"When we got our basics right"

Published : Jan 11, 2003 00:00 IST

K. Srikkanth who top scored for India in the final against West Indies.-ALL SPORT
K. Srikkanth who top scored for India in the final against West Indies.-ALL SPORT

K. Srikkanth who top scored for India in the final against West Indies.-ALL SPORT

THERE are some memories that last a lifetime and for me, the World Cup 1983, was easily the highlight of my career. Those victory scenes at Lord's on that glorious English summer...how can I ever forget them?

It is the dream of every cricketer to take part in the World Cup, and for us to virtually come out of nowhere and win the Cup was something beyond our wildest dreams at that point of time.

I still remember the team meeting before our first match, against the West Indies, when Kapil Dev came up with those inspirational words.

The Indians had a hard and gruelling tour of the Caribbean just prior to the World Cup, they lost the Test and the one-day series against Clive Lloyd's powerful side, but had won the one-dayer in Berbice, which was a major breakthrough.

And before our opening duel of the World Cup, where Lloyd's men awaited us again, Kapil told us - "If we can do it once, we can do it again.'' Which meant, if we could beat the West Indians once, we could do the same again.

Actually, the team was inspired by those words. To me that was a significant moment. A captain has an important role to play, in making the side believe in itself, and during the competition Kapil did just that.

We beat the West Indians in the first match, and that really set the tempo for us for the other games. The side had so much faith in itself. Few gave us a chance in the beginning, but we proved everyone wrong.

It was a competition when the Indians jelled well as a team. It was also a side that would have done well in any era, since it had all-rounders and depth in batting.

There was plenty of team-spirit in that side, it was this priceless quality that enabled us sail past difficult times. India played as one cohesive unit in that tournament, and it made a huge difference to the side's fortunes.

We fielded brilliantly throughout the tournament, and I cannot recall one catch that was put down by us in the competition. The ground fielding was impeccable, and the throws flat and straight. We did get all the basics right in the World Cup.

In the Indian batting, the great Sunil Gavaskar opened with yours truly and we had some fine players like Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil in the line-up.

Kapil Dev was an exceptional all-rounder of course, and the side had other useful players like Mohinder Amarnath, Ravi Shastri, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Kirti Azad and Balwinder Singh Sandhu. All of them could bat and bowl and the balance was just right in that side. If Madan Lal and Sandhu are your No. 10 and 11 batsmen, then the side cannot be counted out of the contest.

It was our batting depth that enabled us to come back from the dead against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, when the specialist batsmen had departed for next to nothing.

Kapil Dev, in imperious form that day, strung together important partnerships with Binny, Kirmani and Madan Lal, and India managed to put sizable runs on the board.

Kapil's astonishing effort is the finest innings I have seen from any batsman in one-day cricket.

The ball was moving around a lot that day, but the Indian captain produced a beautifully paced innings.

He did not take too many risks in the first phase of his innings, collected his runs in ones and twos, and exploded into a flurry of strokes in the later stages of his knock.

There is a marvellous little story about the knock which I must share with the readers. When Kapil started getting the runs after everything looked lost for India, our manager Man Singh instructed all of us not to budge from the seats in the dressing room!

Those who held tea cups, had to stay like that for the rest of the innings for Kapil remained unbeaten on 175! That was an unforgettable experience.

India went on to defeat Zimbabwe and then, in a must win last league match, got the better of Australia, with Binny and Madan Lal striking with the ball.

There was movement for the pacemen, and in Kapil, Binny, Madan Lal, Sandhu, not to forget Mohinder's seamers, India had the right men to take advantage of the conditions.

The bowlers were backed by Syed Kirmani, who was brilliant behind the stumps for India all through the competition. Just goes to show how important a 'keeper is for any team. Kiri was at his peak in the World Cup, and the diving catch he took in front of first slip to dismiss Faud Bacchus in the final will stay in my mind for long. A classic catch it was.

In the semifinals against England, we bowled and fielded with purpose and then paced the chase well with Mohinder and Yashpal laying the platform before Patil killed off England with some brilliant strokes towards the end. In that match, I thought Kapil's captaincy was spot on and his decision to give long spells to Kirti Azad and Mohinder worked wonders for India.

In the final we faced the West Indians again. It was always going to be a tough game against an imposing West Indian side boasting of some very big names like Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Jeff Dujon, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. A glittering array of cricketers. However, we were not intimidated. There was appreciable help from the Lord's surface for the pacemen and Garner, in particular, was quite unplayable in his first spell. I managed to survive, played a few strokes, and it eventually turned out to be the top score of the final. Even today, there are so many people who remind me of this innings, and it's a pleasing feeling.

We were bowled out for 183, but Kapil Dev once again lifted us with his words of inspiration and from the moment Sandhu castled Greenidge with that big inswinger, we really believed we could win.

Kapil Dev grabbed a spell-binding catch to dismiss Vivian Richards, who was stroking the ball with typical arrogance, and that really was the turning point of the contest. We went on to win from there, leaving the cricketing world stunned, and those triumphant moments in the Lord's balcony will stay in my mind forever".

As told to S. DINAKAR

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