How India won West Indies

RAJU BHARATAN

THE 'one-day' all India has been watching out for vs the West Indies is here - even as the World Cup, optimistically, is but waiting to come to the nation again via Kapil Dev and his Ruby-studded Sony channel. A 'topical' rewind let it be, therefore, to each such 1983 Prudential World Cup match involving Kapil Dev's India. Let us begin by showcasing the June 9-10, 1983, Old Trafford appetiser - Clive Lloyd's team of world-beaters vs a still wooden-spooning India led by Kapil Dev. Holding the then glistening black West Indies at bay was no piece of cheesecake - revealing all was our vital statistics in international cricket. Remember each ODI, back in 1983, was still a 60 overs' face-off. But Kapil's India put the Caribbeans under Manchester pressure straightway by hitting up 262 for 8 (from 60 overs) - after the West Indies thought she had sent us 'for a toss' by asking us to bat first at Old Trafford on that Thursday of June 9, 1983.

The tone for India's startling 34-run win here was set by Yashpal Sharma, his sterling 89 pronouncing him as Man of the Match against the torrid pace of Michael Holding (12-3-32-2), Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall (12-1-48-2) and Joel Garner. Some foursome against which to clinch the World Cup! Could the miracle happen again? That time at Old Trafford, the batting powerhouse of the West Indies could manage but 228 (off 54.1 overs) in response to India's 262 for 8. Not one Caribbean worth the name - from Gordon Greenidge (24) to Vivian Richards (17) to Clive Lloyd (25) - could deal the blacksmith blows that mattered against Roger Binny (12-1-48-3) and Ravi Shastri (5.1-0-26-3).

How India today yearns for all-rounders of the Binny-Ravi vintage! Yashpal Sharma is a case-study as the Man of the (June 9-10) Match. Calculators were yet to come to India when Yashpal was in Sunil Gavaskar's India team pre-eminently for his ability to do a sum in the head. Sunny could spot-turn to Yash for each single statistical detail that mattered in the match. Thus Yashpal Sharma was already a walking computer come 1983. As, in that year of grace, to Grace Road moved Kapil's India on Saturday, June 11, the Leicester setting was forbidding enough to explain why Vijay Merchant had batted there (right through a county match) wearing three pullovers during our 1946 tour of England. As Kapil Dev called right, he was only too happy to be first in the field. The 155 (off 51.4 overs) with which Fletcher's Zimbabwe came up represented a challenging score by a team that could be, for India, a Grace Road block to the World Cup as early as 1983.

By this landing stage in our cricket, the vibes between Kapil and Sunil were none too good. Indeed Sunny, having fallen for 19 to his bogy duo of Dujon-Marshall in India's June 9-10, 1983, World Cup campaign opener, was already being viewed as cramping Kapil's 60-overs India scoring style from the word go. Farokh Engineer (as then the Indian segment in the BBC commentary team) had met Sunny half an hour before our June 11 encounter with Zimbabwe - to be enlightened by Gavaskar that Sunny did not, till that point, know if he was playing. Sunny did play - in murky surroundings Gavaskar was even 'offered the light' by umpires Palmer and Birkenshaw. Knowing how India could make a hash of it where it came to a chase of even 155 (proportionately) after rain, Sunil bravely opted to carry on in Kapil's interest - only to be scalped by the ultra-quick Rawson, for 4, as redemption.

Sunny, in fact, was an interesting sight, as a brooding loner, when Kapil Dev's India returned to Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium with our first-ever World Cup. Sunil's 1983 World Cup scoreline (19, 4, 0, 9, 25 & 2) had even witnessed him dropped for a couple of games in India's racy run-up to Lord's. But Sunny's catching at 'one-slip' had been stand-out so that, in the heady hour in which the World Cup was in our Lord's final custody, there was a soft corner for Gavaskar not only at the Wankhede Stadium. Maybe Sunny fell for 4 that weirdly dark June 11 Saturday afternoon at Leicester, but Mohinder Amarnath (44) took ready root in Gavaskar's place, while Sandeep Patil (50) showed himself to be as hard-hitting as ever to ensure India's reaching 157 for 5 (off 37.3 overs) to overhaul Zimbabwe's 155. Yet, as Kim Hughes' Australia (a smashing 320 for 9 off 60 overs at Trent Bridge on Monday, June 13, 1983), next handed out a whopping 162-run beating to Kapil's India (just 158 off 37.5 overs in reply), the World Cup became something of a mirage for the nation.

That our fourth 1983 World Cup game (on the Thursday of June 16 at The Oval) should have been the 'grudge match' for the Caribbeans made it a humdinger. A match noteworthy for the fact that there was no Sunil Gavaskar, in the Indian line-up, against the West Indies - even if only in an ODI. Yet it was no bombshell Kapil here dropped in Sunil. For Gavaskar had just not got going opening. Our Windies-hardened opener's Oval replacement, against the Caribbeans now, was Sunny's pet then, Ravi Shastri! Before Ravi set out to open with Kris Srikkanth, the West Indies, batting on winning the toss, had all but put Kapil's India in her wonted place - by asking us to fetch 283 from 60 overs. As Ravi (6) and Sri (2) were almost instantly consumed - both gobbled by Dujon off Roberts - India sans Sunny was truly up against a 'conscious' two-times World Cup lifter in the West Indies.

Mohinder Amarnath (80), here, was yet again the adhesive that held our batting together. But only firmly enough for Kapil's India to spend herself out for 216 in 53.1 overs - in response to the West Indies' 282 for 9. Kapil Dev (36) himself struck out boldly (on that Thursday of June 16) as his India, finally, fell a good 67 runs short in the process of being, at best, 'target' practice for Lloyd's West Indies. Next came, on that unforgettable Saturday afternoon of June 18, 1983, the 'Kapil Dil Se' 175 not out vs the Zimbos - after Sunil (0) and Sri (0) were gone in two shakes of a duck's tail. Indeed Kapil's India - 6 for 2, 6 for 3, 9 for 4, then 17 for 5 - faced total humiliation at the hands of the 'Zimbabes' of cricket (ultimately 235 off 57 overs against our 266 for 8 off 60 overs).

How a spot media strike in Britain saw not a single misty moment of Kapil Dev's bat-in-hand 175 captured on film, as the Haryana hurricane swept Tunbridge Wells (via 6 sixes and 17 fours), is the tragedy of being India's Cricketer of the Century, I suppose. The one big ton by Kapil that was to make India a world force in cricket thus went unlensed by the camera of Patrick Eagar. Could mere words 'kaleidoscope' Kapil Dev as India's 'action hero' during that willowy 175 not out? That knock of knocks made Kapil's India more than a match for David Hookes' Australia in our turnkey match (at Chelmsford) on the Monday of June 20, 1983. Sunil (9) alone here seemed to fail Kapil (28) as India, opting to bat first, ran up a total of 247 from 55.5 overs - a score that was to see Australia cave in by 118 runs. Kris Srikkanth (24), Yashpal Sharma (40), Sandeep Patil (30) and Roger Binny (21) underlined the fact that Kapil's India was achieving the style and scale of batting consistency that gave its bowlers a chance to get aggressively at even Australia (shot out for 129 in just 38.2 overs). Balwinder Singh Sandhu (10-1-26-2), Madan Lal (8.2-3-20-4) and Roger Binny (8-2-29-4) were bowlers with just enough Chelmsford verve and swerve to halt the Kangaroos in their World Cup stride.

That Kapil's India should thus have qualified to meet England, at the expense of Australia, in the semis emphasised that the nation had brought a certain elan to overwhelming Bob Willis's team by 6 wickets during the Wednesday, June 22, play-off at Old Trafford. How Mohinder Amarnath's 12-1-27-2 plus 46 made him Man of the Match in this needle game is a feat well chronicled. Maybe things would have been different if Allan Lamb had not been run out when 29 in England's toss-winning tally of 213 from 60 overs. Yet Lamb's mode of dismissal was but a measure of how Kapil's India was also fielding like a team of champions. England's 213 was passed with poise as Yashpal Sharma (61) and Sandeep Patil (51 not out), antithetic rivals for a Test place in the Indian team, came trendily together to see their side coast to 217 for 4 off 54.4 overs. Yet the writing was there on the wall (not merely for Rahul Dravid watching as a 10-year-old) when the legendary Lord's final of Saturday, June 25, saw India inserted, and interred, for 183 (off 54.4 overs). I say 'interred' as 7 out of 10 fortunate enough to get to see that Prudential World Cup Lord's final, on BBC TV, had switched off and gone for a Saturday evening outing, presuming India's 183 to be chicken feed for seasoned roosters West Indies (mind-bendingly shot out for 140 in 52 overs). How Kapil Dev caught the imagination of the nation in racing to fix that Viv Richards' catch is part of Indian cricket lore. So what if Sunny went caught yet again by Dujon, this time off Roberts, when but 2? Was it not Gavaskar who got slip-hold of first Larry Gomes (5) and then Malcolm Marshall (18) when the World Cup could still have been snatched from under Kapil Dev's greyhound nose? Marshall was just the kind of Gavaskar 'hater' who, if Sunny here had let him off, would have stepped back a yard or two to whisper: "Sunny, you've just dropped the World Cup!"

That was not to be. As the pinpoint accuracy of Mohinder saw Michael Holding (6) fall lbw, all Lord's hell was let loose. Mohinder (26 & 7-0-12-3) was yet again Man of the Match. Yet the Super Man of the Match - Kapil Dev! Viv Richards (33), going like a black cat on a red-hot tin roof, could but stand and stare as Kapil reached for the heavens to 'Cup' the catch of the century - off Madan Lal. If the Devil flavour Kapil brought to that moment is recaptured by Sourav's India now as we play Carl Hooper's West Indies, we shall rate ourselves as in with a chance, out there in South Africa. Can the World yet again be a Kapilian Cup from which we sip champagne, instant champagne? Your dip is as lucky as mine.