1983’s dark horse has a fair chance in 2011

By T S Sudhir

One of the sports channels was showing a half hour special on the 1983 triumph. I was enlightening Tejaswini, my seven and a half year old daughter, on that day in London when India won the World Cup. On the telly that moment was Kapil Dev running backwards to take that Viv Richards catch. I told Teju this was the turning point of the game.

“Is this man still there?” she asked. “Yes of course,” I said. “He is the only Indian captain to have won the World Cup. And now, when the World Cup is to be played in India, everyone is hoping we will win it again. After 28 years,” I explained.

But her “Is this man still there?” stuck in my mind.

To my generation, each moment of that heady triumph is registered in our minds. But to the cricket fans of today, 1983 is a long, long way back. To them, a Kapil, a Gavaskar, a Jimmy Amarnath or a Sandhu are not names they relate to. Krish Srikkanth stands a better chance because the World Cup final’s highest scorer is strategically the man who has presided over the selection of Dhoni’s boys.

As I see 18 and 20 and 25 years old post status messages on Facebook beseeching Dhoni to play to potential and win the Cup, I realise the expectation levels are sky-high. India is today a powerhouse in the world of cricket and the men in blue a combative unit, who have few off days on the field. They start the World Cup campaign as one of the firm favourites and are almost certain to make the semis. From there, it is just a matter of two good matches and the Cup will be home. 

It wasn’t so in 1983. I remember it was the Australian captain Kim Hughes who said India was the dark horse. Save Hughes, no one, repeat no one, gave India any chance to be on the Lord’s balcony on 25 June 1983. India had won just one match in the previous two editions in 1975 and ’79 and it was taunted more for Gavaskar’s laborious 36 not out in a 60-over match in the 1975 edition.

But then what most people ignored was that India had won a match against the Windies at Berbice in a one-day series coming into this World Cup. That Kapil was to serve as the viagra for a team that still hadn’t got used to appreciating the sex appeal of the one-day format. The fear factor of Andy Roberts and company was somehow not as daunting as before and India was to repeat the feat in the World Cup in the league match.

But it was not as if the campaign was a smooth affair. Far from it. India would have got bundled out of the World Cup at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe but for Kapil’s whirlwind 175 not out. Before Kapil walked in, half the side was back in the dressing room, with the scoreboard reading a sorry 17-5. The campaign was marked on many occasions by simmering tensions between Kapil and Gavaskar, which is recorded by P R Mansingh (the manager of the team) in his book `Victory Insight’.

And when the Indians were skittled for 183 in the final, without even managing to play out their 60 overs, it seemed the Indians had overstayed their welcome in England. The swagger with which King Richards walked in and went on to demolish the attack, spoke of a resolve to show the Indians their place in world cricket.

But it was as if the Gods had ordained that the Calypso will not be heard that evening in Barbados, Antigua and Jamaica. Wickets tumbled in a heap as the overconfident Windies succumbed to the lazy evening walk run-up bowling of Jimmy Amarnath. Jeffrey Dujon hitting the pitch with his right hand in exasperation, when he was out, was indicative of the hole the Caribbeans had fallen into. 

India in 1983 was living a dream. The underdogs who no one gave a chance. It was quite likely that they would have got a hero’s welcome even if they had lost the finals.

But 2011 is different. Everyone is talking of how 1983’s dark horse has a fair chance in 2011. The pressure is palpable. And that makes the job that much more difficult.

Every ball, every run, every non-run, every dot ball, every confrontation that Sreesanth enters into, every catch, every dropped catch will be scrutinised under the microscope of every Indian who is an armchair expert on the game.

This will be coach Gary Kirsten’s last outing with the team. Yet again, a man has travelled from South Africa to this country to guide India to realise its dream. History is proof that you can hope for the best from those trained in the land of the Cape of Good Hope.


About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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