1983 was no fluke

The summer of 1983. Some members of the Indian team (from left: Dilip Vengsarkar, manager P.R. Man Singh, Kirti Azad, Yashpal Sharma, K. Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri) celebrate the great triumph.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY The summer of 1983. Some members of the Indian team (from left: Dilip Vengsarkar, manager P.R. Man Singh, Kirti Azad, Yashpal Sharma, K. Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri) celebrate the great triumph.

The first two editions of the World Cup, in 1975 and 1979 in England, were a learning experience for India, and a hard one at that. The team has evolved in one-day cricket since, writes S. Dinakar.

It's all a rush now. Vivian Richards attempting to pick Madan Lal from outside the off-stump and Kapil Dev running back to hold an outstanding catch.

Rewind. Take another look at the dismissal. You can see vast spaces on the leg-side; there was none on the mid-wicket fence. Richards had fallen for the bait.

India's triumph in the 1983 World Cup was no fluke.

Kapil's Devils had their share of luck — any winning side would require that — but there was an inherent strength in that side; it had serious options.

Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri did not figure in the XI for the semifinal and final. This indicates the depth in the side.

Syed Kirmani walked in at No. 10. The wicket-keeper batsman had a Test hundred against his name.

A glimpse at the composition of the team makes for interesting reading. Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth as openers — a classic combination of the stayer and the dasher. The solidity of Mohinder Amarnath and Yashpal Sharma's spirit was followed by the heavy hitting ability of Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev.

India's lower order, with Kirti Azad, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Kirmani and No. 11 Balwinder Sandhu, who had two away Test half centuries in Pakistan and West Indies, was no easy barrier. There was no dearth of multi-dimensional cricketers in the side.

India had the attack for the English conditions. Kapil could move the ball away or bring it in at will. Sandhu and Binny were genuine swing bowlers. Madan Lal and Amarnath lacked speed, not accuracy; they pegged away. Azad bowled his mix of off-spin and off-cutters to the field. The discipline in the bowling and the fact that the bowlers comprehended their limitations meant there were no easy runs on offer; the pressure was maintained.

Srikkanth, Yashpal, Madan Lal and Binny were swift on the field. Kapil, a brilliant all-round fielder, had a strong arm, so did the others like Mohinder and Azad. Gavaskar, under pressure, pouched catches in the slips.

In full flow ... India's Navjot Singh Sidhu pulls Ata-ur-Rehman to the ropes in the quarterfinal match against Pakistan in Bangalore during the 1996 World Cup.-V. V. KRISHNAN

It was a season when India defeated West Indies thrice in the ODIs. The side finished at the right end of a high-scoring game in Berbice, in the Caribbean. Then arrived India's first match of the 1983 World Cup. India, countering a four-pronged pace attack of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, finished at a creditable 262 for eight at Old Trafford. Yashpal's 120-ball 89 was all about character.

West Indies was dismissed for 228; Binny and Shastri picked up three wickets each. Shastri's left-arm spin, interestingly, would not be required by India in the later stages.

India went down to Australia by a mile — 162 runs — at Trent Bridge, but won when it mattered. Kapil's men nailed Australia in the key knockout game at Chelmsford for a place in the last four. In India's 247, Yashpal's 40 was the highest score, yet collectively — there was sting in the Indian tail too — India put together a competitive score.

Australia succumbed to the pressures of the chase, undone by the seam and swing of Madal Lal and Binny. India, victorious by 118 runs, entered the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time.

Earlier, Kapil Dev had carved an inspirational 175 not out against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, after India was 17 for five. Though an Indian victory here had little bearing on qualification, it lifted the morale of the team.

Sachin Tendulkar takes a break during his matchwinning knock against Pakistan at Centurion in 2003.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Fine fielding and tight bowling restricted England to 213 in the semifinal at Old Trafford. Mohinder's seamers and Kirti Azad's off-spin were utilised well by Kapil at a crucial juncture. The Indian chase was cleverly paced. Mohinder and Yashpal put the team on course. Then, Patil launched into the England bowling.

West Indies rightly inserted India in the final. There was plenty of juice in the pitch for the West Indian pace attack. Garner, with fine lift and line, was virtually unplayable in his first spell. Several of the present day line-ups might have collapsed for less than a hundred. India made 183, its batting depth coming to the side's rescue again.

How India defended the score has been well documented. Two factors were vital in India's believe-it-or-not triumph. The side was not lacking in self-belief, and it attacked.

If India went down in the final of the 2003 edition in South Africa, it was because the bowlers pressed the panic button too soon. Once Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden cut loose in a deliberate ploy, the bowlers changed the game plan. This proved suicidal.

Actually, the final was decided in the early overs. This was a World Cup where India promised much after a stuttering start. Ashish Nehra sent down an incisive burst of swing against England, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan hummed, and the Indian batting picked up steam. When Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar let rip at Centurion, Sachin Tendulkar smashed him over point for a six. In the summit clash, the bowlers left the batsmen with too much to do.

Take away these two editions and it has generally been a tale of woe for India in the World Cup.

In 1999, India was done in by a precise opening burst by Glenn McGrath in the Super Six stage. The inconsistent side, after being ambushed by Zimbabwe, had gate-crashed into the next round with a hard-earned win over England.

In 1996, India clinched a titanic quarterfinal against Pakistan in Bangalore, with Navjot Singh Sidhu and Ajay Jadeja playing rousing strokes in the beginning and the end. The Indians defended the target well in a collective bowling effort after an early blitzkrieg by Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail.

In the semifinal at the Eden Gardens, the Indians were caught out on a turning pitch by the Sri Lankans. India had blundered by opting to field.

The men in blue had a forgettable World Cup down under in 1992, losing close games to England and Australia. India defeated Pakistan in the league, but it was Imran's men who emerged triumphant in the competition; they played the key moments of the tournament better. While India bowled well, the batting performed in fits and starts.

The setback against England in the semifinal of the 1987 World Cup in the sub-continent would go down among India's most bitter defeats. India was an in-form side, with a batting line-up that fired and with a wealth of all-round talent. Sidhu, who reinvented himself, cleared the ropes with effortless ease, and as the tournament wore on Sunil Gavaskar notched up his first ODI century at the expense of the Kiwi attack; Chetan Sharma had a hat-trick in the same game. Srikkanth sizzled.

However, India read the game poorly against England in the semifinal. Graham Gooch swept his way to a hundred, but the area square off the wicket was left unguarded for most part. The Indian spinners too bowled a middle and leg line.

Then, India, ironically, conceded most wickets to Eddie Hemmings' off-spin.

The first two World Cups, in 1975 and 1979 in England, were a learning experience for India, and a hard one at that. In 1975, India was outplayed by England; this was a match where Gavaskar crawled to an unbeaten 36 in 60 overs. In 1979, Gundappa Viswanath made a high quality half-century against the West Indies in difficult conditions. This apart, India had little to cheer, failing to make it to the last four.

India has evolved in one-day cricket since. The side faces a fresh test in the Caribbean.