He is a treasure trove of cricket tales and PR Man Singh could not resist sharing his side of India's 1983 World Cup win. “I know much has been written and said about June 25 and all but I have a collection which can delight our cricket fans for eternity,” said Man saab , as he is fondly known.
At 81, Man saab can vividly recall events from his teenage and it should hardly surprise the cricket fraternity when he points out minute details from the epic journey which began when he was appointed manager of the team for the World Cup.
“I was assistant manager when we went to Pakistan in 1978. So this was my first full-fledged assignment as the team manager. And I flouted many Board rules in my capacity as manager,” he confessed to Sportstar here on Wednesday.
“To begin with it was an honour to be co-opted in the committee which was to appoint the captain for the World Cup. We had stalwarts in the selection committee – Ghulam Ahmed, Chandu Borde, Chandu Sarwate, Bishan Singh Bedi and Pankaj Roy. The meeting was held at Hotel Taj Man Singh in Delhi but some reason Roy did not attend,” remembered Man saab.
Kapil Dev's appointment was “smooth” and he was co-opted along with the manager to select the squad. “The team was picked on merit and we left a week before the World Cup,” he added. “We lost three of the four warm-up matches but recovered to stun the world.”
The triumph is well documented. “The win was epic and we partied late. The dressing room and later the hotel lobby was over-crowded. In fact, the next morning I was so happy to see the team keep its commitment to play the benefit match for (fast bowler) T. Govindraj.”
Man saab had requested the team to play the match on June 26 even before the tournament had begun. “We were the world champions now and it was chaotic at the Indian Gymkhana where the match was to be played. After a while, the crowd invaded the field and the match had to be abandoned. But D. Govindraj had his benefit game.”
What Board rule did he flout then? “I allowed wives to accompany the players,” Man saab chuckled. “We had four players with their wives and I gave them permission to stay in the hotel. I also allowed them to travel in the team bus when going to venues out of London. This was unthinkable then. Good the Board today allows the players to bring their families for some time.”
An unforgettable memory was Man saab making a top English journalist feel embarrassed for mocking India's participation. “After we won, I wrote to him. And he was sporting enough to publish his picture in the magazine with paper in his mouth and a caption – I eat my words.”
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