A squad with the right inputs

Published : Jan 11, 2003 00:00 IST


DILIP VENGSARKAR and Ravi Shastri could not find a place in the playing XI in the semifinal and final. For various reasons. Sunil Valson could not play even once in the entire tournament. The legendary Sunil Gavaskar did not figure in two matches. In fact, he was dropped for one match, and that too against the West Indies. Imagine, Gavaskar DROPPED. Something like Sachin Tendulkar DROPPED. Such was the wealth of talent at Kapil Dev's disposal at the 1983 World Cup.

An embarrassment of riches really, of course in hindsight. For, none gave the Indian team a chance to do well in the league stage itself, forget winning the Cup. A ray of light had emerged at Berbice when India, riding on a magnificent knock by Gavaskar, had beaten the West Indies in a one-day international a few months before the World Cup. "That win had boosted our morale a lot," remembered Kapil Dev.

If history was made at Lord's on June 25, 1983, it truly highlighted the significance of team effort. It was not a triumph scripted by an individual but a sensational feat by 14 men that transformed the face of Indian cricket. Yes, even Valson played his part in the dressing room, if not on the field.

There were many defining moments in the tournament. The epic innings by Kapil Dev against Zimbabwe; the incisive spells by Roger Binny and Madan Lal at Chelmsford against Australia when a win was a must; the two knocks by Yashpal Sharma against West Indies in the Cup opener and England in the semi-final. And Mohinder Amarnath's all-round skills.

Looking back, one thing which strikes most is the consistently crucial contributions by all those who played. The breakthroughs were made when most required. If it was Kirti Azad in one match, it happened to be Mohinder in the next; Shastri in another. A fantastic collection of bits and pieces players, who were transformed into all-rounders at the end of the tournament.

Were they really all-rounders? Or was it just a myth? Because, none, with the exception of Mohinder, qualified to be an all-rounder at the international level. Kirti, Madan, Binny, Patil, Shastri...none had any track record as an all-rounder. Until this eventful World Cup, the Indian team had a simple combination of batters who would only bat and bowlers who would only bowl. A wicket from any of the batters or runs from any of the bowlers was a boon, or a bonus, depending on the situation.

So, what happened that gave the Indian team a new image? An image of a complete team, where the wicketkeeper too chipped in handsomely? The feature of India's win was that whenever it needed a hero, the team found one. Everything clicked; everyone clicked; changes worked, like Kirti playing the last three matches of the tournament in place of Shastri; bits and pieces men became all-rounders, especially when bowling.

Just see the contributions of the all-rounders with the bat right through the tournament : Binny (27, 0, 1, 22, 21, 2); Madan (21 n.o., 27, 8 n.o., 17, 12 n.o., 17); Kirti (15, 0); Shastri (5 n.o., 17, 11, 1). Well, they excelled with the ball when it mattered most even as Mohinder alone shone as a genuine all-rounder — making runs and taking wickets to make dents in the opponents' confidence.

It was certainly not rosy at all. Few would remember that India conceded 320 runs in its match against Australia at Trent Bridge. The seven-man Indian attack was savaged by Trevor Chappell. The Indians owed it to Zimbabwe too for having beaten Australia in its opening match, a result which helped India qualify later. Many, however, would remember the turnaround at Tunbridge Wells when India recovered from 17 for five to win the contest, courtesy Kapil.

The semifinal victory was India's brilliant retort to English arrogance. The sullen faces at Old Trafford could not accept that the days of the Raj were over even on the cricket field. A new chapter was being written by Kapil Dev and his revolutionary band of cricketers.

Can you ever forget the final? ''A mismatch'' was how one reputed cricket writer looked at it on the eve of the contest. The West Indians were planning their celebrations in advance. Those who had bought tickets for the final, anticipating an English triumph, cursed their luck, for the home team had been packed off by India at Manchester, considered to be a home away from home for the Indians anyway.

This is how West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd assessed the final. "We played appallingly. India fully deserved to win but we didn't do much to stop them. Ours was a performance of amateurs. We were dreadful.'' So despondent was Lloyd that he announced his decision to relinquish captaincy.

Viv Richards recalled in his authorised biography the agony of the defeat. "The most painful thing for us was to hear those Indian drums around our hotel all night. Some of the guys broke down. (Malcolm) Marshall, who had played so well during the whole tournament took it particularly badly. He cried.''

Those were heady days for Indian cricket and some of the images from the Cup have stuck. The square-drive after going down on one knee by Srikkanth off Roberts in the final, a shot of great authority and finesse. The flicked six by Yashpal off Bob Willis in the semifinal. A shot as robust as the man. "A breathtaking stroke,'' recalled Mohinder. In Yashpal's words "it was my answer to Willis for all his sledging.'' The catch by Kapil to dismiss Richards in the final, an act that changed the course of the game. And the meaning of professionalism. You need not be mean to be professional. You could be simply skilful and make your point most effectively. As did the Indians on a glorious summer day in London.

It was a result which gave hope to other teams. If India could do it, so could they!

It was also a tournament with many firsts. One of them, which we must accept gracefully, was that for the first time in the history of the tournament, until then, the best team did not win the title. A few months after the World Cup, the West Indies travelled to India and gave the home team a lashing in every one-day international. Just to prove that 25 June, 1983 was just one bad day in the office.

But that one good day at office gave the Indian cricketers a new status in society. Endorsements came in large numbers and the team was feted at countless functions across the country. Academies sprung up to produce new champions. Cricket became a national passion and the triumph of Lord's became a landmark achievement in the history of Indian cricket. That team, and that great day, is vivid in most cricket lovers' minds. And we relive the occasion every four years when those heroes are remembered by a grateful nation.

A game between Kapil's men and Sourav Ganguly's "boys'' could be an event worth looking forward to. Any takers for organising this dream match!

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