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Monday, July 14, 2008

1983 World Cup triumph: A story of grit and determination

1983 World Cup winners at a felicitation ceremony in their honour

There have been many memorable moments in India's cricketing history over the last 25 years, but as great as some of these occasions may have been they haven't managed to displace Kapil Dev's Devils feat of winning the 1983 World Cup from being the country's greatest-ever cricketing feat.
Kapil's team were hardly considered to be a good one-day team going into the third Cricket World Cup, and it would have taken a strong soul to back this team of all-rounders to pull out the rug from under the world's strongest teams. Remember, this was a team in which the established batting stars were Sunil Gavaskar, Sandeep Patil, Mohinder Amarnath and Kapil, while the bowling attack was led by the captain with able support from a battery of medium-pacers including Roger Binny, Amarnath, Madan Lal and Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
But, this didn't deter Kapil and his band of merry men one bit as they caused a huge upset in the their first match of the tournament as they defeated two-time defending champions West Indies by 34 runs at Old Trafford to get their campaign off to a rousing start. The Indians eased to an expected win over Zimbabwe in their second match, but lost their next two matches to Australia and West Indies respectively to find themselves in a must-win match against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells on June 18, 1983.
And, this was the match in which Kapil led from the front with an unbeaten 175 to help India score 266 for 8 in 60 overs after his team had been reduced to 17 for 5 early in the match with all the top-order batsmen back in the pavilion. Enough and more has been written about Kapil's magnificent innings and words really can't do full justice to what was a great knock played by one of the game's best-ever all-rounders. Kapil's innings not only helped India come back into the tournament as they beat Zimbabwe by 31 runs, but more importantly instilled the self-confidence and determination in the squad's members to do more than their best in the remainder of the tournament. India then went on to thrash Australia by 118 runs in its last league match to finish the round-robin stage with four wins in six matches to book a semi-finals date with England.
The Indians eased to a six-wickets victory over England to set up a title clash against West Indies on June 25, 1983, who would have been favoured to win their third consecutive World Cup after having bowled India out for 183 runs. Only three Indian batsmen -- Kris Srikkanth (38), Amarnath and Patil crossed the 20-runs mark as the rest of the batting collapsed against some hostile Windies bowling.
But, the Windies team and supporters didn't expect a spirited fightback by the Indians with their skipper Kapil again leading the way. Kapil ensured that his team members stayed focussed on the touch and excelled on the field, and if his efforts throughout the tournament weren't enough, he took a fantastic backward running catch to dismiss Viv Richards off Madan Lal's bowling to instill new life into his team as Amarnath and the other bowlers then ran through the West Indian batting line-up for 140 runs to give India its only 50-overs World Cup triumph till date.

Through the group stages itself, it could be felt that the selectors' decision to pack the 1983 World Cup squad with all-rounders was a good move as these were the players who more often than not helped India out of troubled waters, especially taking into account that the openers -- Gavaskar and Srikkanth didn't have the best of tournaments. Gavaskar's contribution was only 59 runs in six matches, while Srikkanth with the top-score of 38 runs in the finals boosted his runs tally to 156 from eight matches. India, though was lucky to have the batsmen like Amarnath and Patil in the top-order who were able to re-build the innings on more than one occasion with Yashpal Sharma too chipping in with valuable runs.
Yashpal with 241 runs was the second-highest scorer for India behind Kapil (304 runs) and these two were well-supported by Amarnath who scored 205 runs and took eight wickets and Patil, who made 216 runs in the tournament. It was the same story with the ball as well as Binny took 18 wickets to finish as the top-wicket taker in the 1983 World Cup, and he received good support from Madan Lal (17 wickets) and Kapil, who took 12 wickets to cap off a wonderful tournament on the individual as well as team front for him. Balwinder Singh Sandhu had only eight wickets to show for his effort, but bowled economically with the new ball to stifle the runs for the opposition.
In one of his interviews after the famous win, Kapil said of the final: "I think that belief was the only thing that was different between the Indian and the West Indies team; and that, somehow, somewhere, we start believing. How it comes into the team, I don't know... I mean, I can't really put a finger." And, this in essence was the key to the success for the 1983 World Cup -- self-confidence, team spirit, belief and the ability to take on challenges heads on and come out triumphant. Kapil's Devils -- thank you for these wonderful memories and here's hoping the team going to the 2011 World Cup can replicate your success to add another memorable chapter in the history of Indian cricket.