Then and now

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team had prepared for the World Cup, unlike Kapil and his men. One-day cricket was not very popular in India when Kapil took his team to England for the 1983 World Cup. But when Gary Kirsten was picked to coach this Indian team, the focus was clearly on topping the rankings in one-day and Test cricket. He also had the job of preparing the team for the World Cup. It was, essentially, a process that was set in motion a good two years ago, writes Vijay Lokapally.

When India won the World Cup at Lord's in 1983, few had expected the team to do it. At the Wankhede Stadium, 28 years later, few expected India not to win. That then was the difference in the two World Cup triumphs. Kapil Dev was the script writer of the resurgence that marked India's rise as a cricket team to reckon with. Mahendra Singh Dhoni capped the progress with an emphatic victory, so tellingly symbolised by the six that ended the match and began wild celebrations across the country.

Kapil had all along maintained that India had a glorious chance to win the Cup. “In the final the boys played to their true potential and that showed the strength of the team and its determination to win. In the final, another striking aspect was the manner in which the team fielded,” said Kapil. He also pointed to the fact that the middle order stood up to the challenge.

Comparisons would always be drawn between 1983 and 2011. But the playing conditions were so different! “None backed us in 1983. Actually it suited us because it meant no pressure at all. The boys just wanted to enjoy the experience of playing in a World Cup. The pressure came later when we realized we were so close and could even win the Cup,” remembered Kapil.

For Dhoni, the comparison was with the T20 triumph. He observed the two victories had their own importance. “You need not compare everything. Both are special in their own way. I love the ODI format as you see a lot of variety in it. T20 brings its own flavour. In the last few years, we have done well in shooting, badminton, lawn tennis, hockey and football as well. We are growing as a sporting nation. But cricket is special because of the infrastructure. It started with the 1983 win.”

But Dhoni and his team had prepared for the Cup, unlike Kapil and his men. One-day cricket was not very popular in India when Kapil took his team to England for the 1983 World Cup. “We had not won many matches in one-day cricket and in any case we never had any great record to boast of before the 1983 World Cup. It worked in our favour. We had nothing to lose,” noted Roger Binny, who was one of the most successful bowlers in that World Cup.

When Gary Kirsten was picked to coach this Indian team, the focus was clearly on topping the rankings in one-day and Test cricket. He also had the job of preparing the team for the World Cup. It was, essentially, a process that was set in motion a good two years ago.

“It showed in the manner in which the team played. I was never in any doubt that this was the best Indian team to have gone into a World Cup. The boys were motivated and most importantly they were in good form. They did it for India and Sachin (Tendulkar). They deserved to. It was long overdue I thought,” said Madan Lal, who famously took Viv Richards' wicket in the 1983 final.

“We played a low-scoring final. The onus was on the bowlers,” observed Binny, who had removed Clive Lloyd at a crucial stage. This time, the focus was on the batsmen. “This Indian team had seven batsmen who could win the match on their own. At any level, this can make the difference. With the awesome batting line-up that India has today, it can win many more titles. The team has made us proud,” noted Kapil.

India's biggest strength in 1983 was the glut of all-rounders. The team could expect Mohinder Amarnath, Binny, Madan Lal, Kirti Azad and Kapil to strike with the bat or the ball. Kapil could afford to exclude Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri from the playing XI. Sunil Valson, who had come in purely on merit, could not even play a single match. There was not a bad fielder in that team with players like K. Srikkanth and Yashpal Sharma lifting the standards quite high with their flawless work.

Dhoni prospered from the presence of Tendulkar in the dressing room. His calming influence was the biggest factor as the team learnt to perform collectively. The determination was not to be missed as Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra performed at different times to swing contests.

The roles played by the bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, not to forget the wily Harbhajan Singh, who came into his own towards the end of the tournament, were critical towards India finishing at the top. It was a team effort in 1983. It was no different in 2011. The prize, at the end of it, was a World Cup to be kissed and memories to be cherished.