When `Kapil's Devils' ruled the world

Kapil Dev uproots Bob Willis' stump in the semifinal against England at Old Trafford.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

The victory against West Indies in the second of the three-match one-day series at Berbice, Guyana, followed by the 34-run win at Old Trafford in the group fixture of the World Cup gave India the self-belief. And what followed was a miracle. G. Viswanath looks back at the great triumph of 1983.

Kim Hughes' remark just before the 1983 Prudential World Cup that India is the "dark horse" of the tournament hardly stirred the Indian souls. Instead, the Australian captain's prediction was considered strange and was brushed off as an off the cuff remark. However, as the competition unfolded on the famous venues in England, Hughes' observation began to ring a bell among the discerning critics.

As it transpired, India's victory over the odds-on-favourite, West Indies, in the title match turned out to be a remarkable episode in the annals of limited overs cricket. The defeat of Clive Lloyd's champion team made a big splash in the English media and earned the Indian team the sobriquet, `Kapil's Devils'.

The tournament was also well known for Kapil Dev's intrepid and uninhibited show of his batting skills while scoring 175 not out against Zimbabwe in unfavourable conditions at Tunbridge Wells. The Indian skipper, later in the final at Lord's, took a spectacular catch to dismiss the dangerous Vivian Richards.

Going into the pros and cons of the eight teams in the fray and the elements that were likely to play their part in the competition, Lloyd's West Indies appeared the clear favourite and was expected to extend its winning streak. India, on the other hand, appeared to lack the wherewithal and was not expected to make much headway in the tournament, let alone advance to the final.

Still a fledgling team at that point in time, having scored just a solitary win, that too against a weak East Africa in the inaugural World Cup eight summers ago, India's cupboard was bare having suffered heavy defeats in nine one-day internationals on English soil and many more in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. The team, however, set off for the 1983 World Cup with the best wishes of its countrymen, and with the hope of putting up an improved performance.

The unexpected sequence of events in the preliminary phase of the competition told a tale that was of great interest to the Indian supporters and the nation now waited in anticipation of a miracle. A far from timorous Yashpal Sharma punctuated a clutch of small scores with a bold 89 against the awesome West Indian pace attack of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall at Old Trafford. India then stoutly defended 262 despite a rearguard action from Roberts and Garner who put together a stand of 71 for the 10th wicket, taking West Indies from 157 for 9 to 228.

Hughes' conjecture, in any case, was based on India's victory over West Indies at Berbice, Guyana, three months before the World Cup.

The defeat of West Indies, unbeaten in 10 previous World Cup matches in 1975 and 1979, at Old Trafford in the group fixture was a morale-booster for India. After India posted a formidable total on the board its seam and spin attack teased and tormented the West Indies batsmen.

"We lost the three-match one-day series (2-1) in the West Indies before the World Cup, but beat them (by 27 runs) at Berbice and that gave us the confidence. We believed we could beat them,'' said Dilip Vengsarkar, who was in supreme form in the second round league match against the West Indies at The Oval before being hit on the face and forced to retire.

India scored victories against Zimbabwe (Grace Road and Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells) but suffered a reverse against Australia at Trent Bridge. Trevor Chappell's charmed innings of 110 overshadowed Kapil Dev's 5 for 43 and enabled Australia to thrash India by 162 runs. However, in the return match at Chelmsford, India hit back through Madan Lal (4 for 20) and Roger Binny (4 for 29) as Australia, chasing 247, was bundled out for 129.

Without doubt, it was Kapil Dev's brilliant 175 after a disastrous start (17 for five with Sunil Gavaskar, K. Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma back in the dressing room) that saw India stay in the match and the competition. Kapil added 60 runs for the sixth wicket with Binny (22), 62 for the eighth wicket with Madan Lal (17) and 126 for the unbroken ninth with Syed Kirmani (24). Thereafter, on a bone-chilling day at the Nevill Ground, the Indian seamers restricted Zimbabwe to 235 — 31 runs shy of the target.

The semifinal turned out to be an anti-climax with India surmounting England's 213 with more than five overs to spare. Not a single England batsman made a half-century. Thereafter, Man of the Match Mohinder Amarnath and Sandeep Patil took control after Gavaskar and Srikkanth gave India a reasonably good start. Yashpal Sharma's cautious 115-ball 61 thwarted the hopes of England before Patil's 32-ball 51 hastened India's victory.

In the final, after being skittled out for 183 in 54.4 overs, India's Balwinder Singh Sandhu produced that magic ball which dismissed opener Gordon Greenidge cheaply. Then came Vivian Richards who smashed the Indian bowlers to all parts of the ground. He cracked seven boundaries as West Indies raced to 50 in quick time. But soon Richards fell, top-edging the ball high into the air for Kapil Dev to take a brilliant catch.

The West Indies' chase lost momentum thereafter though Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall put up a brief resistance. The defending champion was outwitted by some clever bowling by Kapil, Sandhu, Madan Lal, Binny and Amarnath, who was declared the Man of the Match for his 26 runs and three wickets for 12 runs.

Kapil Dev finished the tournament with 303 runs and 12 wickets. Yashpal Sharma made 240 runs, Amarnath 237 and Sandeep Patil 216. However, it was the bowling that turned things around for India. Madan Lal (17 wickets at 16.76) and Binny (18 wickets at 18.67) exploited the conditions well, while Amarnath and Sandhu picked up eight wickets each in the tournament.

After the final Kapil had no complaints about the wicket, but Lloyd had a different view. "It's not an ideal pitch for a match,'' he remarked.