Clive Lloyd's dismissal was the key

Kapil Dev, India's World Cup winning captain, goes down memory lane to 1983, the epoch-making year, in a chat with Vijay Lokapally.

It is an event that unfolds every four years and the final of 1983 is remembered for its stunning finish. India winning the World Cup at Lord's was a shocker for the cricketing world, but not for the 14 men, who stood proudly on the Lord's balcony. At some point during the tournament, and during the final, they did believe they could do it. "And we did it," says Kapil Dev, captain of that team.

"It was a gift to the country. Thanks to that achievement, we have been recognised for years and that great feeling has remained with us. People have treated us like heroes and I have no words to describe the respect that we have been accorded by our countrymen. People have fond memories of that great day and I value the emotions of the people. Their affection is, to me, the biggest gain from the World Cup win. The feat may have been unparalleled, but nothing can match the love that we have received from our countrymen. It is priceless."

As far as Kapil is concerned, the underdog tag helped India, especially in the final. "Even we knew we were the underdogs. Let us be honest about it. None of us thought we would get that far. The entire tournament had an element of surprise when it came to India. Winning the first match against the West Indies was a surprise; beating Australia in a crucial league match was a surprise; reaching the final was a surprise and winning it was a surprise too, a pleasant surprise. People said we were lucky. Some said it was a fluke. But then we won another world title in 1985 (in Australia). I don't think the luck factor would have lasted so long."

Kapil recounts, "It is true that initially none of us thought we could become champions. Every victory was achieved after a struggle. But at the halfway stage our confidence was up. And it only multiplied in terms of self-belief."

Was it difficult to lead? "No, not at all; in fact, I did not have to worry about captaincy because there was no need to tell my colleagues what to do. They knew their job very well. All we needed was commitment and I take pride in saying that there was a tremendous understanding in the team. Each player made an invaluable contribution towards the team's cause. In the three or four matches, everything happened on instinct as we all discovered avenues to win."

Recalling the journey, Kapil observed, "I think beating Australia in the league match was a big moment. Of course, the process had begun with the victory against the West Indies. As we beat Zimbabwe, the spirit in the team was high and the confidence unbelievable."

Surprisingly, Kapil does not remember much of the final. "I remember the key moments. The team meeting was simple. We told each other to give it our best shot. But I was very upset with the pitch we were given for the final. It was green. I thought it was unfair. In hindsight, however, it helped because we would have stood little chance if the pitch had been flat. But I must say that given a choice, I would again like to play the final on a similar pitch even conceding the fact that the West Indies had bowlers like (Michael) Holding, (Andy) Roberts, (Malcolm) Marshall and Garner. Their attack was menacing that day no doubt but then we also assessed our strength. I just told the team that the West Indies would have to make the runs to win. The onus was on them and we had to deny them. The message was well received."

Kapil continued, "To tell you the truth, we were disheartened after being shot out for just 183 and we had to make it difficult for the West Indies by doing what we had done in the preceding matches. We had to put up a collective performance."

On his catch to dismiss Viv Richards in the final, Kapil said, "My catch was important but it was not everything. I think I have taken much tougher catches. The final was all about playing collectively. And more than Viv's wicket I thought it was Clive Lloyd's dismissal that was the turning point. Lloyd was a dangerous batsman but he was injured. I told Roger (Binny) to pitch it up because that would make Lloyd stretch out his injured right leg. And it worked."

He spoke proudly of his team. "Roger (Binny) struck at vital stages. Madan (Lal) was much under-rated but he stood out with his crafty stuff even though he lacked the pace. He was our most attacking bowler. (Balwinder) Sandhu was incredible. Mohinder (Amarnath) was an asset. He used his brain and his shoulder to surprise the opposition. His approach was soft but not the performance. (Syed) Kirmani was one of the pillars of strength. It was great to have Sunil (Gavaskar) around. His presence was so motivating. Yashpal (Sharma) played some great knocks. Sandeep (Patil) was fantastic in his own style. Kirti (Azad) made an impact too. His bowling came in handy in the semifinal and his wicket of (Ian) Botham was crucial. I had to spend time with Kirti to help him control his temper. What do I say of Srikkanth? He was the first to start this trend of jumping on the back of the bowlers (at the fall of a wicket). He was superb in the final.

It was unfortunate that (Sunil) Valson did not get to play. And just imagine we had Dilip (Vengsarkar) and Ravi (Shastri) in the reserves. Ravi was superb in our first match against the West Indies. And how can I forget our manager (Man Singh)? He was tremendous. Overall it was really enjoyable."

Kapil underplayed his epic innings of 175 not out against Zimbabwe which hauled India out of an embarrassing 17 for five. "It was an important knock but not the turning point. The turning point was beating Australia in the league. The match against Zimbabwe left me fuming at the way we batted. I remember returning to an empty dressing room at the end of our innings. No one spoke to me during lunch too. They knew I was livid. Sunil (Gavaskar) was the first to approach me. All he said was, "Well played," and it cooled me. The rest is history."

Any other lasting memory of the Cup? "We didn't get dinner that night. Those days, restaurants in London would close at 10.30 p.m. and by the time we finished our celebrations it was past midnight. We had to make do with some fast food at Gloster Road. But the return was memorable. Air-India rescheduled its flight for us.

"Crowds lined the roads in Bombay and meeting Mrs. Indira Gandhi at a reception hosted by her was unforgettable."