Remember the ‘Kapil’s Devils’? Who?! The Indian cricket team of 1983 that won the coveted Prudential World Cup. Rather, they snatched it away from under the noses of the indomitable West Indies!
The fortunate among us watched this historic event live on Doordarshan, from the comforts of our living rooms, in black and white. Adding colour to our memories will be a film planned by award winning director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan (he previously directed the acclaimed Lahore), and produced by Phantom Films. Titled 1983, the film, it is hoped, will bring out the heroics of Kapil Dev, the brilliance of Sandip Patil and Yashpal Sharma and the clever bowling of Binny, Madanlal and Amarnath.
Getting back to the match, it all happened one Saturday afternoon — 25 June 1983 — at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket.
The story goes thus:
Sent in to bat, India were clinically shot out for 183 by the fearsome West Indies pace battery. Lloyd’s ‘invincibles’ were therefore well on their way to a hat trick of wins and should have won it in a canter.
Kapil’s Devils, underdogs and rank outsiders, had other ideas though. Balvinder Singh Sandhu drew first blood, clean bowling an unsuspecting Gordon Greenidge with a banana inswinger. From thereon, it was a cut here and a nick there from the dibbly-dobbly swing of Madanlal, Binny and ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath and soon the mighty West Indies were bleeding to death. Kapil Dev’s astounding, running-back catch to dismiss a marauding Viv Richards was the ‘moment of the match’, as the reigning champs were dismissed for 140.
It was a shock win. As the players ran for safety with 30,000 spectators converging on them, celebrations for the Indian diaspora in England and elsewhere had begun.
Champagne flowed in the Indian dressing room and outside it. Indians were hugging each other, and singing and dancing. The revelries continued well into the wee hours of the morning and even in the corridors of the team hotel. Reminiscing on the events of that night, Sandhu says, “We realized the enormity of what we had achieved only after we reached out hotel rooms and had a few minutes to relax by ourselves.”
7,000 kilometres away, a ten-year-old, fuzzy haired boy danced in the streets of Bandra’s Kalanagar. He was a John McEnroe fan and did not exactly comprehend the significance of what had transpired at Lord’s, London that night. All the same, the boy chose to celebrate because his friends from the neighbourhood did.
The atmosphere in the city was that of a carnival that night. Crackers bursting, the beating of drums, and sweets distributed at every street corner. No one could perhaps resist the urge to partake of it.
Twenty eight years later that fuzzy-haired boy from Bandra — named Sachin Tendulkar and known as ‘God’ to some, ‘Master’ to others — was about to play his final World Cup, his sixth since 1992. Despite the wealth of talent that India had had at the turn of the century and in the new millennium, the coveted title had eluded them. He said a few days before the World Cup of 2011 — which India won — that the 1983 victory had not only raised the confidence levels of Indians a couple of notches, but had inspired an entire generation of cricketers to aim to be the best in the world.
Sourav Ganguly, who led India to the finals of the 2003 World Cup edition, echoed Tendulkar’s sentiments.
The ’83 world-beaters had returned home to a tumultuous welcome. They were felicitated by the President and the Prime Minister of India. Businessmen of all denominations had announced gifts and prizes — including monthly supply of grains for life — most of which were never delivered. In the end, it was left to Lata Mangeshkar to organise a concert in their honour and help raise Rs 20 lakh for the players. The Indian cricket board wasn’t rich enough then and what the players received as incentives or bonuses, for the win, could be termed minuscule as compared to what a cricketer makes today.
Brand advantages accrued, perhaps, to the established stars in the squad. Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were sought after for endorsements. Shastri and a few others entered the fray after the B&H World Championship win in Australia a couple of years later. Other players like Sandhu — who jumped from the private sector to a sales manager’s post in a public sector fertiliser company — had to make do with better jobs and better perks.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the World Cup win of 1983 was a watershed moment in the history of Indian sport. But what has really catapulted the game to its present level — where a Dhoni earns US$ 31 million in a year — is the opening up of the Indian economy in the '90s, the coming of ESPN and other TV channels to the country and of course, the advent of sports agencies and player managers of the quality of Mark Mascarenhas. Lalit Modi then came in — for better or for worse — and raised the levels quite a few notches with his IPL.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was only two and Sehwag five when the ’83 World Cup was won. Their demeanours, on and off the field, reflect their confidence as well as the brashness that goes with children who grew up in the post-liberalisation scenario. Sehwag said the ball was there to be hit, while Dhoni has a technique of his own — he plays the cover drive with his bottom hand and no pad and bat together for him.
Both of them are not very good at history too. Dhoni didn’t know who Farokh Engineer, his swashbuckling predecessor in the India team as ‘keeper-batsman was. When Sehwag and Dravid were about to break the long-standing record of Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad in a Test match, and Dravid reminded his partner of the fact, Sehwag is said to have asked: “Who are they?”
Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman, Kumble etc have been idolised by cricketers of the new millennium. They hardly know of the gladiators who fought for and brought glory to the country in the last century. There was this occasion when Gavaskar was at a café and one boy, within his earshot, said to his mother, “Look, isn’t he the famous cricket commentator?”
Cricket books, autobiographies and magazines are no longer fashionable. Senior players no longer take pride in telling stories of the great deeds of the past to their junior teammates. In 2033, if BCCI decides to celebrate 50 years of winning the World Cup for the first time, it could well be ‘Kapil’s Devils’ who? And Kapil Dev who?
Therefore, chronicling the historic win and bringing out all the nuances involved with, and in fact bringing on record how it inspired many of the present generation to excel in their chosen fields, will be a job well done. Play!
Austin Coutinho is a caricaturist, cricket and mental toughness coach, and the co-author of 'Devil's Pack' along with Balvinder Sandhu