When the entire world did not believe India could win the World Cup, Kapil Dev thought otherwise. His belief in himself and his team took him all the way to the Lord’s balcony on June 25, when he proudly held the trophy aloft. Kapil led by example, be it with the ball – picking up wickets at crucial junctures with his right-arm medium-pace – or the bat. His heroic 175 not out against Zimbabwe when all seemed lost was an example of a player single-handedly winning the match from a hopeless situation. His fielding was in a league of its own —who can forget the running catch to dismiss a rampaging Viv Richards in the final, an act that undountedly changed the destination of the title clash. Kapil did not believe in anything but being the best. That trait propelled him to become one of the best cricketers India have produced. Rising from a humble background in Haryana to conquering the world with his all-round feats makes Kapil a true legend.
The only member of the squad who did not get to play a single game in that World Cup, the left-arm medium-pacer born in Andhra represented Railways and Delhi in the Ranji Trophy. The closest he came to playing was against West Indies in the second round before Roger Binny passed himself fit on the morning of the match. Thus, whatever chances Valson had of making an appearance vanished into thin air. Valson may have been a surprise choice in the squad but his knowledge of English conditions gave him the edge. Neither before nor after the World Cup was Valson picked to play for the country. The only left-arm medium-pacer in the Indian squad in the 1983 World Cup, Valson took 212 wickets in 75 first-class matches and 23 in 22 List A matches.
The technically perfect batsman from Mumbai didn’t quite get going with the bat throughout the tournament. The senior most player in terms of both age and experience, Gavaskar was one of the two from this squad who had played in the previous two World Cups. His World Cup average dipped from 50.50 at the start of the 1983 edition to almost half (26.10) by the end. But call it luck or coincidence, India won all matches in which Gavaskar featured in the XI. The two matches that he did not play were the ones India lost. It was one of those phases in which one of the all-time greats of world cricket had a quiet tournament. But he made up for this by leading India to the B&H World Championship of Cricket in Australia less than two years later in his last assignment as India captain.
The mere presence of this dashing opener from Tamil Nadu can’t be anything but lively. His quirky mannerisms, his way of speaking and his propensity to crack of jokes are as entertaining as his unconventional batting. The right-hander from Chennai believed that the ball was there to be hit. He wasted little time on such mundane matters as technique. He was among the pioneers when it came to hitting the new-ball bowlers over the infield to make the most of the fielding restrictions. And when he hit them, the opposition bowlers stayed hit. That’s how he played all his cricket, succeeding beyond most people’s imagination. For all his unorthodox play, Srikkanth top-scored in the World Cup final with 38. A brilliant fielder with accurate throws, Srikkanth formed a successful opening partnership with Sunil Gavaskar.
Almost like an older brother to the captain, Amarnath was the perfect No. 2 who supported Kapil admirably throughout the World Cup campaign. Amarnath, who also played in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups, dreamt of walking out to the Lord’s Cricket Ground while watching the 1975 final from the stands. The dream became a reality eight years later and Amarnath played a crucial hand in India lifting the World Cup. His gentle medium-pacers fetched him wickets galore in the knockout stages and, allied with crucial knocks at No. 3 in the semi-final and final, won him back-to-back player of the match awards. One of the bravest batsmen against fast bowling, it was fitting that Amarnath took the final wicket in the final, trapping Michael Holding, one of the most feared fast bowlers, leg before wicket. Alongside his skipper, ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath’s experience and calm head made for a strong think-tank during the World Cup, helping them make selectorial decisions that they thought was best for a specific match.
The swashbuckling strokemaker from Mumbai was the rock of the Indian batting in the first half of the 1980s. Patil’s crucial performances as a right-hand batsman, especially his 51 not out in the semi-final against England and 27 in the final, were noteworthy. Patil wasted no time in the middle and believed in attack as the best form of defence. His fearless approach against the fastest bowlers in the world won him many accolades. After Kapil Dev’s 108.99, Patil had the second highest strike rate, 90.00, among Indian batsmen in that World Cup. A lively personality, Patil believed in giving his best for the country on the field and enjoying life off it. It was not for nothing that he was the darling of the masses. A real crowd-puller in every sense of the world.
Think of a player giving his life for the country on the cricket field, and the first name that comes to mind from the 1983 World Cup squad is Yashpal Sharma. A gutsy batsman, Yashpal may not have been all gra ce. But he more than made up for it with his spunk and spirit, never backing away from an adverse situation. The prime example came in India’s opening encounter in which the right-hander from Punjab scored 89 with some fierce pulls and punishing off-drives off the Caribbean quicks as India began the tournament by shocking the defending champions. He top-scored with 61 in the semi-final against England to pave the way for a smooth entry into the final. The darling of all the Indian team players, Yashpal’s sad demise on 13 July 2021 was like the loss of a family member to each of the World Cup squad.
The wily medium-pacer who was the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup with 18 scalps at 18.66 including two four-wicket bags, Roger Binny’s performances were vital to India’s victorious campaign. A key player for Karnataka in domestic tournaments, opening the batting and bowling for the state side, Binny was one of the all-rounders that the team relied on to deliver the goods. The 1983 World Cup revived the international career of Binny, who was not on the tour of Pakistan and the West Indies preceding the World Cup. His swing bowling was ideally suited to English conditions. The general consensus was that he could not be overlooked for the World Cup, and he justified his selection in spectacular fashion. Binny was also a dependable fielder who took some exceptional catches off his own bowling.
A trusted medium-pacer who always backed his abilities and bowled his heart out, Madan Lal formed a formidable pair with Roger Binny once the shine on one side of the ball went. The manner in which he demanded one more over from Kapil Dev in the final, and removed the dangerous Viv Richards in what proved to be the turning point of that match, spoke volumes of his confidence. Madan finished with 17 wickets, the joint second highest, and also had the fourth best bowling average (16.76) in the tournament, the best for India. Bowling a controlled line and length was his strength and not many batsmen could find a way to get on top of him in English conditions. No bunny with the bat, Madan showed his mettle by hanging around in trying circumstances, none more so than in the game in which Kapil smashed an unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe. His vast experience of playing in the English leagues regularly made him a sure selection for the World Cup.
The man who took the cricket world by storm with his Audi -winning performances in the 1985 B&H World Championship of Cricket in Australia where he was named the Champion of Champions, Ravi Shastri has been a part of one of the best phases in Indian cricket. The period between 1983 and 1985 was the golden era of the sport in the country and Shastri is proud to call that side the best all-round side India has ever had. A left-arm spinner and right-hand batsman equally adept at opening the batting as he was at ease in the middle-order, Shastri played in five matches in the 1983 World Cup. He opened with K Srikkanth in the two matches that Sunil Gavaskar was unavailable for while in the others, he batted in the middle and lower order, competing for a place in the playing XI with off-spinner Kirti Azad.
The right-arm medium-pacer from Mumbai shared the new ball with captain Kapil Dev in the World Cup admirably. He had the knack of foxing the batsmen by bringing the ball into the right-handers after setting them up with outswingers. His ball to Gordon Greenidge in the final, one that came back in sharply as the batsman offered no shot and rattled timber, is still talked about with great reverence to this day. Sandhu played in all eight of India’s matches, one of nine players to do so in that tournament. He played in eight Test matches, all in 1983, and picked up 10 wickets. He also played in 22 ODIs between December 1982 and October 1984.
A stylish right-hand batsman from the Mumbai maidans, Vengsarkar was one of the senior batsmen with prior experience of playing in English conditions. A seemingly automatic choice in the XI to lend solidity to the batting, Vengsarkar played in only two matches. He was batting beautifully, taking the attack to the West Indies bowlers in the company of Mohinder Amarnath in the second league fixture when he was hit on the jaw by a vicious bouncer from Malcolm Marshall. The cut on his jaw required a few stitches and he did not take any further part in the World Cup. Vengsarkar has the unique record of being the only non-Englishman to score centuries on three successive Test appearances at Lord’s.
An off-spinning all-rounder from Delhi, Kirti Azad was known for his big-hitting abilities. He had the ability to smack sixes at will, sometimes even going over the stadium rooftops. Azad played in three matches, a prolonged memorable spell alongside Mohinder Amarnath in the semi-final against England paving the way for a modest run-chase. Along the way, he claimed the wicket of the great all-rounder Ian Botham with a ball that kept low and turned sharp, foxing the batsman. Azad also figured in the final, playing in the place of the other spinning all-rounder, Ravi Shastri. In all, he played in seven Tests and 25 ODIs for the country but his most notable performance came against Keith Fletcher’s Englishmen when they toured India in 1981-82, picking up nine wickets including 7 for 63 for Board President’s XI in a tour game in Nagpur.
The Karnataka gloveman had 14 dismissals (12 catches, 2 stumpings) behind the stumps and won the Iron Gloves award from the legendary English wicketkeeper Godfrey Evans, warding off competition from the great wicketkeepers in the competition including West Indies’ Jeff Dujon and Australia’s Rod Marsh. Kirmani established a World Cup record of five catches in the first-round league match against Zimbabwe. A reliable right-hand batsman order down the order, he gave Kapil Dev great support in the match against Zimbabwe at Nevill Ground, the duo sharing 126 for the unbroken ninth wicket, a world record stand for that wicket which stood for 27 years. Kirmani holds an esteemed place in the pantheon of wicketkeeping greats in world cricket.
Copyright © Opus India. All rights reserved.
Copyright © Opus India. All rights reserved.