Thirty eight years have passed since the day that changed our lives, but each year, on 25 June, all 14 members of our 1983 World Cup-winning team get together and wish each other other.
Looking back, I still can’t believe we managed to create history that day at Lord’s. I still remember when we started the tournament, no one in the entire country had the faith in our ability to achieve something as big as winning the cricket World Cup.
In fact, I swear to my cricket honestly none of the members of 1983 World Cup team thought of winning even a single game forget about beating West Indies!
The only exception I remember was Lata Mangeshkar who backed our ability from the start.
Before coming to our 1983 story, I have to take you back to the World Cups of 1975 and 1979 in which India had performed miserably.
The only headline any Indian player had managed to get on was when Sunil Gavaskar somehow scored just 36* in 60 overs. Which is actually unbelievable.
So, after such underwhelming performances, it was quite natural that not many would back, let alone believe, that the Indian team would do well at the 1983 World Cup.
Cricket in those days was must simpler. As players, the sport for us was mostly about enjoying our game and playing for our country and nothing more.
Injury Before the World Cup
There was not much backing back then by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) either, but then the board wasn't what it is now. It’s hard to believe but the BCCI’s coffers in the 80s were quite empty and our preparations for the World Cup involved a week-long training camp, that too because of the government’s sports policy.
The only request I made to the then BCCI Secretary Anant Wagesh Kanmadikar was to be to allowed to go to London two weeks in advance to get acclimatised to the conditions and have some nets sessions with my London Edmonton club. That, I was granted.
However, two weeks before leaving for England, while playing a domestic tournament at the famous Shivaji Gymkhana, I got hit by Pradeep Sundaram’s rising delivery, which broke my floating rib. As I mentioned, Indian cricket was different back than, there was no outside help, or any physios to consult with, and injuries were just considered part of the game. I carried this one through the World Cup and even as I write this now, I don’t recall any one match where I let the injury affect my performance or become my excuse.
Fear of the Mighty West Indian Pacers
As I had not faced the great West Indian fast bowlers before, I remember spending sleepless nights facing them in my dreams. I also remember throwing too many questions at Sunil Gavaskar, who had mastered the art of facing those big West Indian pacers. Every time I asked Gavaskar how he managed it, his answer would be “you have faced Aussie greats Lillee and Thompson than why worry now”.
Even before we got around to playing the mighty West Indians, we started our World Cup preparations in England in not the most ideal manner, losing all three of our practice games.
But, then we realised why cricket is called a game of glorious uncertainties as we actually went on to beat West Indies in our tournament opener! It took us days to digest that victory. But that was how we started gaining confidence and then went on to win game after game.
The World Cup Journey
During the 1983 World Cup campaign, Mohinder Amarnath was definitely the flag-bearer of our ship and it seemed like the rest of us just chipped in, whenever needed. But then came Kapil Dev’s epic innings of 175 at Trent Bridge against Zimbabwe. He created history with one of the finest knocks in ODI history.
It also showed us that if you have self belief, you can perform to the best of your ability and raise your standards. Kapil’s knock was like a tonic for all of us and from there on, we made our way to the semis in no time.
A Lesson for Englishmen in the Semis
I still remember how the British media made fun of us the moment we reached the semis. A leading daily called us a ‘bunch of jokers’. The whole team was so angry at this treatment that we decided to teach them all a lesson.
I took it upon myself to hand out special treatment to the English bowlers. We were facing them in the semis and chasing 214, I scored a half century in just 32 balls and the British media got goosebumps and, I’d like to believe, a lesson of a lifetime.
The Miracle Win Against West Indies
The moment we reached the finals, we knew how the West Indians would hit us with all their might. Batting first, we scored 183 and knew only a miracle could save us from defeat.
But miracles do happen in cricket and luck was with us on 25 June, 1983.
The West Indian batting line-up crumbled like a pack of cards and we managed to pull off the unthinkable for the country. That win not only changed the entire look of cricket in India, but also all around the world.
I remember our late prime minister calling us that evening and congratulating us for our win. “You have done it,” were the words.
The Felicitation at Home
The World Cup win gave a new vision and new self belief to all cricket-loving people of India. The BCCI president at the time, NKP Salve, decided he would do whatever he could to felicitate the champions.
He requested the nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, to perform during the show and the BCCI managed to raise funds to reward each member of the winning team with Rs 1 lakh.
Thirty eight years have gone by, but the memories are still fresh. Kapil Dev lifting that World Cup for India, I will remember forever.