Road to Glory: How Kapil’s Devils Made History at 1983 World Cup

A campaign that transformed India’s fortunes, and gave flight to a new superpower in world cricket.

7 min read

(This story is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark the 39th anniversary of India's 1983 World Cup win)

25 June 1983. A date immortalised in Indian history.

Over 50 years after joining the international game, India had finally arrived – Indian cricket may have been born in the 1930s, but India the superpower launched itself towards orbit on one spectacular evening at Lord’s in the English summer of ‘83.

Here’s a walk down memory lane to relive India’s journey to the 1983 World Cup title.

The Setting

  • India entered the 1983 WC as 66/1 outsiders to win the title.

  • Prior to the 1983 edition, six WC matches had resulted in just one win for India.

  • Kapil Dev’s side were drawn in Group B, alongside West Indies, Australia and Zimbabwe.

  • Teams played each other twice in the group stage, with the top two teams going through to the semi-finals.


Match 1: WI, Manchester, 9/10 June

India 262/8 (Yashpal Sharma 89, Michael Holding 2/32) beat West Indies 228 (Joel Garner 37*, Ravi Shastri 3/26) by 34 runs.

When you haven’t won a game in the competition in eight years, the last team you want to come up against are the undisputed champions. But in their opening game itself, India gave a glimpse of what the world just hadn’t seen coming.

West Indies – World Cup winners in both 1975 and 1979, and victorious in both ODIs they had played against India – suffered their first defeat in the tournament’s history as an all-round superior Indian team earned a 34-run win at Old Trafford.

Having been asked to bat in damp conditions in front of the mighty West Indian pace quartet of Holding-Roberts-Marshall-Garner, Yashpal Sharma’s match-defining 89 set India up for a challenging total. Vital lower-order contributions from Roger Binny and Mandan Lal took India to 262/8 – their highest score at the World Cup until then.

Opening bulwarks Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes’ assured 49-run stand was ended by a run-out, and India never looked back.

It took a 71-run last-wicket partnership between Andy Roberts and Joel Garner for West Indies to make a contest of it after the holders had slipped to 157/9 in the 47th over.

A then-21-year-old Ravi Shastri was the pick of the Indian bowlers with 3/26 in 5.1 overs, with Binny too scalping three wickets.

A campaign that transformed India’s fortunes, and gave flight to a new superpower in world cricket.
(L-R) Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Kapil Dev, Yashpal Sharma and Sunil Gavaskar celebrate the fall of a wicket during India’s victorious 1983 World Cup campaign.
(Photo Courtesy: ESPNcricinfo)

Match 2: ZIM, Leicester, 11 June

India 157/5 in 37.3 overs (Sandeep Patil 50, Mohinder Amarnath 44) beat Zimbabwe 155 (Madan Lal 3/27, Roger Binny 2/25) by 5 wickets.

Two teams who were expected to be the whipping boys for the big guns had sprung a surprise in the first bouts. While India beat West Indies, Zimbabwe had stunned Australia in their opener, and for the winners at Leicester was a chance to set the early pace in the group.

India did so with consummate ease; the pacers extracted swing and bounce on offer after a delayed start due to rain, and no Zimbabwean batsman crossed 22.

Syed Kirmani took five catches, a then-record for most dismissals for a ‘keeper in an innings at the World Cup, as Zimbabwe folded up for 155.

The openers fell early, but Mohinder Amarnath and Sandeep Patil steadied Indian nerves as the chase was negated without much trouble.


Match 3: AUS, Nottingham, 13 June

Australia 320/9 (Trevor Chappell 110, Kapil Dev 5/43) beat India 158 (Kapil Dev 40, Ken MacLeay 6/39) by 162 runs.

Quite comfortably India’s worst performance of the 1983 campaign.

Kapil Dev got an early strike, and ran through the tail later on to become the first Indian to take a five-for at the World Cup – but such was the Australian domination in the middle, that his team stood no chance.

A superb century from Trevor Chappell at the top of the order, and a fiery 66 not out from Graham Yallop towards the death, propelled the Aussies to 320/9.

Medium-pacer Ken MacLeay, playing only his fifth ODI, then tore through the Indian lineup with a six-for, and India never came close to a decent score, leave alone the target.


Match 4: WI, The Oval, 15 June

West Indies 282/9 (Viv Richards 119, Roger Binny 3/71) beat India 216 (Mohinder Amarnath 80, Michael Holding 3/40) by 66 runs.

Another meek display two days later, and India’s bright start was beginning to evaporate.

Viv Richards’ fourth ODI hundred was a much-subdued effort by his lofty standards – the ‘King’ hit only seven boundaries in a 146-ball stay at the crease, but it took West Indies to a more than formidable 282.

India were without Sunil Gavaskar for the second game running, and were reduced to 21/2.

Amarnath and Dilip Vengsarkar took the score along to 89/2 in 21 overs, but Vengsarkar was forced to retire after being struck on the mouth by a Marshall bouncer, and the Indian innings, despite a gritty 80 from Amarnath, fell by the wayside.


Match 5: ZIM, Tunbridge Wells, 18 June

India 266/8 (Kapil Dev 175*, Peter Rawson 3/47) beat Zimbabwe 235 (Kevin Curran 73, Madan Lal 3/42) by 31 runs.

That Kapil Dev game which the world remembers, but the world never saw.

A strike by the BBC meant there was no broadcast – and what a pity, for there remains no footage from one of the all-time great knocks in the ODI game.

With Australia having drawn level on eight points, India were staring at another group-stage exit at 9/4 and then 17/5, before the captain walked in to play a career- and tournament-defining innings.

175 wondrous, unbeaten runs, off just 138 balls, with 16 fours and six sixes, which amounted to 65.78% of India’s total runs – still the second-highest contribution by a batsman in a completed innings in ODIs.

Dev and Syed Kirmani shared an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 126 in 16 overs, in which the ‘keeper’s contribution was a mere 24.

All-rounder Kevin Curran, father of present English trio Sam, Tom and Ben, made a match out of it by hitting 73 from No. 7 after Zimbabwe had slipped to 113/6 (this after earlier wreaking havoc on the Indian top order along with Peter Rawson with three wickets).

But once he fell, ninth out at 230 in the 56th over, India could breathe easy, and thank their skipper for keeping them alive in the competition.

A campaign that transformed India’s fortunes, and gave flight to a new superpower in world cricket.
Kapil Dev’s 175 not out against Zimbabwe, one of the all-time great innings in ODI history, was never broadcast due to a BBC strike.
(Photo: File)

Match 6: AUS, Chelmsford, 20 June

India 247 (Yashpal Sharma 40, Rodney Hogg 3/40) beat Australia 129 (Allan Border 36, Madan Lal 4/20, Roger Binny 4/29) by 118 runs.

A quarter-final for all practical purposes, as an Australian win would have seen them through to the semis on a better scoring rate.

That meant India needed to negate three knockouts if they were to go on and create history, and the first of those was their most comprehensive victory of the lot.

It was a strange, futurisitic innings of sorts for India after opting to bat – five batsmen crossed 20, but the highest score was Yashpal Sharma’s 40; all batsmen played at least 10 balls, and seven of them scored at a strike rate above 80.

Australia didn’t help their own cause, with their 37 extras the second-highest contributor to India’s scorecard. Their batting, however, would fare far worse.

India’s ‘military medium’ swingers swung the game decisively, with Lal, Binny and Sandhu accounting for all 10 Aussie wickets.

Only two batsmen crossed 20 as Australia slumped to what still remains their lowest innings total at the World Cup.

India were through to the World Cup knockouts for the first time.


Semi-Final: ENG, Manchester, 22 June

India 217/4 in 54.4 overs (Yashpal Sharma 61, Sandeep Patil 51*, Mohinder Amarnath 46) beat England 213 (Graeme Fowler 33, Kapil Dev 3/35, Mohinder Amarnath 2/27) by 5 wickets.

India’s maiden knockout appearance was never going to be easy, and a couple of hours into the contest, not many would have put their money on the underdogs.

Having lost five out of five matches against England in England, they found the hosts comfortably placed at 141/3.

But Sharma ran out Allan Lamb, and Amarnath, whose middle overs stifling had earlier removed David Gower (the tournament’s leading run-getter), also got rid off Mike Gatting. England lost their last seven wickets for 72, and India required 214 to reach the final.

Gavaskar and Srikkanth provided a confident start with an assured 46-run partnership, and Amarnath-Sharma took their side closer to the finish line by adding 92 for the third.

Amarnath fell four short of a well-deserved 50, but was the Player of the Match nonetheless.

Patil came in at No. 5 to deflate any English hopes with a boundary-laden 32-ball half-century, still India’s second-fastest at the World Cup.

Kapil’s Devils were one win from history.


Final: WI, Lord’s 25 June

India 183 (Kris Srikkanth 38, Sandeep Patil 27, Andy Roberts 3/32) beat West Indies 140 (Viv Richards 33, Mohinder Amarnath 3/12, Madan Lal 3/31) by 43 runs.

Legend has it that most Indian households had turned off their televisions (or radio sets, in more cases) halfway through the 1983 World Cup final.

Their pessimism was justified. Up against the all-conquerors, the only world champions of cricket at the point, India had been bowled out for 183.

This was supposed to be a cakewalk; a run-chase West Indies could complete blind-folded.

But cricket is a funny game, and the events of the next few hours would change the course of the sport.

Surely you’ve seen the happenings of that mid-summer’s day at London at some point in your life?

Richards seemed to have an early dinner on his mind as he jumped to 33 off 27 balls. The 28th delivery he faced, from Madan Lal, he decided to take the aerial route on the on-side. And then Kapil Dev ran.

He ran. He ran. He ran some more.

He took the catch that changed the course of Indian history.

Having been 50/1, West Indies were bowled out for 140. Mohinder Amarnath’s 3/12, to follow up on his heroics against England, made him the first man to be named Player of the Match in both the semi-final and the final of the same World Cup (a feat matched only by Aravinda de Silva in 1996).

Kapil’s Devils had done it.

India were world champions.

Indian cricket had arrived.

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