It’s been 37 years since one of India’s most iconic sporting moments. A sporting triumph that gave millions of Indians the belief and the confidence that no matter how big the obstacle or challenge, if one performs to best of one’s ability and backs oneself to perform against seemingly the toughest of opponents, victory is very much possible. On 25 June 1983, India lifted the World Cup beating favourites West Indies in the final at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. India’s successful campaign in the 1983 World Cup final wouldn’t have been possible had it been not for Kapil Dev- the captain, the batsman, the bowler and make no mistake the fielder.
Although the finals of the 1983 event is a well-documented cricketing encounter, India wouldn’t have reached the finals had it not been for Kapil’s brilliance in the fifth match of the 60-over tournament in which they were up against Zimbabwe. It was a must-win game for India to secure a birth in the semi-final.
Batting first India were reeling at 17 for 5 at one stage and it seemed like that the match would be over within an hour and a half with Zimbabwe registering a one-sided win but India’s leader had saved arguably his best batting performance for the biggest platform and for the toughest situation.
The Haryana Hurricane smashed an outstanding 175 off 138 deliveries while batting with the tail to take the score to 266 runs for 8 wickets in an innings which has been described by veteran sports journalist Ayaz Memon as the “greatest ODI innings ever as it went on to redefine international cricket.”
In response, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 235 with Madan Lal (3/42), Roger Binny (2/45) and Kapil (1/32) himself being the pick of the bowlers.
The win, especially because it came from almost an impossible situation, instilled the much-needed belief in the side and probably for the first time they sensed that they could pull off a special feat. The magic didn’t happen in the finals but happened at the Tunbridge Well venue against Zimbabwe where the team saw their leader Kapil reach his first-ever ODI century and almost single-handedly put India into an advantageous position.
Fast forward- the finale against West Indies. India managed only 183 runs on the board and could have easily returned to the field feeling dejected and lost but it was time for Kapil the captain to help his boys keep looking for the win.
The team had lost hope but Kapil’s pep talk at the mid-inning break stopped the Indian team from dropping their shoulders when the second innings commenced.
“With the batting line-up that West Indian had and looking at 183, we thought we had no scope at all. But Kapil Dev said one thing and he didn’t say we can win but he said — look guys we have got out for 183 and we should give resistance and not give away the match so easily,” Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who opened for India in that tournament told Sky Sports Network.
And when India were defending a modest total of 183, it needed another outstanding effort from Kapil to help India get back into the game. Chasing 184, West Indies great Viv Richards had got off to a quick start and was quickly taking the game away from the opposition.
Richards had already scored 33 off 27 balls and was showing why he was called the Master Blaster as the Men from the Caribbean were looking set to clinch their third World Cup title. Just then, Richards, who was known for his attacking shots, played a pull shot off medium-pacer Madan Lal only to mistime it.
The ball went in the air and was going towards the unguarded mid-wicket fence. But Kapil, who had positioned himself at the mid-wicket position, sensed an opportunity early and ran backwards with eyes on the ball. Perfect technique, a sprint covering a good distance and Kapil had grabbed the catch that tiled the balance in India’s favour.
Richards, the master, was back in the pavilion and India never gave an inch again in the match. Apart from the spectacular catch that gave India the advantage, Kapil was miserly with the ball and had the lowest economy rate of just 1.90 also picking up the wicket of Andy Roberts (1/21).
It was fitting then that Kapil Dev- an all-rounder- in the truest sense of the word and possibly the finest that India has produced till day- holding the World Cup trophy at the famous Lord’s Balcony became the defining image of Indian sports, one that inspired millions of youngsters back home in India to take up the sport and dream to be a world champion.