Before & Beyond 1983, Sandeep Patil Reminisces His WC Journey
Since watching his first World Cup game in 1979, Sandeep Patil has donned several hats associated to the mega event.
My association with Cricket World Cup goes back a long way. I had never dreamt that I would get a chance to play a World Cup or even watch it.
But how things changed after the Indian team’s flop show in the inaugural World Cup in 1975!
In the 70s, the Indian team was never in the picture as far as limited over format was concerned. The poor performance of the team followed in the 1979 World Cup as well. On the invitation of late Raj Singh Dungarpur, my England trip was sponsored by the company TOMCO.
Dungarpur gave me the opportunity not only to play Middlesex league for Edmonton club, but he also gave me tickets to watch semi-finals of the World Cup played at the Oval.
As my association with the World Cup started that day, I was floored by the atmosphere during that West Indies-Pakistan match. It was the first time that the thought of playing in the World Cup crossed my mind.
How 1983 Happened
Then, in 1982, I had a good Test series in England and considering the performance, selectors decided to give me the opportunity to me to play at the greatest stage. It was like a dream coming true.
India had poor runs in earlier two World Cups and chances of Indian team doing better were very bleak. There was no expectations and there was no pressure either of winning the World Cup.
For the Indian team it was just like taking part and gaining experience of playing in the World Cup. We had lost three practice games before taking on the mighty West Indies in first match.
It all started with Yashpal’s brilliant 89 and we beating West Indies in first match itself. What happened from then on was just like a beautiful dream that all of us cherish even today.
Those fond memories and being on top of the cricket world was the greatest joy one could experience. That victory changed everything for Indian cricket. We had become the proverbial “Hero from Zero”. And we still feel the same...
Off The Pitch But The Tryst Continues...
In 1987, I again watched the World cup as a spectator and it was a totally different feeling. Playing the World Cup and winning it and sitting in the stand and watching it was all together different experience.
Then came 1996, when I was an assistant coach to the late Ajit Wadekar. I was in a different zone but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being closely associated with Azhar’s team.
But it turned out to be a nightmare as we lost badly against Sri Lanka at Eden Garden’s in the semi finals and there were riots after that match. We considered ourselves lucky to reach our hotel safely.
The 1999 World Cup was again a different experience for me as I was working as a cricket guide for the SOTC group. My job was to assist the tourists who were watching the World Cup and give them a feel of the atmosphere. My commentary used to start at the breakfast table and finish at the dinner table taking the same questions and answering them from morning till late night.
Back to The Thick of Things
Then came the 2003 World Cup when I was coach of the Kenya national team. Quite like the 1983 Indian team, there were no expectations from the Kenyan team. In what seems funny now, there were just two Kenyan journalists during our first press conference in South Africa.
But as we progressed, the press box meets started swelling and there were 200 reporters chasing us when we reached the semi finals.
It was one of the greatest moment and experience of my life as we were up against a strong Indian team. Though we lost to India but we made names for ourselves.
In 2007, I was an expert for the Star News channel and our team had experts like Mohinder Amarnath and Zaheer Abbas. It was a new thing for me to analyse the game and give expert comments for 45 days. The worst thing however was that India did not even qualify beyond the group stages.
In 2011, I was appointed the director of National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and the World Cup was co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I was once again playing a different role as India’s preparatory camp was in NCA itself and we were looking at various facets of the preparations like diet, practice, planning etc.
We were proud that India won that World Cup and NCA certainly played part in that victory.
In the next World Cup in 2015 when I was playing an even bigger role with an even bigger responsibility as I was the Chief Selector of the Indian team. From watching the game to playing to explaining it, making expert comments.
Then, from being an assistant coach to a head coach, helping in a team’s preparation and finally selecting the team for the World cup, I have donned many hats. But the journey that started in 1979, has truly been a happy one.
This year too, I will be an expert on a news channel, hoping that Virat’s men give us lots of opportunities to shower praises.
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