With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin on May 30, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 2
When one recalls the memories of India’s first ever World Cup triumph back in 1983, the images that flash in front of your eyes include Mohinder Amarnath running with the stumps after taking the final wicket, Kapil Dev running backward to dismiss Vivian Richards with a stunning catch and then lifting the coveted trophy at the Home of Cricket.
But the innings that has been etched in Indian cricket’s folklore happened a few days before the final, in a game that was neither telecast, as the cameras were at the match between West Indies and Australia, nor had commentary on radio because the British Broadcasting Corporation employees were on strike.
India had gone to the third edition of the cricket World Cup as underdogs given the fact that they had just one win to show from the previous two editions. And though they had started the tournament with victories over West Indies and Zimbabwe, the eventual champions still needed to beat Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells on June 18, 1983, to keep alive their semi-final hopes.
When skipper Kapil Dev won the toss and decided to bat, he would have felt confident in his team’s ability to pull through against a team that had upset the mighty Australians. The all-rounder then went off to have a shower as he was to bat at number 6 and there was no hurry to get ready.
But that day, Zimbabwe weren’t pushovers and they exploited the bounce to send back openers Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth without letting either of them open their accounts. And by the time an SOS was sent to the skipper to get ready faster, Mohinder Amarnath was also walking back to the pavilion.
Kapil Dev walked in to bat soon after the fall of Sandeep Patil’s wicket and even before he could settle down, Peter Rawson dismissed Yashpal Sharma to reduce India to 17 for 5.
While the sizeable Indian community gathered at Tunbridge Wells was already shell shocked, the organisers had begun to panic over the possibility of the match getting over before lunch and all their arrangements going for a toss
Zimbabwe skipper Duncan Fletcher probably gave India and Kapil Dev a breather by removing both his new ball bowlers out of the attack together and the Indian captain began coming into his own by playing his trademark cuts and drives.
But just when it looked like India were steadying their ship, John Traicos trapped Roger Binny leg-before and Fletcher removed Ravi Shastri to reduce India to 78 for 7.
Kapil was still unperturbed as he kept faith in playing proper cricketing shots and made the most of the shorter square boundaries to keep the runs flowing. He added 62 runs for the eighth wicket with Madan Lal (17) and anyone watching him bat in the middle could tell that the Indian captain was in a different zone on that day.
Wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani played a very important supporting role from thereon as he kept rotating the strike in an unbeaten ninth-wicket partnership of 126 runs to take India to a respectable 266 for eight.
“When I walked into bat after the fall of Madan Lal’s wicket, I told Kaps, ‘You just play your natural game’, to which he said, ‘Humko 60 overs khelna hai’. I told him that I would try my best to hold one end up,” Kirmani told cricketcountry.com in an interview a few years ago.
Kapil scored India’s first World Cup century in just 72 balls and then called for a new bat, giving a clear signal that he wasn’t done yet.
While most of the boundaries came square of the wicket, the Indian captain hit all the sixes over the longer, straight boundaries as he created a new record by scoring 175 not out in just 138 balls that included 16 boundaries and six sixes.
There is no doubt that luck was also on Kapil’s side that day as he was dropped by Grant Paterson when he was in his 90s and some of his not-so-perfect shots ended up falling in no-man’s land.
However, none of this can take away what the Indian captain achieved on that day. His 175 not out remained the highest ODI score till Viv Richards surpassed it with a 189 not out against England at Manchester a year later. The West Indies great also broke Kapil’s record at the World Cup four years later by scoring 181 runs against Sri Lanka in Karachi.
The ninth-wicket partnership record between Kapil and Kirmani remained unbeaten for 27 years, before Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga bettered the performance with a 132-run partnership against Australia in 2010.
In reply, Zimbabwe also did not have a strong start and were struggling at 113 for 6 before all-rounder Kevin Curran (73) threatened to pull-off a Kapil-esque knock with a counter-attacking approach. He added 55 runs for the seventh wicket with Iain Butchart.
But Madan Lal ended his resistance and Kapil fittingly wrapped up the match with a caught-and-bowled wicket of Traicos to register a 31-run victory.
India then went on to beat Australia by 118 runs in the last group game to comfortably make the semi-finals. They created history nine days later by beating West Indies for the second time and winning their first World Cup.