That an underdog Indian cricket team defeated the mighty West Indies in the final of the 1983 World Cup and scripted their own history is well versed. The underdog team – famously known as Kapil’s Devils – became source of inspiration to an entire generation of a third-world populace.
But if one asks Kapil Dev about how he felt leading an underdog team to world glory, the chance of him straight away denying of ever captaining such a team is high. According to the Haryana Hurricane, India were not the underdogs who were overawed in the final and won the World Cup by a fluke.
“When you start playing cricket, you keep on moving in the same manner and you don’t really analyse it so much that yes we are going to play in the World Cup final for the first time that, too, against the West Indies at Lord’s. We didn’t think so much,” Kapil Dev told The Statesman over a telephonic interview.
“We only had positive thinking, going forward. When we reached the final, we didn’t reach there by a fluke. We kept on beating the best teams in the tournament,” he explained.
Taking us deep into India’s journey in the 1983 World Cup, Kapil Dev, however, agreed that in the beginning not many in the team had thought that they would go on to conquer the world on foreign land.
“During the initial days it was tough to think that we would play in the final, but halfway through the tournament, we believed that we could go till the last stages of the World Cup. As we kept on playing and winning the matches, we realised that we have a good enough team,” the former Indian captain pointed.
Rightly so, the ride was not smooth for the Kapil Dev-led side. After winning their opening match of the competition against the West Indies, India lost two of their next three matches before facing Zimbabwe.
Desperate to win to keep themselves in contention of making it to the semi-finals, India had a frightening start to the match and were down to 17/5 while batting first. But, what transpired in the next few hours at the Tunbridge Wells produced an astonishing show of exemplary leadership by a 24-year-old.
From 17/5, Kapil Dev took India to 266/8 at the end of 60 overs as he played one of the greatest ever ODI knocks. With 16 boundaries and six maximums, he scored 175 off 138 deliveries.
And as it turned out, his performance acted as the catalyst to lift India’s morale. They won all of their next three matches, beating Australia in the group stage, England in the semi-final and the West Indies in the final.
But a true leader that he was and shall always remain, Kapil Dev refuses to take any extra credit for his innings. “As a captain, you are more bothered about your team’s performance. It gave the team a booster, the team required that at that moment,” he said.
“But I won’t say that was the only thing [which helped India win the World Cup]. You don’t win the World Cup with just one knock. You win the World Cup with the entire team’s efforts. Everybody had played their role and I played mine to the best of my ability.”
Speaking about the final on June 25, 1983, Kapil Dev admitted that they were disappointed by their performance with the bat. However, the Lord’s pitch, with its pace and bounce, had given the India attack a sense of belief that they could restrict the experienced Windies batting unit.
“The pitch was more suitable to the bowlers than the batsmen. But when we made only 180 odd runs, we started thinking ‘Ok if we were not good enough [with the bat] we can break their batting also’ and that’s how it happened. We just kept on thinking positively and took their wickets,” Kapil Dev said.
But that was easier said than done as the wickets did not come without a bargain, especially of Viv Richards’. He made the pitch look like a batting heaven and was smashing the bowlers at a strike rate of above 100. Even though Kapil Dev confessed that Richards looked threatening, he believed the West Indian was not responsible in his approach.
He said, “I think we were living in the moment. We were going ball by ball and did not think too much [when Richard was batting].
“I was thinking to myself that if this the way he is going to play, there will be more chances of him getting out. Had he taken his time and not hurried, he could have easily played much better innings.”
Finally, when the last West Indies batsman Michael Holding was given LBW off a Mohinder Amarnath delivery, what was his instant reaction. Also, what occurred in the dressing room after the players ran their way inside, saving themselves from the exultant crowd that stormed into the Lord’s Cricket Ground.
On asking, Kapil Dev said, “Honestly, I don’t remember what I thought initially after Holding got out. If I can remember that after 37 years, I should have been a genius. But, of course, I was happy.”
“[Inside the dressing room] there was just celebration at that moment like a new baby was born in the house. We didn’t think or see anything… we were just so happy. And winning the World Cup… it was any cricketer’s dream. So we were just celebrating and did not speak much because our faces revealed everything,” he concluded.