There are times when he reflects on that glorious summer in 1983 and wonders, “How could we do it?” For Kapil Dev, it was the “turning point” of international cricket when India won the Prudential World Cup. It also changed the face of Indian cricket. “We started believing we were good at one-day cricket too,” Kapil told Sportstar.
For Kapil, recollecting the feat has become a part of life. “Countless times (have I done it) and every time I remember something new. Every time I feel the win is yet to sink in. It is still a wonderful feeling to remember the time we spent together; the time when Indian cricket made such huge progress. It was fun.”
The team had some stalwarts. The team had some freshers. One of them — Sunil Valson — did not get to play a single game but he was considered by everyone as an “integral” part of the team. Valson contributed by observing from outside. “There are occasions when you see things differently and better too from outside and Volly did come up with helpful suggestions.”
In Kapil’s opinion, the “simplicity” of the team was the key. “It was a very simple team. The players had their tasks cut out. There was no added pressure because we were not supposed to be good at One-Day cricket. The players had no airs and went about their job with a lovely spirit. Believe me, the enthusiasm was infectious and highly motivating. Each player was supporting the other. We shared responsibilities and enjoyed every moment.”
Without wanting to compare the modern ways of preparing for a contest, Kapil noted, “Would you believe if I told you we did not have any planning? Today there is so much of scrutiny and research ahead of a match/tournament, but we just entered the field with an open mind. The team concentrated on keeping things uncomplicated. That was the key. The team had some splendid performers. It was a unit which realised only collective performance would help.”
There was an incident in the final when Kapil admitted to some planning. West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd had a thigh injury that had restricted his footwork. “I knew he was in pain. I told the bowlers not to pitch the ball short because it gave him space to move back and hit. Lloyd was struggling to go on his front foot. We had to avoid bowling him full tosses. We had to pitch the ball up because Lloyd was in considerable pain. I knew he would not like to come forward. I still remember telling Roger (Binny) to just pitch it up and he was brilliant in those conditions. Lloyd just drove the ball to me (at extra cover) and that was the moment I knew the match was swinging our way. Lloyd is a batsman who can crush any opposition on his own. Remember the 1975 World Cup final? His wicket was really as critical as Viv Richards’ wicket.”
Kapil is realistic in assessing the victory. “Maybe we won’t do it again. Maybe West Indies would play differently. We were told it was a flash in the pan when we beat the West Indies at Berbice (Guyana) in a One-Day match just before the World Cup. We proved it was not a flash in the pan, but we must also accept that we were lucky.”
Having all-rounders in the team was another feature. “Binny kept a low profile but was high on performance. Jimmy (Mohinder Amarnath) was not aggressive but he was mighty effective with his seam bowling and reliable batting. The batsmen underestimated his abilities and paid the price when they took liberties with him.
“And remember the spell that Kirti Azad produced? Honestly, I did not think he was the bowler who could be used for 12 overs. He was a useful bowler but to bowl 12 overs was a tough task. He did it and that made a huge difference in the semifinal against England. Jimmy and Kirti shared 24 overs against England. What more could a captain ask for?”
The depth in batting was a plus point. “Till No. 10 we had batsmen who had hit a first-class century. That was an asset. Ravi (Shastri) and Dilip (Vengsarkar) could not find a place in the XI for the final. Does it not speak for the versatility of the team? Dilip, the King of Lord’s, was not playing at Lord’s! He was injured too. But I feel sorry for Valson. He could not get a game. We were keen to have a left-arm seamer but then Binny was consistently performing well and we could not have replaced him and disturbed the playing XI.”
On his 175 not out against Zimbabwe, the knock that defined India’s triumph at the World Cup, Kapil was typically down to earth. “To tell you the truth, I remember very little of the innings. There is no recording of that knock for me to revisit it and recall. I can talk about the innings in patches from memory. What I remember vividly was that I told my partners to just hang in there. And then the last 10 overs or so, I told them I would go for the runs and they need to stay there.”
Kapil continues, “More than the innings, I can recall the match for many things. Yes, I built my innings carefully, taking my time to settle down and then playing my shots. But I remember my anger during the lunch break. The team also realised it. In the dressing room, there was not one player near me. They knew I was angry. I had to fetch my lunch myself instead of someone from the reserves bringing it for me. I later learnt it was planned by some of my mates. They wanted me to reflect on the situation in solitude. I liked being the first Indian to score a One-Day century.”
It was bleak when he walked in at nine for four and then it became 17 for five. “I had hopes. I know there was no planning, but we had hopes. I told the team to get to 150 and then fight. Once we crossed 250, I knew we could make it. Things clicked for me that day. I could have got out playing a shot and people would have said I threw away my wicket. That’s why I was dropped after the Delhi Test against England (in 1984-85). But that’s the way I played. I agree I should have been more sensible, but it was a rush of blood. Would Sehwag have been Sehwag if he had curtailed his shots?”
There were some moments that stood out. “I and Ravi were the only two players who believed we could do well. I don’t know why but there was a feeling that we had the team to surprise the world. Of course, I did not believe we could win the tournament. As things progressed, we grew in confidence and our overall strength was enhanced by the presence of performers. How can I forget the catch that Kiri (Syed Kirmani) took to dismiss Faoud Bacchus? He took it in front of Sunil (Gavaskar) at first slip. What agility Kiri displayed! Also, Ballu (Balwinder Sandhu) getting the wicket of Gordon Greenidge in the final. It set the trend.”
Kapil concludes, “It feels nice that people remember the 1983 triumph even today. To me it was a great journey. As great as India winning the 2011 World Cup. But I also feel that the 2007 World T20 triumph was equally important too. It changed the way the game was to be played. India won the inaugural T20 World Cup without any of the stalwarts. The win will remain a landmark feat because it led to the creation of the Indian Premier League, which has changed the lifestyle of the cricketers.”
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