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1983 – The Road of Kapil’s Devils to a World Cup
No! I am not going to bore you with a story that every child in India can tell you. I want to reflect a little on the fortunes of Indian cricket before the actual victory. I watched an interview of Imran Khan recently and he said that India’s victory in 1983 was a greater achievement than his team’s (Pakistan) victory in 1992 in Australia. The simple reason he gave was that the quality of the opposition in 1983 was higher. This Khan is not someone who will praise Indian achievement easily. This should give you some idea of the magnitude of this achievement. And how important this man Kapildev was to Indian cricket!
The way Indian cricket developed since the British Raj will give you an idea that they were basically tame cricketers who played on dock wickets against strong and aggressive opponents. India’s test record around independence is terrible and I think they played not to win but not to lose too badly. I think Pataudi Jr who had a positive head to head record was the first captain who instilled a fighting spirit in the team and a desire to win. Not to say that there were no attacking players in the Indian team. In fact, India’s first captain was CK Naidu who was a big guy and a big hitter. He deceived the MCC team in an innings of 153 in 2 hours which people still remember. He hit 11 sixes in the innings. It must have scared the living daylights out of the MCC bowlers. But consistently winning in cricket is not just one man’s heroics. Those were different times and possibly a different situation. The transition of the Indian cricket team continued with Sunil Gavaskar who, although not aggressive in nature, was a great thinker of the game and took Indian cricket forward with quality batting and captaincy.
Kapildev came in in 1979 and became a world-class attacking pace bowler and all-rounder giving India an attacking edge it lacked. India played in the 1975 world cup but the only match they won was against East Africa. The next match they won was in 1978. Of course, not much one-day cricket was played in those days. This was followed by another terrible world cup in 1979 where they failed to win a single game. But slowly with support initially from Karsan Ghavari and Roger Binny for Madanlal, Sandhu and Mohinder Amarnath Kapil found fast bowling partners. Fast bowlers are not life threatening but accurate and could swing the ball. Now in the 1983 world cup team, except Sandhu all these bowlers were finalists; this was another advantage. Kapil himself had several qualities. Apart from being a world-class man, he was a great motivator. And that unbelievable striking ability that I think can only be matched by Vivian Richards of his generation. Different batsmen think about you and Kapil was less reliable as a batsman than Viv but, when he came off, very effective indeed. This man, out of nowhere, when everyone was mocking the Indians, put a belief in the team that they could win. And they actually started winning Prudential Cup matches in 1983. That innings against Zimbabwe and the catch of Viv Richards in the final tells you that this man was alert and game for the possibility of winning the world cup when mere mortals would have given up. .
He was fully supported by the team in 1983. Boy, if the opponents had stepped into the Indian dressing rooms and, understood good old Hindi, they would have realized who was going to win. Both the press and the opposition thought that India’s victories en route to the finals were a fluke. Almost everyone in the team contributed to the team’s cause in one way or another. This victory came in the world cup against teams that were really great like West Indies and Australia. Other good teams like Pakistan, England offered their bid but there was no stopping the Kapil’s devils.
As after every great win the team had a lean period and Kapil also lost captaincy. But the great man continued to perform either with the bat or the ball and sometimes both. There was a term for him in Indian cricket called “Dada” cricketer meaning he was like a big brother to the team. He could win matches from unfortunate situations just with his cricketing abilities alone. The way Kapil played his game, free of care and with only the goal in mind, brought the team together to give the country its biggest sporting victory to date!
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