technique to take on the West Indians’ pace battery. The answers came in front of the 90,000-odd spectators at the Eden Gardens and millions of viewers on television. Kapil, Tendulkar, Jadeja and Kambli had a great role to play in India’s convincing victory over the West Indies.
Not to forget leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who left the West Indians dazed with his mesmerising stuff. In the space of 24 balls, Kumble conceded just four runs and packed off six batsmen. The West Indians have known to be suspect against spin even though Richardson argued that it was a “myth” that they could not tackle the turning ball. Not many gave India a chance.
The West Indians had thrashed Sri Lanka the night before and the Indians had managed to scrape through after a dream last over from Tendulkar. Plus, Richardson and his men had won the Sharjah Cup before coming to India for the Hero Cup. But every soul at the Eden Gardens prayed for an Indian victory. They cheered the team every moment, and as many members of the team conceded, the support from the stands was a very vital factor. It was thus understandable that Azharuddin gave a lot of credit to the Calcutta crowd and dedicated the Hero Cup triumph to the people of India.
The emotional feelings of Azhar were also understandable, for India had won a Cup final after a long time. Before the match, Wadekar and Azharuddin were confident that it was going to be a much different game than the earlier ones. “We peaked at the right moment,” said Wadekar, as he followed the victory celebrations on the ground. “I just want to watch the boys enjoy,” he said in a choked tone. Even the players were keen to give this gift to their manager.
“We had to do it for him (Wadekar). He has been such an inspirational figure to the side, always keeping faith in our abilities and wanting us to keep improving”, Azharuddin said in praise of his cricket manager. The celebrations that followed the victory were short. Most of the team members were to disperse early the next morning but the mood in the dressing room was upbeat. The team had worked hard in every match, improved in every department and looked like a champion side in the final, which, disappointingly, was a one-sided affair.
The discordant note was struck by umpire lan Robinson’s inability to judge Holder’s dismissal. The batsman was bowled and even the other umpire, Carl Liebenberg, was caught unawares. “I just saw the bails flying,” Liebenberg said. Robinson was unsure and to every- one’s astonishment, there was a signal for the third umpire. Richardson complained that it was against the rules. “The third umpire is to judge only line decisions,” he said.
Holder was bowled and there was no doubt about it from the television replay. However, Holder was ‘declared’ bowled and that led to plenty of debate. The adjudicator, Bishen Singh Bedi, turned down the West Indian appeal to intervene. So did the International Cricket Council Chairman, Clyde Walcott. The technicalities apart, Holder was ‘declared’ bowled and that, according to Richardson, was the turning point of the match. The West Indians just caved in from that position as Kumble ran riot with the lower order.
There were stages when India appeared to have lost the rhythm. After Jadeja and Kambli had repaired the early damage with some enterprising batting, India, from 161 for two, slipped to 161 for five. All because of a runout. Azharuddin dropped the ball at his feet and took off. Kambli responded but Curtly Ambrose, the bowler, also took off. Kambli had little chance as the tall West Indian kicked the ball onto the stumps. Six balls later Azharuddin fell in trying to steer and four balls later Pravin Amre was back.
Then came an encouraging and sensible stand of 46 runs between Kapil and Tendulkar. Both had struggled till this match but chose the right time to come good and it was this partnership which gave India a sound total to defend.
Richardson had erred in giving India the first strike and a target of 200-plus was always going to be difficult on a pitch which saw the ball come slowly. Kambli (68) played some delightful shots in his 90-ball essay. So did Jadeja, who made a big impact in the side with his fielding and bowling in the semifinals. His six over midwicket off Winston Benjamin was a stunning shot. Another stroke worth mentioning was Azharuddin’s cut off Simmons, beating two men on the fence.
The Indians batted sensibly, keeping their wickets in hand and gave their bowlers a good chance to press for a win. When West Indies batted, every bowler made a valuable contribution. Manoj Prabhakar, as usual, gave an early breakthrough, scalping Simmons off the sixth ball of the innings. When the Richardson-Brian Lara stand assumed alarming proportions, Tendulkar got one past the left-hander to make an important dent. The match was still open as Richardson, growing in confidence with every ball, and Keith Arthurton looked solid.
It was here that Kapil took over. He trapped Arthurton in front and held a return catch as Richardson was foxed by the slow pace. The West Indian innings was in a mess and the dismissal of Holder put the issue beyond doubt. West Indies has a long tail and Kumble, in a sensational spell, ripped through the batting with a mixture of leg-spinners, googlies and top-spinners. The West Indians gave in meekly and for the second time in three days, the Eden Gardens wore a fascinating look, crackers and bonfires electrifying the atmosphere.
The Indians had been inconsistent in their run-up to the semifinal. Winning two matches, losing one and just managing to tie the third. But the team raised its game in the semifinal and peaked in the final. Ajit Wadekar was the silent worker behind India’s success in the Hero Cup. At the end of the tournament, he was willing to continue as the cricket manager on popular demand from the team.
(This article was first published in The Sportstar issue dated December 11, 1993.)