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Recalling India’s cricket moment of 1983 World Cup: It was close to sport’s greatest upset

By Harsh Thakor 

On 25th June we celebrate the 40th anniversary, of India winning the 1983 Prudential world cup. It was close to sport’s greatest upset or India’s best ever sporting achievement. The ultimate epitome of triumph from regions of adversity. It is hard for words to describe or do justice to the sheer ecstasy or joy amongst Indians at Lords and in India. It gave an effect of new epoch written in Indian cricket or a sporting renaissance.
India had achieved the equivalent of a David conquering Goliath .The scene was reminiscent of an invincible emperor or nation overpowered, when overpowering West Indies. India literally resurrected itself like a phoenix from the Ashes not only at Lords, but a week ago against Zimbabwe, after tottering at 17-5. Although in terms of strength well below par with the might of the West Indies, India elevated fighting spirit or resilience to heights rarely scaled in sport. It transcended boundless energy levels.

World cup Final

India was bundled out for mere 183 at Lords and the result looked a foregone conclusion. A dazzling 38 by Krishnmarchari Shrikanth was the only bright spot, with some scintillating boundaries. Rarely has ODI cricket witnessed such a clinical or consummate bowling display as the Caribbean pace attack that day. Andy Roberts getting Gavaskar to knick an oustwinger, Holding piercing through the gate of Mohinder Amarnath to send his stumps crashing and Marshall trapping Shrikanth in front, were ample illustrations.
In pursuit of 183 runs, Balwinder Sandhu astonishingly bowled Gordon Greenidge, who shouldered arms to a delivery that swung back, down the hill. Viv Richards marked his arrival at the crease, as though he wished to finish off the task, having a flight to catch. He took the Indian bowlers by the scruff of the neck, as though he was performing a demolition operation. Till he was present, a West Indies win looked a mere formality. At 57 Viv held out to Kapil Dev at long on, who pulled off a classical catch, of a skier. A few balls later Larry Gomes edged an outswinger to Gavaskar at slip and then skipper Clive Lloyd held out be caught at at mid –on. West Indies were now in dire straits at 66-5.The complexion of the game had turned like a 360 degree twist in a plot in a Holywood epic. Rarely in cricket or sport, had viewers witnessed such a dramatic twist and turn. Seeing the Indian cricketers rejuvenated in the middle was a sight to behold. West Indies went into further disarray with Faoud Bacchus edging a wide delivery to wicketkeeper Kirmani, with the score at 76.
Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall put up rearguard 43 run partnership before Mohinder Amaranth intervened to dismiss Jeff Dujon shouldering arms and prompting Malcolm Marshall to edge the ball to Gavaskar at slip.Amarnath’s sheer guile, trapped both the batsmen.Kapil Dev then trapped Andy Roberts and with the target 43runs dare it Amarnath rapped Michael Holding in Front, to seal the title for India.
It is almost impossible to diagnose what caused the upset for West Indies. However this was manifestation of unpredictability or mysterious element in sport. Few games more conveyed how much sport was in the mind. No doubt the pitch was juicy for paceman, with grass and steep bounce. Still what won the day for India, was the sheer spirit it radiated, which transcended regions rarely penetrated in team sports. The team simply stuck to it’s basic task.
West Indies reminded one of a might army or empire vanquished, like Napoleon loosing at Waterloo. Neverthless they were most sporting in defeat, coming to the dressing room, to congratulate the Indian team. I was very happy to also see Pakistani cricketers Sarafraz Nawaz and Abdul Qadir join the victory celebrations and Asif Iqbal express his pride over the triumph of an Asian team in a world cup.
What was remarkable was that it was no single person, but a combined effort, that won India the world cup final. The blazing innings of Shrikanth, the seam movement of Amarnath, the catch of Viv Richards by Kapil Dev, the belligerence of Madan Lal and Balwinder Sandhu, all pooled together, to create history for India.
One of my most impactful memories was that of Madan Lal, who in spite of innocuous pace literally made the West Indies batsmen shiver, reminiscent of creating fire from no man’s land. Few cricketers did as much as the doctor ordered in a world cup final as Jimmy Amarnath, combining both ball and bat. Possibly, no world cup final manifested the sheer spirit of the game, to as exalting heights.

Previous Matches

In that week previously India comprehensively defeated Australia defending a target of 248 runs as well as England by 6 wickets, chasing down a target of 214 runs, in the semi-final at Old Trafford. In the final group game against Australia India ripped through the flesh of the Australian middle order, to send them tottering from 60-1 to 74-6.The scene was reminiscent of new spirit propelling India.
In the semi-final at Old Trafford on June 23rd, India possibly gave it’s most clinical display ever, till then in the ODI game. England seemed to be cruising at 69-0, before Roger Binny put on the gates, and dismissed Chris Tavare and Graeme Fowler with moving deliveries. India then placed the brakes on the English batting, with Amarnath getting Gower to knick a delivery, Yashpal Sharma running out Alan Lamb , Amarnath breaking through the gate of Mike Gatting, and Kirti Azad sending Ian Botham’s offstump to the ground. India stuck to it’s task with the organisation and commitment of an army battalion.
The jubilation in the Indian camp and amongst the crowds was simply unforgettable. English cricket simply received the hounding of it’s life, with the English writing off the Indians, completely. It was morale booster or fitting answer to the Indian crowds who were subjugated to humiliating racial discrimination in Britain.
When replying the state of the game looked in suspense at 50-2, till the advent of Mohinder Amarnath, who in a partnership with Yashpal Sharma, carved the base for famous Indian win. After Amarnath was run out for 46 with India still 72 runs adrift , Sandeep Patil blazed away from the start ,giving the English bowling the ultimate pounding of their flesh, scoring 51, to take India home. The temperament, calculatedness and organisation of Amarnath and Yashpal and the flamboyance of Sandeep Patil won the day for India. The towering sixes of Amarnath or Vic Marks and Yashpal of Paul Allot, are always flash in my memories and Sandeep Patil’s five boundaries ,in a single over, of Willis.
A week before the final India were on the verge of an exit from the world cup at Taunton against Zimbabwe , when reduced to 17-5 and 72-7.Kapil Dev ,played what was arguably the best ever innings in a world cup. With a dazzling or scintillating array of strokes, he took domination to zones rarely scaled and resurrected India from the grave .India recovered to reach a score of 266, and prevailed by a margin of 31 runs.

Analysis of Indian team

It is not easy to evaluate the true merit or accurately assess the greatness of the Indian team. Without doubt West Indies was the best team of the tournament, and England, Pakistan or Australia, on their day, were on par with India. This was proved in subsequent ODI series which India played at home against West Indies, England, Pakistan and Australia at home. No doubt India continued it’s run of glory in the World cricket championship in Australia in 1985, or Asia cup in 1984 and Rothmans Cup in1985 at Sharjah.
In full flow, no team looked as organised, clinical or focused as India. I would repudiate any fan who claimed India’s triumph was a fluke. Possibly in that week, India blazed glory, or scaled the heights, of the best ever World cup champions. Above all, no team ever gave as good an advertisement, of the unpredictability of the ODI game, taking surprise element to regions of the sublime. No team every shattered the myth of invincibility of West Indies in ODI Cricket. No doubt, India was grossly underestimated, before the tournament. Here India defeated, what was possibly, the best ODI side ever, on two occasions.
Noteworthy that in the very first game of the tournament. India overcame the mighty West Indies, by 34 runs. It proved India’s capturing of the title, was no fluke. Also evidence in India’s victory against West Indies at Berbice, on the 1983 tour of West Indies, with India prevailing by a wide margin.
What fortified India was it’s all-rounders and great batting depth. The all-round skills of Kapil Dev Mohinder Amarnath,Roger Binny and Madan Lal proved handy and the fact that even tail enders like Balwinder Sandhu and Syed Kirmani,were no mugs with the bat. Credit should also be given to the determination of Yashpal Sharma, and flamboyance of Sandeep Patil and Shrikanth, with the bat. Pertinent that till today, Kapil Dev, is rated the best ever ODI all-rounder. Psychology of starting as underdogs too was a crucial factor, as well as the seaming conditions, which aided the bowlers.
One of my most impactful memories was that of Madan Lal, who in spite of innocuous pace literally made the West Indies batsmen shiver. Few cricketers did as much as the doctor ordered in a world cup as Jimmy Amarnath, combining both ball and bat.
Significant that India rose above all regional and parochial boundaries that were such a predominant feature, with players from North India like Amarnath,Kapil Dev ,Madan Lal and Yashpal Sharma ,Sandeep Patil and Gavaskar from Maharashtra ,Shrikanth ,Kirmani and Roger Binny from South India. Elevated spirit of ‘Indians’ as a whole, as never before, instead of Maharashtrians, Punjabis or South Indians etc. Noteworthy that the team had a Christian member in Roger Binny, a Sikh in Balwinder Sandhu and a Muslim in Syed Kirmani , that elevated secular spirit or communal harmony.
Regretful that India could not maintain this streak in subsequent word cups, till its triumph at home in 2011, and win no other world cup away from home. Even if standards have improved and game become more competitive, India came within touching distance of winning in England in 2019, or possibly in Australia in 2015.India could simply never resurrect the sheer zest of 1983, overseas in world cups.
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has extensively researched on Cricket

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